What is a Blockchain Developer?

Need to hire Blockchain talent, but new to the industry? Not sure what makes Blockchain developers different from other engineers? Learn the basics here.

 

Back in the early 1990’s, when the Internet had just become “a thing” for most people, connection speed was so slow and html code was so limited that it did not require any significant level of technical basis to understand what a Web Developer did. He or she was the guy who wrote html elements like <strong> and <br>, right?

For talent recruiters within and out of the Blockchain sphere, however, the world has become more complex in the past 25 years. A Blockchain, unlike a website, involves P2P networks, nodes, cryptography, token exchange platforms and other more sophisticated concepts. More importantly, because Blockchain systems for the most part are built not on a single programming language like html but on a diversified technology stack that is partly dependant upon developer preference, there is no single programming language or identifying factor that definitively distinguishes a Blockchain developer from a general web or app developer, making the term “Blockchain developer” a misnomer…almost.

So who are these Unicorn-like “Blockchain Developers” then?

To state the obvious, first and foremost, a Blockchain developer is a software engineer who solely or in concert with other developers creates or enhances a Blockchain system. If you found your way here, you almost certainly already know what Blockchain itself is, but if not, here’s a cute explainer video that does a pretty good job.

“By the end of 2017, the total number of software engineers with any experience working on Blockchains was estimated at under 30,000 (out of a global population of general software developers numbering more than 18 million.”

There is a substantial gap, of course, between understanding the basics of Blockchain and actually identifying a competent Blockchain developer. By the end of 2017 the total number of software engineers with any experience working on Blockchains was estimated at under 30,000 (out of a global population of general software developers numbering more than 18 million). Of that amount, probably only a few thousand had more than a year or two of experience working on Blockchain development, and of THAT amount, it’s likely that very, very few were highly proficient in the range of skills, programming languages and experience that it takes to create entirely new Blockchain systems.

What DOES define a Blockchain developer is a set of skills and experience in the some or all of the following Blockchain concepts…

  • Peer-to-Peer (P2P) networking
  • Cryptography and Crypto-currencies
  • Consensus algorithms
  • Risk analysis, data security, anomaly detection
  • Smart contract development
  • Distributed ledger / Distributed application development
  • Distributed storage

Defining the attributes of a Blockchain developer might also involve identification of some of the most popular programming languages that developers are using to build Blockchain systems…

  • C++
  • Javascript
  • Geth/Go
  • Python
  • Solidity
  • React
  • Rust

Some of the most popular existing Blockchain platforms…

  • Augur
  • Bitcoin
  • Corda
  • Eris:db
  • Ethereum
  • HydraChain
  • Hyperledger
  • MultiChain
  • OpenChain
  • Steem
  • Stratis

Or a few of the tools, programs, frameworks, protocols, compilers, libraries, plugins, services and implementations related to Blockchain development…

  • Dapple
  • Embark
  • IPFS
  • Metamask
  • Mist
  • MongoDB
  • Node.js
  • NoSQL
  • Parity
  • Pudding
  • Solc
  • Swarm
  • Tierion
  • Truffle
  • Web3.js
  • Whisper

So a Blockchain Developer is a person who has all of these skill sets and knows all these programming languages and tools?

Not so fast. It is extremely unlikely that any one individual stands in possession of knowledge and experience in ALL of these softwares, protocols and platforms. Blockchain development in specific, and software development in general, do not work like that. The languages and tools used depend upon industry, use case, integration requirements, developer preferences and legacy systems. On an individual basis, what a Blockchain developer knows and does also depends upon that Blockchain engineer’s focus.

“What is important in considering Blockchain candidates is that they DO have a strong understanding of and experience with the basic Blockchain development concepts and protocols and strong experience in at least SOME of the key languages and tools preferred for Blockchain development.”

Is he or she a back end Blockchain developer? front end Blockchain developer? or full stack Blockchain developer? A Blockchain DevOps Engineer? A Blockchain UX Designer? Or the rarest specimen of all—a true Blockchain CTO or Blockchain Senior Architect, who will devise genuinely new innovations, choose the technology stack and guide the entire development team?

