The most skilled developers who can build Blockchain systems are uncommonly talented, and particularly hard-to-find. So can you actually find them?
Blockchain Developers are a hard-to-find commodity today. The meteoric rise to public attention of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and fascinating Blockchain figures like Vitalik Buterin paved the way for the Blockchain revolution to begin in earnest. Daring concepts to change everything from banking to advertising to communications to healthcare have emerged through the power of Blockchain. As of December 31, 2017, Angel List recorded nearly 1500 blockchain startups, but the actual number is no doubt several multiples greater.
Without using hyperbole, the possibilities are truly dizzying.
Of course with every silver lining comes a dark cloud. Despite all of the promise of Blockchain, would-be Blockchain competitors are yet struggling to staff up for the race. A search we conducted of LinkedIn job postings on December 31, 2017 turned up nearly 4,000 open positions Worldwide containing the word “Blockchain,” with at least half of those describing “Blockchain Developer” or “Blockchain Engineer.” However most sources cite fewer than 5,000 genuinely experienced Blockchain developers worldwide. As a “Blockchain developer” is defined by a pretty robust set of skills and experience (for more on that, see our article on “What is a Blockchain Developer?”), it is reasonable to expect this shortage to be with us for some time to come.
If the defining question of 2017 for investors and entrepreneurs was “What do we know about Blockchain?” the sequel in 2018 might just be ”Where can we find good Blockchain developers?”
Talented Blockchain Developers are out there…if you know where to look
Zach Piester, co-founder of Blockchain-focused Venture Capital firm Intrepid Ventures, said it well in August, 2017: “You probably believe that there just aren’t that many great blockchain developers out there. You’re wrong. You’re probably looking in the wrong places and or you don’t have a compelling enough value proposition to hire a great Blockchain developer.”
“You probably believe that there just aren’t that many great blockchain developers out there. You’re wrong. You’re probably looking in the wrong places and or you don’t have a compelling enough value proposition to hire a great Blockchain developer.”
Before we get too deep into it, let it be said that it MAY be possible to develop your product without actually hiring any Blockchain engineers of your own. Due to lack of time or internal hiring expertise, you might choose to contract one of a very few (but generally reported as very good) Blockchain production studios that specialize in “made for you” Blockchain solutions. (We talked about farming out your development in our feature article “How to Recruit Blockchain Developers.”) Obviously, that does not work for everyone, and you may not be amenable to the lack of control, hands-on knowledge and good old-fashioned face time implied in this kind of situation. So, for the sake of this article, let’s presume that you really must hire your own Blockchain developers, and carry on.
First, here are some ways NOT to find a Blockchain Developer:
- Job postings:
When you post other positions on monster.com, indeed.com, LinkedIn jobs and other popular recruitment portals, you probably get heaps of qualified resumes. It’s been a buyer’s market through the economic recovery of the past decade and you’ve probably been pretty successful finding the right skillset and cultural fit. But when it comes to Blockchain, let’s get real—Blockchain engineers are not looking at job postings. At All. Why would they? Every Blockchain engineer worth his or her salt is busy working on projects already. And don’t think for one minute they are worried about what’s coming next. Companies like yours contact Blockchain developers with opportunities every single day. If you haven’t already done so, get in line and cry about the fiat money you wasted on that job posting. Blockchain developers are never going to look at it.
Ok, so posting job opportunities on LinkedIn doesn’t work, but what about searching for candidates using LinkedIn’s robust corporate recruiter tools? If you paid the $999 annual fee, you expect to get terrific value back, right? Here you might have slightly more luck than with job postings only…With LinkedIn’s robust boolean search features and 150 InMails, you might be able to reach some Blockchain candidates. And if your mission is compelling enough, you could start a few interesting conversations, perhaps even get referred to someone who is the right fit. But here’s the catch…Blockchain engineers are just not spending a lot of time grooming their LinkedIn profiles and checking messages from random strangers— if they have LinkedIn accounts at all. Your success with this will probably be hit-and-miss.
- Traditional Technology Recruiters:
Now how about that nice recruiter chap who helped you find a senior technologist last year, for a percentage of the employee’s annual salary? He was quite effective in finding developers, why not tap him for this job? If you’ve got the right guy, willing to dive deep and do the serious digging, that might just work. But here’s a sobering statistic—There are over 18.5 million general software engineers worldwide, with deep specializations in every area of software development imaginable. In the Blockchain sphere, most estimates point to 30,000 or fewer engineers with ANY experience in Blockchain, and no more than a few thousand with more than a year in the field. Simply put—the job of recruiting Blockchain Engineers is an entirely different animal than recruiting other developers. A recruiter who understands very well the inputs and outputs of qualifying traditional software developers very likely has no idea what makes a star Blockchain developer tick. There ARE good Blockchain Developers out there. To find them, be a good employer.
