What do Chess, Acting, burritos and C++ have in common? Bitbay’s founder tells his story.
We sat down with David Zimbeck, early Smart Contract pioneer, and founder of BitBay, BitHalo and BlackHalo with one question on our mind… “What does it take to become a Blockchain Developer?” Zimbeck transitioned to Blockchain development from acting, real estate, film development and chess, among other adventures. He shared with us his thoughts about the paucity of outstanding Blockchain developers and the qualities that make for good ones. Here is what we learned:
Blockchain developers must be well-rounded and analytical
Zimbeck himself appears to be a man of many lives. At one time, he loved Chess—he won the Ohio scholastic state championship three years in a row, becoming Chess Master at age 18 and defeating 10 Grandmasters in a tournament in Europe. Later careers included drilling oil, handling real-estate, producing films and acting. (Watch Zimbeck swashbuckling a minor role in Pirates of the Caribbean 2.) Each experience, he said, contributed to his Blockchain innovations.
“Chess,” for instance, “helped me visualize code. It helped me plan, memorize and problem solve, as well as anticipate problems well in advance. Working in Real Estate was crucial when I was developing BitBay’s double escrow smart contract program, and oil drilling taught me how to press forward through fatigue and discouragement. Being well rounded is critical for perspective and insight.”
Perseverance, self-discipline and willpower are essential
“I was literally a nobody in Cryptography, and I came completely out of nowhere. I’ve been persistent with my goals. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”.
Zimbeck said it took him 93 sixteen-hour days in a trailer to teach himself to program from scratch. This was mid-Winter in North Dakota under minus-13 degree conditions. “I lived on Taco Bell spicy potato burritos, almonds, chocolate, sunflower seeds and Mountain Dew,” shared Zimbeck, “I would wake up, roll out of bed, and code until falling asleep. I developed a cough so bad that I had to fly to Florida after my prototype was done and be nursed back to health by my parents.”
What motivated him? “[This work] was what was needed,” said Zimbeck, “to make the world’s first smart contracting platform. I was literally a nobody in Cryptography, and I came completely out of nowhere. I’ve been persistent with my goals. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
Blockchain programmers must be meticulous in their work. Blockchains must be secure enough to protect large amounts of value. Platforms, once built can only be revamped through great expense and risk of disruption to the communities they serve. For these reasons, developers need to be painstakingly careful and thorough in their coding. One mistake may easily cause the platform’s clients to lose hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars. David Schwartz, Chief Cryptographer of Ripple, who developed secure messaging and cloud storage software for government and military applications, compared Blockchain to a fortress. Enemies try to breach crypto infrastructure all the time. It takes a top developer to prevent and withstand these attacks.
Outstanding learning skills are more important than specific language familiarity
Job postings that seek outstanding Blockchain engineers usually specify a shopping list of requirements that include programming languages like LLL, Java, C++, Serpent and Solidity. To Zimbeck, the most important qualities are the abilities to keep on learning and to think “out of the box”.
Zimbeck, a high-school dropout who only knew basic QBack and C++ when he first came to Blockchain programming, revealed that he taught himself Blockchain engineering by searching for information on Google. Indeed, Blockchain investor Zach Piester noted that Blockchain engineers need to think creatively, since Blockchain is an evolving technology, and since each usage case has its own unique requirements. The industry is moving at break-neck speed, so Blockchain engineers need to constantly update their skills, and need to have the courage to innovate audaciously.
It takes a great deal of passion to be a Blockchain Developer
“Money means nought to me. I want to lead a self-sufficient life. After programming, I want to be a builder or have a farm.”
Top Blockchain developers are not programming because they need the money, but because they genuinely love the industry, and/or because they see Blockchain technology as a tool for good. Zimbeck told us:
What got me into Blockchain was my prior search for solutions to world problems. Bitcoin didn’t impress me too much, since the decentralization of money won’t stop the media from dictating to people. However, I saw a lot of interesting potential with Blockchain, and this is what eventually lead me to the Halo idea”.
For Zimbeck, it was the drive that he’d had childhood on to make the world a better place. People like he see smart contracts as tools to not only protect cryptocurrency traders, but to make the world more democratic and trusting.
Blockchain engineers are often called “crypto-anarchists.” They believe in the power of Blockchain to remedy injustice, to restore trust, to help individuals escape government interference, to shatter borders, and to end corruption (among other benefits). These kind of individuals are neither grooming their LinkedIn profiles, nor searching for a way up the corporate ladder. “Money means nought to me,” said Zimbeck, “I want to lead a self-sufficient life. After programming, I want to be a builder or have a farm.”