Hi! I’m Patrick Maguire, Marketing Director for Pocket Network, a Tampa Bay startup in the blockchain market. I have been actively involved in blockchain/cryptocurrency projects for many years. Over this period of time, I’ve gleaned valuable knowledge in the space. I wanted to share what I’ve learned as someone who has both developed a career in blockchain, and recruited others from/into this space.
There are many considerations and tactics for entering the market, as an individual or company. If you already have a basic understanding of blockchain and smart contracts, feel free to skip to the middle.
What is a Blockchain, and Why Does it Matter?
The blockchain space is evolving rapidly. Research and development is accelerating as fast as any cutting-edge technology sector, so supertechies can grant me some grace as I give the ELI5 version.
- A blockchain is a database.
- The database records transactions of cryptocurrency, or other crypto-data.
- Transactions are sent to a public key – like a mailbox.
- Transactions must be signed by the sender. This signature is the private key.
- Anyone can own a copy of the database.
- In that way, a blockchain is decentralized.
- In order to participate in the update/security of the database, you have to follow a specific protocol.
- These participants are typically referred to as nodes.
- Nodes work to prove that the majority of database owners have the same record.
- Nodes also work to complete a block in order to move to the next block.
- A block is a record of proven transactions in a given time.
- Completing a block is a result of solving a large crypto-puzzle.
- The node that first completes a block broadcasts it to the network.
- If approved, that node receives a reward.
- In Bitcoin, the reward is Bitcoin. Bitcoin can only be created through this mining process.
- Because anyone can participate in this protocol, it does not rely on any single source of truth, and that is why a blockchain is considered trustless.
The use of a ‘Decentralized & Trustless’ database is powerful in any supply chain where stakeholders cannot rely on one another. Currency was the first use case, but many other markets will be affected by this system. Blockchain has value in medical record safekeeping, real estate, open source video game development, and more.
Smart Contracts and Decentralized Applications (DApps)
Blockchain development has exploded with the introduction of smart contracts. These are essentially business logic written as code to execute automatically. Smart contract logic is simple: if you send X Bitcoin to this contract, then the contract sends you Y of another cryptocurrency.
The use of smart contracts and blockchain databases opened the market to decentralized applications. I believe this is where the majority of opportunities will emerge in the next 25 years. We have already seen unicorns come to market in the past five years, centered around the shared economy, such as Uber and Airbnb. Now, imagine an Uber where Uber doesn’t set the fees, and where reputation is built through peer-to-peer interactions. This is barely scratching the surface.
The Opportunity For Business
A business can look at blockchains and DApps as a way to increase efficiency in specific verticals. For example, most major banks are experimenting with blockchain for international transfers and settlements.
There is also huge opportunity to disrupt a given market, or possibly create a new market segment, by leveraging a decentralized application within a specific segment. Social media is an example of this. Our younger generation is no longer happy with Facebook, because they own and leverage your personal data for profit. Oftentimes, at the expense of privacy and sense of agency.
Another example is cases where crowdsourcing, with the right incentives, leads to better results. Numer.ai is doing this with a distributed Hedge Fund. Anyone in their decentralized network that demonstrates better predictions than theirs is proportionately compensated.
These are only a few examples of how you can leverage blockchain and DApps for your business.
Considerations When Hiring
If you are the owner of a mature business or startup, here are some considerations worth factoring in when looking to recruit.
I cannot overstate this, as I’ve had too many conversations with people that wanted to get involved with blockchain because it’s a buzzword. I’d recommend doing your due diligence. Do the research, and ask fundamental questions like, “Could I do this without a blockchain?”
What type of developer do you actually need?
Searching for “Blockchain Developer” may result in a lot of interviews with unqualified individuals. If you want to create your own blockchain (and I generally suggest you don’t), then you will want a blockchain developer.
However, if you’re looking to leverage a blockchain for an application, you’re likely looking for a developer that is more experienced in smart contract development, with enough blockchain understanding to connect your application to the infrastructure itself.
Some of the most popular smart contract syntax derives from Javacript, Python and GoLang. If you happen to notice an applicant with less smart contract experience but solid knowledge of languages that transfer well, it may be worth the investment.
If you’re hiring for a DApp developer, it will be important to understand which blockchain you want to use and why. This will inform the skillsets that are most applicable.
Lastly, If you’re looking to set up a mining operation or other service to the industry, you’ll want someone with data center experience that has hosted and maintained servers or other blockchain nodes.
Most of the space is open source, so check out GitHubs and Bounties.
Because most codebases in this space are open source, you can easily check out a GitHub repo to look at active contributors.
