How to Become a Blockchain Engineer

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    Blockchain developers have never been in higher demand. According to research from Hired, the global demand for blockchain developers has increased by 517 percent year-on-year.

    Naturally, that means salaries are incredibly competitive and often in excess of other software developers. Matt Sigelman, CEO of labor market analytics company Burning Glass Technologies, notes that the median income for a blockchain developer in the US is $140,000 compared to $105,000 for general software developers.

    Not just anyone is going to get paid that amount of money, of course. Blockchain engineers are incredibly talented and have a very particular skill set.

    Want to become one? Here’s what you need to do to become a blockchain engineer.

    Understand the Basics of Blockchain

    There are plenty of places to start learning about blockchain development online. For the most part, however, you’ll need to have a solid grounding in software engineering principles to start with. Learning blockchain development from scratch would be very hard going for non-technical people. That’s why the vast majority of the advice and resources mentioned from this point on are targeted at developers looking to transition into blockchain development.

    If you are a developer, Bitcoin educator and developer Jimmy Song recommends that you start by reading whitepapers. Then read them again once you think you’ve understood them. You can then move on to learning the math behind them.

    If you want to be taken seriously and build meaningful relationships in the industry, it’s important that you understand the core concepts and terminology, says technology evangelist Alex Ortiz. The good news is there’s a huge amount of information available online. The bad news is that the industry moves rapidly, meaning employers expect in-depth knowledge of technologies and concepts that are just a few years old.

    Blockchain author and cryptocurrency financial analyst Lujan Odera agrees. “For beginners, the need to learn the technical terminologies in the field is fundamental to ease their access into blockchain development. The knowledge of blockchain terms such as blockchain, consensus mechanisms, decentralized systems, mining, smart contracts and public & private cryptographic keys.”

    Top Resources for Understanding the Basics

    If the blockchain is still new to you, the following resources can get you up to speed with the fundamentals fast. You’ll then be able to move on to learning the technical knowledge you’ll need for development.

    • “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” by Satoshi Nakamoto. This is the original whitepaper on Bitcoin by its founder.
    • The University of Nicosia is the first university to offer a cryptocurrency course and it’s available in English online to students anywhere in the world.
    • Blockchain expert and cofounder of venture studio Animal Ventures Bettina Warburg provides a 3.5 hour-long introduction to blockchain on Udemy.
    • François Zaninotto, cofounder and CEO of the digital innovation workshop Marmelab, has a web developer-focused primer to blockchain technology.
    • Codementor has a comprehensive blockchain learning center complete with in-depth articles, courses, podcasts and tutorials.

    Learn the Underlying Theory and Programming Languages

    Once you have a solid grounding in the fundamentals of blockchain, you can start to learn the mathematical and computational principles, and the programming languages you’ll need to code with.

    First up is cryptographic algorithms, which are “one of the building blocks of the blockchain technology,” according to Olivia Ryan at Coder Academy. Cryptography is essential for encrypting and protecting digital data, which is a must when creating something open-source like a blockchain.

    Cryptography goes hand-in-hand with blockchain, says technical writer Kashyap Vyas. “Cryptography is the crux that determines a large part of your Blockchain, how it performs, and how attractive it is to businesses that are trying to implement it. Simple, efficient and effective – these are the three keywords that you have to keep in mind while finalizing a cryptography code for your Blockchain.”

    Understanding distributed computing concepts will also be important. Blockchain developer Dave Kajpust writes that bitcoin was the first “valuable distributed trusted network across the globe with little to no centralization.” But it’s not the only one. The economic incentives built into blockchains mean that distributed computing systems are becoming larger and more common.

    Financial analyst Nikolai Kuznetsov agrees that distributed computing is no longer a theory. But creating distributed networks is far from a perfected art. “There are still many areas in need of solutions. For example, issues of scalability and excessive energy consumption continue to plague its implementation. Students of blockchain technology need to study these issues so they can, later on, start to develop solutions to the problem.”

