It seems unlikely at this point in Bitcoin’s bear run that the crypto market will recover to its 2017 highs any time soon. But there’s every reason to remain bullish about blockchain. That is, as long as there’s a sustainable pipeline of blockchain developers ensuring the technology can advance. One of the biggest challenges facing the industry is the shallow depths of such a talent pool.
Blockchain hype cycles
Leading research firm Gartner uses the concept of “hype cycles” to demonstrate the various stages involved in adopting new technologies. In October 2018, Gartner issued a report that showed a large number of business sectors still have more than a decade before blockchain adoption reaches the stage of peak productivity.
These sectors include retail, advertising, life sciences, and even the supply chain, which has seen more blockchain activity than many other areas. Therefore, it’s clear that if blockchain adoption is to reach its full potential over the next 10 years, we need more blockchain developers.
Freelancing website Upwork maintains a skills index ranking the fastest growing skills, with blockchain listed at the top for two consecutive quarters in 2018. As of Q2 last year, there was a 3,500% increase in demand for blockchain-related jobs compared to the previous year.
Skills shortage of blockchain developers
There are now many jobs in blockchain requiring skills like marketing, legal, regulatory, and financial expertise. However, it’s really blockchain developers that are proving to be the bottleneck for firms looking to develop distributed ledger-based solutions.
Business Insider reported only this month that companies in Australia are struggling to find the talent they need to fill critical positions. They even cite a shortage across the Asian continent as well.
One report stated that blockchain developers in India with five years of experience could command the same salary as a general manager in a bank with three decades of knowledge.
The problem extends to other blockchain hubs across the globe. In Switzerland, the home of Crypto Valley, companies hiring blockchain developers can expect to pay around $180,000. While this is at the higher end of the global salary scale for developers, it serves to demonstrate how in-demand the skill set is.
Money isn’t the only issue
What’s important to remember is that blockchain is still a relatively new technology. Developers who have been in the game for longer will most likely have accrued a healthy bank balance by buying into Bitcoin and other major cryptos in the early days. A lot of them were involved in their own start-ups at the height of the ICO boom last year.
For this reason, it’s become more difficult for big companies like IBM and Accenture to compete for experienced blockchain developers. While the 2017 ICO boom generated a lot of hype and short-term wealth, it hasn’t created a sustainable future for blockchain technology.
The long-term future of blockchain is contingent on businesses starting to embrace blockchain. It’s big tech firms like IBM and Accenture that are developing enterprise-grade blockchain solutions for big industry players like Walmart.
So, the tech firms need to find a way to lure in blockchain developer talent.
Nurturing the next generation of blockchain developers
If companies can’t attract experienced blockchain developers even with a generous salary and benefits package, the talent needs to come from somewhere else. Therefore, there’s currently a significant investment in blockchain education. This should help to create the next generation of blockchain developers.
For example, Ripple announced last year that it’s partnering with leading universities around the globe to:
“further academic research, technical development, and innovation in blockchain, cryptocurrency, and digital payments”.
They have recently onboarded a new group of partners including Cornell University and the National University of Singapore.
IBM has taken matters into its own hands too, offering its own “Blockchain Essentials for Developers” course via Coursera. There is such a massive demand for blockchain developer talent that a quick search online throws up lists of courses that any would-be developer can take for free.
While a free course is unlikely to cover all the necessary skills, it’s a great way to get started and learn the fundamentals.
If we are ever to see blockchain leveraged to its full potential, the availability of blockchain developers is pivotal.
The technology needs a talent pipeline that looks beyond the idea of being the next whizzkid founder of a unicorn tech start-up and toward a future where blockchain forms the foundation of business processes.