Blockchain: The Career Opportunity

10 December 2018 By Alastair Cleland

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Ten years ago it barely existed. Now, blockchain technology has infiltrated everywhere from healthcare to elections - though it's payments and finance where the biggest impact has been felt. Blockchain's rise has created new job opportunities for technologists and blockchain rookies alike…

Blockchain. It seems like it’s everywhere. The prolific but enigmatic technology was invented in 2008 to power Bitcoin, but its potential goes much, much further that cryptocurrency. From financial services to supply chain management, music royalties to voting in elections, blockchain is set to disrupt many established industries, and its effect is already tangible.

Investors eyed the blockchain opportunity years ago, and many are already wealthy following high-risk high-return investments. Uptake has been fast: around 15% of financial institutions worldwide are already using blockchain technology. But where investment monies flow, jobs will follow as companies look to build out new organisations or departments around this emerging technology. And now, with so many industries asking what Blockchain can do for them, there are job opportunities aplenty.

Who’s in demand? Obviously, technologists who can wrap their head around the engineering itself stand to command the highest premiums. But there’s a huge need for related professional talent too. Legal, marketing, sales, design and leadership skills will all be required as this industry emerges, evolves and expands.

So – could blockchain be for you? Clearly, it’s a more volatile career path than many, but the payoff in terms of excitement and financial reward could be significant.

Let’s start at the beginning, though, with a reminder of what blockchain technology is…

What is blockchain?

You’ll have heard of Bitcoin. Bitcoin is the cryptocurrency that first brought blockchain technology into the world. Bitcoin, though, is just one example of a blockchain-based technology.

“Blockchain is to Bitcoin, what the internet is to email. A big electronic system, on top of which you can build applications. Currency is just one,” Sally Davies, FT Technology reporter.

Technically, blockchain is a “distributed data store”. It’s a real-time ledger of records (‘blocks’), that are linked to each other and stored in a distributed, peer-to-peer way.

With blockchain, there’s no central database or controller. Every record is encrypted and time stamped, and users can only access and edit their block with a private key. Whenever a change is made, the entire chain gets updated, meaning that every change in a record or transaction can be documented securely and accurately. 

As opposed to centralised data storage models - like a classic bank setup, which holds a single file of financial records for all its customers - blockchain creates copies of it’s ledger, storing it on thousands of millions of computers (nodes). Many nodes must validate every new record before registering it, which makes it virtually unhackable.

What is blockchain being used for?

Blockchain’s many benefits include being publicly verifiable, and largely hack-proof. For many institutions, centralised databases have become a ball-and-chain. Large databases are cumbersome to maintain, at increasing risk of cyberattack, and subject to the control of a small number of individuals.   

Blockchain solves many of these issues at once. As such, it’s emerging in several different industries. 

Financial services. Clearly a technology that helps to authenticate and manage transactions and store data records securely and transparently will be highly disruptive to financial services. From trading stocks to assessing credit applications to managing payments, blockchain has many applications in the banking and finance world.

  • Smart contracts. These can be developed to run functions on top of a ledger, eg. paying out money from one party to the next, only the event of the first party fulfilling their obligation to the contract.

  • Property. Buying and selling property and updating records can be time consuming and involves costly legal fees to verify. By keeping these records on the blockchain, the market will be more transparent, fair and efficient.

  • Voting in elections. Blockchain voting technology is verifiable and would allow anybody to audit the blockchain to confirm votes are time stamped and legitimate.

  • Cloud storage. Storing data in a distributed way reduces the need to place our personal information in the hands of large companies who centralise information on servers, reducing the likelihood of hacks and price raises.

What jobs are being created by blockchain?

Satoshi Nakamoko, the anonymous inventor (or inventors) of blockchain, is reportedly one of the world’s top 50 richest people. For the rest of us, though, there’s still ample opportunity to find work in blockchain as the industry grows. Here are some example jobs in blockchain hiring now:

  • Technologists. Blockchain is creating many new tech jobs. If you’re a UI developer, you could try your hand at developing smart contracts. If you’re a programmer already, you could move into a blockchain specialism by picking up relevant languages including (but not limited to!) C, C++ and Python.  If you’re starting out with big ambitions, study cryptography, distributed computing, and mechanism design, which were married together to form blockchain.

  • Entrepreneurs. Blockchain has the potential to disrupt business models – but it can only do so with enlightened entrepreneurs at the helm. For those with the business skills and the motivation for success, huge opportunity awaits. Beware: this is a risky business, not for the faint hearted!

  • Marketing and Communications. Consumers and businesses alike remain largely in the dark about the blockchain’s potential. Tech-savvy marketeers and salespeople who can communicate the business value of blockchain are in great demand.

  • Legal. New legal frameworks will need to be established as blockchain enters the mainstream. For example, how is liability determined if a smart contract has been miscoded? This is a largely unregulated market that is set to come under ever-greater scrutiny.

  • Designers. Without designers to build useful applications and solutions, even the most innovative technologies will have no human impact. Design comes in all shapes and sizes, and those skilled in ‘systems design’ and ‘human-centric design’ will have as much a part to play as the visual designers.

Whether Bitcoin is a gold-rush or here to stay remains to be seen. But blockchain technology, already playing a large and fast-increasing role in our society, looks set to transform institutions that will affect us all. So why not get in on the ground? Explore how your career in blockchain could look today.

Headcount recruits talented and ambitious individuals for high-growth payments companies. For the very latest opportunities, view our current jobs or send us a CV to start your search today.