For example, the Go implementation of Ethereum has 405 public contributors: https://github.com/ethereum/go-ethereum/graphs/contributors.
When doing market research, you will identify some projects and contributors that you can model your hiring off of.
You can also leverage open bounty networks. Look at contributors of existing bounty programs, such as Gitcoin.co.
Additionally, you can submit your own bounties. What would better qualify your applicant than delivering working code?
User experience is a beast.
When you’re looking to expand into decentralized applications, you need to understand that user experience design is critical. Because decentralized applications require more steps than traditional apps, having someone on your team that can create the next generation of user experience will set you apart.
Most blockchains aren’t proven.
Because the space is still immature, you’ll want to work with a developer that can test multiple blockchain implementations for your project in order to de-risk your application. Some of the most prominent blockchains being developed today are Hyperledger, Ethereum, EOS. Many others that have cases worth exploring, such as AION, Tron, ICON, and CasperLabs.
Considerations When Building a Career
Although I am not a developer by trade, here are some insights from my experience in how you can start a career in blockchain/crypto sooner than you may think.
Become the ‘go to’ community member.
If you don’t have connections in the blockchain/DApp community, a simple tactic to get involved and get noticed is to join communities and provide as much value as you can for free.
Identify bug bounties, submit pull requests, join hangouts, test products, help with research, curate content, and engage with community channels like telegram, discord, or discourse. Be consistent.
After you have developed a reputation in the community for doing good work and being reliable, you’ll find that most decision makers are very open to contract work in some capacity. Even if it’s not the full-time gig that you’re looking for, your foot is in the door and you can develop more practical experience. I have seen many cases where full-time positions were offered to active community members.
You can also use your reputation in a community to develop a proposal to a governing body in the community (or the decision makers themselves) to work on something you feel would both benefit the ecosystem, as well as develop your skills further.
Be open about your intentions, involve others where it makes sense (avoid too many cooks in the kitchen), and iterate in public so that when the time is right to make the proposal official, you can move forward with the confidence of the community behind you.
If there’s anything that you can do to make the developer experience better for early stage blockchain/DApp projects, they will want it. You may also identify a potential business in the gaps.
For example, Pocket Network came out of the understanding that blockchains are losing full nodes, becoming centralized, and are difficult to connect to. It was in this deep understanding of the common problem that the founders built the solution.
Although it is a network, it is also a tool for developers to connect any app to any blockchain, from any device.
Relay infrastructure is a large and growing market. You can find your niche too.
Do bounty work.
The best way to prove your abilities as a developer is to produce working code. The best way to network in crypto is to produce working code in collaboration with others.
Look at bounty websites such as Gitcoin.co, Bounties.network, and others and start working on open bounties. If you are working on a bounty, be sure to share your experiences with others that may be willing to help, or simply take notice of your efforts/attitude. If you successfully complete bounties that are contributions to the broader Web3 community, it will not go unnoticed.
This is not financial advice – do your own diligence. Seek guidance on laws, regulations, and tax implications before involving yourself in an agreement to receive a token.
But I will say this: most early stage blockchain/crypto projects prefer giving tokens to someone they know will use it for its purpose. If you’ve done your research and believe in the project’s stability and potential, consider receiving tokens for work done on the project.
There is more to developing a full ecosystem than development. Some key roles that will add value to a DApp/blockchain project are:
- Economics Research – Anything with a token needs an economic model.
- Network Governance Research – Anything that’s distributed needs a governance model.
- Community Development – Think of this as the stewardship of digital channels and programs that maintain an inclusive and productive culture.
- User Experience – This is a beast for DApps – very much needed.
- Developer Evangelism – If you are technical enough, and have social skills, there are plenty of jobs for you. You could evangelize, create content, attend conferences and workshops, consult, etc.
- Analysts – Blockchain is one of the hottest spaces for venture capital. Vetting projects takes time and understanding. This is a fun avenue to look into.
- Graphic Design – Most of the concepts in the space require visual representations. If you can communicate complex ideas into simple graphics, you will find work.
- Business Development – Blockchains need applications, node services, tools, and other market partnerships. If you understand the market and are good at building relationships, you can find a role in Biz Dev.
The space of blockchain and decentralized applications is developing at breakneck speeds. Because of the community’s open nature and willingness to collaborate, you will find that the ecosystem is ripe with opportunities. Both to develop a career, and to find talented individuals to collaborate with.
If you can hold the tenets of open source development in mind as you navigate the waters, you will likely come across the project or person you were looking for.
Best of luck on your journey into this emerging market!
To read our interview with Michael O’Rourke, CEO of Pocket Network, click here!