    Finally, you’ll need to brush up on (or learn) the programming languages that make blockchain development possible, such as Java, C and Python. Deep knowledge of these languages, as well as Go, is a must says blockchain developer Eugene Kyselev.

    Top Resources for Learning the Theory

    Understanding the mathematical and computational theory behind blockchain development is probably the hardest yet most important thing for developers to do. The resources below are excellent starting points, but you may need to supplement them with your own additional research.

    • A guide to “Blockchains from a Distributed Computing Perspective” by Ethos.
    • A breakdown of all the programming languages you need and why at Blockgeeks.
    • “The Most Popular Programming Languages Used in Blockchain Development” by crypto journalist Michael Draper.
    • Coursera’s free course on Cryptography. Students can purchase an optional certificate as proof of graduation.  

    Focus on the Ethereum Blockchain (and Solidity)

    As a blockchain developer, you can create new blockchains or build programs on top of existing ones. The latter is where most of the opportunity lies, according to the team at Australian tech talent career platform The Martec. Building decentralized applications (dApps) are the focus of most developer roles and account for the huge rise in job opportunities.

    These dApps are almost always built on top of the Ethereum blockchain, says full stack engineer and founder of the learning platform OptimizMe.com, Thomas Moran. Ethereum’s community of developers is the largest of its kind in the world and has 30 times the developers as the next most popular platform. “It’s most likely that if you’re doing blockchain development, you’ll start off writing code for Ethereum smart contracts,” Moran writes.

    And if you are focusing on Ethereum, you’ll need to learn its own programming language, Solidity. That means even experienced developers who know other programming languages will need to learn a new one before building dApps, says BitDegree’s Ray King. “However, Solidity is similar to other languages like C++ and Javascript. Most users will find Solidity tricky to begin with…[but]…users who know Javascript or C++ will find it easier.”

    Top Resources for Learning Ethereum and Solidity

    There are several excellent resources that make learning Ethereum and Solidity manageable.

    • The best place to start learning Solidity is with the official documentation guide.
    • Possibly one of the most engaging ways to learn dApp development via Solidity by way of CryptoZombies, a free interactive code school that teaches you to program games.
    • B9lab Academy has a free four-hour course that introduces Ethereum to developers.
    • WordPress developer Robbert Vermeulen has compiled an exceptional list of resources for those interested in learning Solidity.

    Land Your First Role

    When it comes to finding your first job as a blockchain developer, your presence in the community can play a big part. Engineer Abhimanyu Krishnan writes that you could land a full-time position as a result of volunteering on a project. “Check Reddit pages, Telegram, Slack and Discord channels, and tweet to project team members,” he adds. “Of course, don’t forget to check the websites of different projects – many of them list vacancies.”

    While volunteering is a great way to reach out to potential companies and demonstrate your ability as a blockchain developer, it’s not the only way to show that you have what it takes to succeed. Cofounder and CEO of cryptocurrency marketplace platform Purse Andrew Lee notes that because many projects in crypto are open source, applicants can look for issues on Github and create pull requests to solve them. “We had a developer who had two PRs merged into Bcoin before we scheduled the 2nd interview. We hired on the spot,” he says.

    Demonstrating your technical skill is important, but so is showing you are the right fit. Nikolay Todorov, founder and CEO of blockchain solutions company Limechain says “tech skills are secondary to culture fit.” When you’re working in a young and rapidly developing industry like blockchain, adaptability and perseverance are just as important — and perhaps even more important — as technical skills. Technical skills can be taught and developed much more easily than personality traits.

    Top Resources for Finding a job:

    There are several job boards that carry the latest openings in the blockchain industry, but do bear in mind the advice given above.

    • AngelList blockchain jobs.
    • Blocktribe.
    • Crypto Jobs List.
    • Jobs by Cointelegraph.
    • Cryptocurrency Jobs.

    As a blockchain developer, you have the potential to have a significant impact on one of the most exciting, innovative and cutting-edge industries. How are you going to make your mark?

    Images by: Jefferson Santos, Tim Gouw, Jacky Chiu

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