What is important in considering Blockchain candidates is that they DO have a strong understanding of and experience with the basic Blockchain development concepts and protocols and strong experience in at least SOME of the key languages and tools preferred for Blockchain development. In most cases, your Blockchain developer should also have a strong track record collaborating in open source communities like Stackoverflow and Github.

Well, then what is the difference between a Blockchain developer, a Bitcoin developer, an Ethereum developer, a Smart Contract developer, a Solidity developer, and a DAPP developer? (And which one do I need?)

In simple terms, a Bitcoin developer works on Blockchain systems using the Bitcoin protocol and platform, an Ethereum developer works on Blockchain systems using the Ethereum protocol and platform, a smart contract developer works on the smart contract creation aspect of Blockchain systems, using a language like Solidity or Simplicity, a Solidity developer specifically uses the Ethereum based Solidity program to create smart contracts, a DAPP developer creates front end applications in any language which operates autonomously on a decentralized network, and all of the above are in one form or another Blockchain developers.

Again, which roles a Blockchain employer needs to fill depends entirely upon the Blockchain company’s project(s), the existing team and skillset, and the preferred development platform technology stack and implementation.

We here at Blockchain Developers, Inc. are world-class at helping you find and hire the talented Blockchain developers you need to grow. Just fill out our contact form, and we’ll be happy to see if we can help!

 

How Much do Blockchain Developers Cost?

With Blockchain engineers in high demand, what’s the cost to hire a Blockchain dev?

According to Boston-based job data analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies, the median income for Blockchain developers in the United States was up to 30% higher than that of general software developers in 2017—and specifically, $158,000 in high-tech epicenters like New York and Silicon Valley. In Europe, cryptocurrency wallet company Eidoo’s CEO Thomas Bertani said that Blockchain developers are earning $10,000 to $15,000 monthly, while Crypto-Valley Association founder and former UBS CIO Oliver Bussman put Blockchain developer salaries in mid 2017 at “£200,000 to £300,000” a year. “That’s not a lot,” he added, ”Demand for these skills is high. To get the talent, you have to pay.”

Lies, damned lies, and statistics:

“Former UBS CIO Oliver Bussman put Blockchain developer salaries in mid 2017 at “£200,000 to £300,000” a year. “That’s not a lot,” he added, ”Demand for these skills is high. To get the talent, you have to pay.”

Mark Twain famously popularized the saying (that he himself attributed to British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli) “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” What every honest statistician understands is that median figures can be misleading— especially when you consider the chasm between those highly experienced (and highly rare) Blockchain developer veterans and the Satoshi-come-latelies who have slapped Blockchain on their resume in the last 6-12 months. The latter greatly outnumber the former, making the statistical median Blockchain developer salary deceptively low.

Making matters even more opaque, earnings figures for top level Blockchain talent typically do not take into account compensation in the organization’s own tokens nor perhaps in Bitcoin, Ether or other rapidly appreciating crypto-currencies. Hiring a software engineer with a Blockchain project or two under their belt is indeed possible for $80-$150/hour as of the time of this writing, but as demand gets hotter and hotter, and as more developers venture into Blockchain, it is really hard to predict which way the market will go.

As for Senior Architect and CTO level Blockchain engineers, currently the sky is the limit. Job postings for Lead Blockchain Developers were listed at $250,000 on dice.com in January 2018, and we should not be surprised to see base compensation offers of $300-$500k/year for the most important Blockchain roles in 2018. A Financial News story concurs with this target, stating that top Blockchain salaries are already as high as $650,000/year.

Blockchain developers are in short supply.

There are three phenomenon driving the surge in cost for Blockchain developers. The first, of course, is the limited supply of experienced Blockchain Developers. Most estimates put the number of Blockchain developers worldwide in the low tens of thousands, with the truly experienced and talented amongst them numbering no more than 5,000. That amounts to approximately just a couple hundredths of a percentage of all 18.5 million software developers worldwide.

