“…the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” - Steve Jobs
Death, Taxes and Careers. Two inevitabilities and one battleground. Humankind is finally up in arms against the machines, and there is no looking back. In the algorithm driven era, the only way is forward. We knew this all along, and every new disruptive technology brings us oh-so-much-closer to the trenches, where the real fight is. Big data has had its day in the sun, and whether the machines won will be a matter of conjecture. But today, there is a new phenomenon that is sweeping across the tech world. Time to delve.
“Software is eating the world”, the tagline of tech venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz sums it all up in a neat little sentence. Marc Andreessen, one of the co-founders of the firm, is also considered the 5th most influential blockchain individual on the planet. With a net worth of more than a billion, and a portfolio that includes Facebook, eBay and HP, when he talks, people listen.
And right now, he is talking blockchain.
The said phenomenon sweeping the world of technology and finance (at hypersonic speed, no less) is not a new concept altogether. Cryptographic, secured chain of digital blocks containing unique data was introduced as far back as 1991. It took the intellect of the enigmatic person/s using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, however, to cast the idea into a concrete technology, and it’s first implementation, bitcoin, the world’s most popular cryptocurrency, and the blockchain, the technology underlying it, is the next wave of top dollar careers.
And the numbers are staggering. Serious techies worldwide are transfixed by its massive potential and promise. While the multitudes of crypto platforms, currencies and exchanges are the primary growth drivers in the space, the sheer breadth of its scope, from implementation in medical records, digital rights management, insurance claims processing, and even governance! It doesn’t need genius to figure that the biggest beneficiary by far of this explosion will be the aspiring entrepreneur or the budding professional wanting to hop onto this gravy train. But, for the sake of substantiating, here’s a quick glance at the numbers. It’ll probably get a little difficult to blink from hereon, so you’ve been warned.
Toptal, the tech talent marketplace, has seen a surge in blockchain engineers of 700% YoY, between 2017 and 2018. The story repeats itself in almost every noteworthy professional platform. Professional networking behemoth LinkedIn saw a rise of 437%, YoY in the same period. Popular freelancing employment platform Upwork has more than a thousand blockchain job openings at the time of publication of this article, and their worldwide skills report proclaims blockchain as the No. 2 skill in demand. An important facet to note is that half of these openings are technical positions. Vacancies posted in Upwork denoted blockchain as the fastest growing domain by a massive 2194% for three quarters in a row, more than 6,000% YoY in Quarter1.
If the names alongside numbers are anything to go by, the Big Blue takes the cake, with 49 openings in the US alone, and 221 recruitment ads in the domain worldwide. Others vying for talent in the space include global giants like EY, SAP, Oracle and Microsoft.
Not unfair to add to Marc’s words and say “…and blockchain is eating software”.
The fringe Cypherpunk movement’s legitimate offshoot has morphed into the highest paying career available to anyone with the skills and the knowhow, and employers are thirsting for more, even as they raise the compensation bar every few months to hire for all they’re worth – a pattern not seen since the early days of the Big Data boom. Scorching demand growth has already elevated the median to $130k a year – a far cry from the vanilla software developer in America who barely scrapes past the $100k mark, if they are worth their salt.
And in case you’re open to relocate to the tech hotspots of the country, you’re in the gold rush league with median (note: median, not the top end) salary benchmarks touching $158, 000.
The magnitude of this sensational boom can perhaps be best exemplified by economies as staid as Switzerland heating up to hire talent in this space, peaking as high as $180,000 a year. Needless to say, the crypto boom of 2018 has provided the jet fuel to a job market segment already on steroids. Initial Coin Offerings of crypto currencies passed an astronomical $4 bn in market value as of now, and if the word on the street is anything to go by, we are just seeing an eddy before the actual tide rises. Ironically, political and legislative acceptance of the distributed blockchain, hitherto taboo in government circles, are gaining grounds almost as fast as the technology itself. At the time of publication of this piece, seven states in the US have already passed or initiated, legislation on blockchain.
Utopic? Time for a raincheck.
Blockchain has tremendous potential, scope and prospect. It’s market value and breadth is growing in exponents. Naturally, it is attracting the best and brightest developers, analysts, entrepreneurs, and scam artists. Ever so often, we see the occasional crypto currency turning out to be a sham. Consequence being, the largest and most coveted employers, not the fly-by-nighters, whom you want to consider if you’re serious about career and growth, have mandated some minimum credentials to even qualify for a preliminary screening.
Big employers recognize big names and the small fry aren’t really going to make the cut, C’est la vie. For names like Central Blockchain Council of America, Stanford, and MIT. Private Institutions are mushrooming too, Blockchain University in the US and B9lab in the UK. It is, however, important to keep the wheat from the chaff and a career investment, is, well, not to be trifled with.
Summing up, blockchain is the future. And for the skeptics and naysayers, here’s a little trivia. Search Google for what John McAfee (one of the pioneers of global cyber security worldwide) said about each bitcoin crossing $50k in value by the end of 2018. Well, you’ll get the picture.