Impact on Blockchain Implementations due to blockchain Talent shortages

According to TechCrunch, there are around 14 job openings, on average, for one blockchain developer[1]. The exponential growth of blockchain implies that the industry is faced with the similar skills shortage and challenges that the technology boom witnessed. It is going to be worse since the tech and the blockchain industry will compete to recruit from the same talent pool. Accenture forecasts that the blockchain technology would cut the costs by $20 million by 2021 globally and with the stats like that the present talent shortage has become a prime concern for the businesses if their blockchain innovation is to ever accomplish a paradigm shift in their industries.

The Rising Demand for the Blockchain Talent

There is no scarcity of activity or excitement in the field of blockchain and distributed ledger technology. The IDG Connect Survey, based on 516 European IT professionals as respondents, belonging to different industries such as retail, health and finance, shows that 38 percent of the professionals reported that they expect blockchain to have a huge impact upon them being a professional. Other similar studies also suggest that the industries like energy and supply-chain management expect blockchain-based technologies to have a huge effect on their operations[2].

In our view, the key challenge related to the blockchain is the lack of knowledge and awareness regarding the blockchain technology, especially in the areas other than banking, and a scarcity of understanding of the way this technology works[3]. This is hindering the investment and experimentation of ideas.

In addition, now faced with the shortage of talent, the blockchain industry has been striving for the same limited talent pool and hence, this is leading to the hiring wars and unusually higher salaries, with some highly experienced blockchain engineers earning more than $250,000 per annum, the IBM VC of Blockchain Technologies states[4]. The demand for a skilled talent is exceeding the supply and we need rapid and effective solutions to ensure the wider deployment of the blockchain technology.

The Skills Required to Succeed at Blockchain

One of the common challenges with the blockchain, apart from the complete disconnect as to what it really means for a number of businesses, is that it needs a unique mix of skills, many of which are still not formalized. The fundamental areas of competency include conventional web skills, though they might not go far enough, as innovators may want to create the blockchain libraries and use them. And the same goes for the traditional coding expertise. While these make a primary foundation, a willingness to understand and learn at least one of the latest blockchain platforms such as Ripple, Ethereum, Hyperledger or Stellar is also likely to be critically important[5].

In addition to traditional software engineering, the cryptography is an essential skill. The developers of the core blockchain may need to learn the distributed system, security, networking and game theory, along with cryptography. The smart contract developers would need to learn formal testing and verification. Lastly, there is a need for a good familiarity of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as well as the understanding of coding in the distributed database environments including distributed consensus methodologies.

The Impact on Blockchain Implementations

A number of companies have already initiated some ground-breaking projects, but to drive these ahead, the right blockchain talent and skills mix are required.

Galen Moore, the Market Research Director of New Alchemy, a blockchain advisory company, states that Ethereum is the 800-pound gorilla of the blockchain platforms at present. Many employers are focused on recruiting the developers who can create Ethereum smart contracts and these developers are very difficult to come by. There is a need for lots of learning. Developing the decentralized apps (called dApps) for Ethereum, for instance, requires the knowledge of Solidity (a novel language somewhat based on Java) as well as its unique development environment, scripting and testing tools, compiler and frameworks. Solidity and other blockchain-oriented languages like Ivy, Serpent, LLL or Simplicity don’t appear on Stack Overflow, Tiobe, GitHub, Spectrum IEEE or HackeraRank lists of the most common and popular languages to learn and use[6].

The companies in the cryptocurrency sphere have made huge commitments last year. While most of them involve revolutionary breakthroughs, they failed to see that there are just not enough developers and professionals with the required hands-on skills and expertise to meet the executives’ expectations. Indeed, this shortage is leading to low-quality talent hiring, and even developers with little knowledge and limited skills are making profit from the hype, which would eventually affect the quality[7].

The Bottom Line

The blockchain has given birth to many revolutionary ideas that, if properly implemented, can change the world. To avoid the mass-extinction like the one seen in late 1990s after the dot-com boom, the blockchain industry needs to develop a solid blockchain talent resource. If it is not achieved, a lot of promising implementations of the blockchain, especially those bearing societal importance, will not reach the real-world deployment stage.