The field is young and the skill set needed to engineer Blockchain systems is complex. It requires knowledge of

Cryptography, Peer-to- peer networking, Distributed storage, Consensus algorithms, Smart Contract development and more relatively recently advanced topics, plus an expert grasp of up to two dozen programming languages, tools, frameworks and platforms. (for more on this, see our article “What is a Blockchain Developer?”) It takes a diverse set of skills to achieve expert status in Blockchain. It is not just hard skills that are important. Would-be Blockchain engineers must also be well rounded and analytical, perseverant and passionate.

As BitBay founder David Zimbeck shared with us in our feature article: “Becoming Blockchain: Interview with BitBay Founder David Zimbeck,” he spent 93 straight sixteen-hour days in a trailer in North Dakota gobbling down Taco Bell burritos and Mountain Dew before he was able to produce his first Blockchain prototype. That kind of single-minded dedication is not for everyone.

Demand for Blockchain developers is sky high…

“With the crypto-coffers of Blockchain competitors filled to the brim, and top Blockchain talent in desperately short supply, there will continue to be upward price pressure on Blockchain developer salaries for some time to come.”

The second condition driving up salaries is of course simply the high demand for Blockchain developers. There are now thousands of Blockchain startups (that we know of), with more coming on the scene every week. A search we conducted for the word “Blockchain” at the end of 2017 turned up nearly 4,000 open job positions worldwide containing the word “Blockchain on LinkedIn, with at least half of those describing “Blockchain Developer” or “Blockchain Engineer.”

Burning Glass Technologies released findings in October 2017 confirming a greater than 115% year-on-year increase in the number of job openings for Blockchain roles, with predictions that this growth would continue to be exponential.

…and the fiat is flowing!

Meanwhile, Blockchain startups are far from cash-strapped. The space is white-hot, with Venture Capitalists shoveling in hundreds of millions to those promising crypto-ventures willing to take it. The real money, though, of course is coming in the recently popularized form of Initial Coin Offerings. Blockchain ventures raised around 4 billion in ICOs in 2017 alone. (That’s to say nothing of the capital gains made from crypto-currency appreciation!) With the crypto-coffers of Blockchain competitors filled to the brim, and top Blockchain talent in desperately short supply, there will continue to be upward price pressure on Blockchain developer salaries for some time to come.

Money really isn’t everything…but ideas might be.

If the adage is true in general that “money isn’t everything,” that appears to be doubly true for largely Libertarian-leaning Blockchain pioneers. If your mission is only to make money, you may find yourself struggling considerably to recruit talented Blockchain engineers, many of whom could already retire several times over on the strength of stupendous growth of crypto-currencies in the past year or so. “I don’t know any good Ethereum developer who isn’t a millionaire” quipped decentralized organization platform Aragon founder Luis Cuende memorably.

Many Blockchain engineers are self-styled crypto-anarchists, who believe the Blockchain will make the world more harmonious, rid traders from government interference, cease corruption, shatter borders, and perhaps even end war. “What got me into Blockchain was my prior search for solutions to world problems,” Bitbay founder David Zimbeck told us in January 2018. “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”.

Whether it’s Bitcoin, Ether, Ripple or fiat currency, money is really only one small piece of the puzzle. Of greater import to many Blockchain developers are the unique challenges of your project, and its potential impact on the World. Prominent venture capitalist and Ethereum founding team member Steven Nyerhoff stated “As an advisor to Ethereum, I can personally tell you that people were fighting to get onboard there. They had no problems getting qualified programmers.” It is a far better thing these days to have an under-funded project with real prospects to positively disrupt the World than a forgettable concept whose best feature is a healthy checkbook.  (For more on what Blockchain ventures can do to attract the best Blockchain talent, see our feature article “How to Recruit Blockchain Developers.”)

The bottom line is this: Blockchain developers aren’t cheap. But if you really need a big budget to recruit a Blockchain developer, then you probably can’t afford one, at any cost.

We here at Blockchain Developers, Inc. are world-class at helping you find and hire the talented Blockchain developers you need to grow. Just fill out our contact form, and we’ll be happy to see if we can help!