As Blockchain Industry Shifts, Tech and UX Skills in High Demand

The 2018 cryptocurrency crash may have had a silver lining, at least for technologists interested in blockchain. Many people attracted to the Bitcoin hype made quick exits, while their more reserved counterparts stuck around.

“It’s weeded out a lot of the noise from the crypto community, so what we see now is people that are focusing on actual tech and actual product, which I find very exciting,” said Ben Jones, co-founder and researcher at Plasma Group, a research and development firm that’s building scalable infrastructure for Ethereum, an open-sourced, blockchain-based platform.

“Tons of projects and companies built to provide services to the industry have fallen apart or disappeared entirely,” said Jessy Irwin, Head of Security at Tendermint. “The projects that survived ‘Crypto Winter’ have done so because they smartly, adeptly managed their finances and kept their burn rate down.” The majority of these projects have either launched a mainnet, or the blockchain network that a finished project rests upon, or plan to go to market within the next six months.

Tech in High Demand

Jones is starting to see some of the infrastructure promised during the cryptocurrency boom of 2017 finally built out. All this construction has led to greater demand for technologists with the right skills. “The job market—and this is a reflection of the crypto community in general—has seen a refocus toward developing and understanding the technology that’s powering these things,” he said.

CoinDesk managing editor Ben Schiller agrees. He said there’s still a lot of demand for blockchain developers, and that they are generally paid better than other kinds of developers because their skills are in short supply.

The blockchain community, however, is anything but small. And hackathons such as ETHGlobal are great places for job-seekers to network with other professionals, including employers.

Decentralized Finance

Over the past several years, cryptocurrency has moved from a Bitcoin focus to an “altcoin” focus, with Ethereum at the front of that sea change. Beyond that, according to Jones, the biggest trend in Ethereum is an explosion in decentralized finance, or DeFi.

Instead of using smart contracts to launch new tokens disconnected from the rest of the ecosystem, smart contracts are being designed to give users contractual ownership or the right to do something involving other tokens. “The coolest trend that we’re seeing is that these are very interoperable because they’re open-source and are on the blockchain,” Jones said.

Blockchain UX

“In the early days, blockchain was all about protocols and building the underlying infrastructure,” Schiller said, with big fundamental foundational blockchains such as Ethereum, Stellar and EOS. But the industry has been criticized for not delivering on the hype surrounding all the things that blockchain was supposed to be able to do.

Nowadays, he said, the focus has shifted to user experience and design. “We need to focus on putting in nice user interfaces and making tools that everyday people can use. I think that’s a real line coming out of the industry these days.”

Schiller points to Lolli, a rewards platform that gives users Bitcoin when they shop at various online stores, as an example of a user-friendly 2019 product. “Someone who could build a system like that would be in high demand, I’d say,” he explained.

The Right Blockchain Mindset

Irwin says that job hunters in the market for blockchain positions need to have the ability to push an idea through to full execution. “Now more than ever, teams are looking for talent that has experience in delivering and shipping production-ready code and applications,” she said.

Additionally, as the industry continues to shift and grow, an appetite for uncertainty and the ability to adapt to changes is crucial. Blockchain is still here, and it’s still evolving very rapidly.