“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… In my opinion, the best programmers always want to go to the most interesting projects, while others will continue to struggle to hire people.“
If all of the above was discouraging, take heart. In an October 2016 interview with Bitcoin Magazine entitled “The Blockchain Developer Shortage: Emerging Trends and Perspectives,” prominent venture capitalist and Ethereum founding team member Steven Nyerhoff, said that “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. The same with Lisk. They’re a little younger than Ethereum, but as I’m observing their hiring spree right now, there are lots of people who are excited to go work there in large part because they’re cultivating so many new ideas and fresh approaches. In my opinion, the best programmers always want to go to the most interesting projects, while others will continue to struggle to hire people.”What that tells us is that for interesting projects, there ARE qualified Blockchain developers available in the World, with more growing up in the field every day as training resources and projects proliferate. Part of your job as a company trying to attract top talent is to be worthy enough a venture that pioneering Blockchain engineers will WANT to come work for you. (For more on this, see our feature article “How to Recruit Blockchain Developers.”)
Ok, so you’ve decided to hire your own Blockchain developers, you know what does NOT work to hire Blockchain developers, and you’ve got an interesting project that is likely to attract Blockchain developers. Here are 7 strategies that COULD be successful in helping you find Blockchain developers:
- Attend Blockchain exhibitions:
Remember the expression “Fish where the fish are?” In this case, Blockchain Exhibitions are the very well stocked ponds of Blockchain developers. Avoid the retail cryptocurrency focused events and watch instead for where the developer community is likely to be. The Ethereum Foundation’s Devcon is one such event. Coindesk’s Consensus is another. There are many, many more, throughout the year and throughout the World.
- Go deep into Blockchain communities:
You already know that Open Source is a key way to identify and verify software development talent, and the same is true for Blockchain. Github has areas focused on Blockchain, as do Stack Overflow and Reddit. You’ll have to embed deep, following developers, questions and message strings on topics like hyperledger, ethereum and node.js before you can begin to identify potential champions for your cause. But if you can invest the time to learn and develop relationships, this is a good long-term strategy.
- Try freelance marketplaces:
One thing that we noticed about Blockchain engineers…they tend not to be particularly traditional. The roots of this movement come from cryptography, and anarcho-capitalism. The father of Blockchain, Satoshi Nakamoto is so interested in fame and recognition in “the real World” that nobody is even sure he really exists. You don’t find a lot of Blockchain developers stewing about how to climb the ol’ corporate ladder. Many of these guys are outsiders and émigrés of the career world, which could be really good for you. Instead of posting your shiny, suited and booted full-time job opportunity on monster.com, consider looking for allies in contractors on forums like Top Tal, Upwork or Gun.io.
- Create a hackathon:
For a few years now, hackathons have been popular ways not only to innovate out of the box solutions, but also to recruit hot new talent. Those same Blockchain developers who don’t give a sniff about your corporate lunch program and company trip to Disneyland might very well be the first in line to solve a truly interesting Blockchain challenge. If you have time to organize and promote such an event, hackathons can be a talent smorgasbord for the long term, with you at the head of the table.
- Poach your competitors:
Yes, we said it! Follow Blockchain media stories and conference speakers in your sector and scour AngelList and Crunchbase to find all the competitors you thought you knew about already (and a few new ones you didn’t) and try to discern where there are good sailors on sinking ships. Where there are people there are politics, and it may just be that your mission and culture are a better fit for some legitimate Blockchain talent currently unhappily attached somewhere else. Be careful, of course, the Blockchain developer community is a fiercely passionate one…while you think you may be probing your target for trouble in paradise, they may actually be probing you for trade secrets.
If poaching is not an option and you have the coffers for it, talent onboarding through synergistic acquisition is a tried and true expansion play. It’s the lock-stock-and-barrel strategy of Blockchain recruitment and not for the faint of heart or light of pocket, but if you need truly visionary Blockchain pioneers, who as individuals or small teams are likely already at the helm of their own startups, this may be your only move. Just make sure that you find the perfect chemistry and the right long-term value offer for such a big and potentially expensive move.
- Hire Blockchain recruitment experts:
Still reading? You’re probably exhausted just thinking about the challenge of finding Blockchain developers. You should be. It’s challenging. It’s also fascinating, exhilarating, and deeply satisfying to find the perfect hard-to-find Blockchain talent that brings important projects to life. That’s why we do what we do, putting Blockchain Architects, Full Stack developers, Back End developers, Front End developers, Dev Ops Managers, UX/UI Designers and other Blockchain staff together with the companies that need them, every day of the week. It’s all we do, and we do it well.