With its ability to provide complex solutions, its high level of security, and its decentralized nature, blockchain continues to grow in popularity across various industries steadily. As more sectors embrace blockchain technology, there is also considerable demand for relevant skills in the industry.
For instance, Forbes predicts blockchain to become the most in-demand skill in the year ahead. Indeed, as the world realizes the technology’s full potential, IT professionals who aim to build their experience in a cutting-edge field will find that there is no way to go but up with blockchain.
Growth vs. Demand in the Blockchain Space
In recent years, blockchain technology has made significant strides outside of cryptocurrency. Although it first came into the spotlight with the rise of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, blockchain is now considered a mainstream technology as more and more industries focus on digital transformation.
The Covid-19 pandemic, which has invariably shifted the way businesses work, has also spurred growth in demand for blockchain skills. In a 2022 report, LinkedIn lists blockchain engineer as one of the most in-demand tech jobs for the year. While this is expected to become an upward trend, the career opportunities within blockchain virtually remain untapped.
For professionals aspiring to specialize in blockchain technology, there is no better time to explore these opportunities than now.
What Does a Blockchain Developer Do?
Blockchain is a distributed database that provides a secure network for peer-to-peer users to complete transactions. The foundation of blockchain technology are blocks, each containing transactional data and being linked chronologically in a chain. Blockchain transactions are immutable, transparent, and secure.
A good understanding of this architecture is one of the basic prerequisites of working as a blockchain developer.
A qualified developer must be able to develop a blockchain network, implement an application for that network, design the security of the system, find innovative solutions to potential issues, and know-how to integrate the blockchain technology into a unified system.
While responsibilities might overlap, there are two kinds of blockchain developers:
- Core blockchain developer – A core blockchain developer is responsible for designing the foundation upon which other developers would build upon. Core blockchain developers are responsible for high-level decisions regarding architecture, security, and design of blockchain technology.
Designing consensus protocols, upon which the blockchain network heavily relies, are part of the core blockchain developer’s role. They are also responsible for the supervision of the network.
- Blockchain software developer – A blockchain software developer is responsible for building decentralized applications (dapps) with blockchain technology. They build upon the core web architecture developed by core blockchain developers.
Their key tasks include developing smart contracts, implementing backend development and front-end dapp interfaces, and supervising the full stacks used in their dapps.
How to Successfully Work as a Blockchain Developer?
Now that the key responsibilities associated with this role have been discussed, it is time to shed light on the necessary skills a blockchain developer must have.
Blockchain developers should have an excellent grasp of blockchain and its architecture. They should be well-versed in the components of blockchain architecture, namely nodes, blocks, chains, and miners. This also involves an understanding of the four types of blockchain architecture:
- Public – With this type of blockchain architecture, entry and information are accessible to all who want to participate in the process. Some cryptocurrencies operate through a public blockchain, enabling payment through Bitcoin and other transactions. Document validation also uses a public blockchain.
- Private – Private blockchains are more centralized, operated by a single organization that mediates participation. This is typically used in asset ownership and supply chain management.
- Hybrid – Hybrid blockchains combine components of both public and private architecture. Real estate and medical records maintenance are examples wherein hybrid blockchains are utilized.
- Consortium – A consortium blockchain is permissioned, and decisions are made by multiple organizations. This is used in fields such as research, finance, and research.
Other than these, cryptography, consensus, distributed ledgers, smart contracts, and hash functions are some of the concepts that are useful for a blockchain developer to have a working knowledge of.
Cryptography is an integral function in ensuring the operability of blockchain architecture. Thus, a blockchain developer must be familiar with cryptography and its related concepts, such as hash functions, wallets, keys, and digital signatures. Cryptography in blockchain is typically of the following types:
- Hash functions – In cryptography, hashing is a form of encoding that uses a hash code with a defined length instead of keys.
- Asymmetric-key cryptography – This type of cryptography uses a pair of unique keys—the public and private keys.
- Symmetric-key cryptography – In symmetric-key cryptography, only one key is used, shared in both encryption and decryption stages.
Blockchain developers ultimately require an extensive understanding of data structures as these serve as the backbone of blockchain technology.
Every individual block in a blockchain is a type of data structure clustered in the public ledger to make transactions possible. To innovate within the domain, blockchain developers work routinely with data structures, including its different types: heaps, hash trees, graphs, Merkle, and Patricia trees.
Smart contracts allow parties to engage in transactions without an intermediary. These self-executing contracts are widely used in blockchain, and it would be wise for blockchain developers to be well-versed in smart contracts and their significance in business contexts.
This also requires fluency in common programming languages used for building and implementing smart contracts, including Chaincode, Solidarity, and Viper.
While becoming a successful blockchain developer involves getting acquainted with blockchain-specific concepts, they will inevitably spend a majority of their time with web applications. For this reason, blockchain developers must be familiar with web development, web design, and programming applications.
This refers to approaching development from an open-source mindset, working with various technologies and platforms available.
For instance, blockchain developers can get familiar with platforms such as Hyperledger Fabric, Ripple, and Ethereum. Blockchain development requires such to integrate ledgers across platforms despite deployment risks successfully. It is also helpful in integrating with unified enterprise systems in business contexts.
A blockchain developer must have a good foundation in object-oriented programming, wherein software design is organized around data. Also called OOP, this is a dominant design paradigm that forms a majority of programming currently in use. In blockchain specifically, OOP can be utilized to arrive at complex solutions and troubleshooting.
Finally, it’s important to have an in-depth understanding of blockchain technology’s security aspect. Thus, knowledge and skills in cryptography, hashing, and proof are necessary for blockchain development. It is especially significant as security policies surrounding blockchain evolve in terms of compliance, regulation, and legal aspects.
Driving business outcomes
Blockchain developers ultimately focus on technology than business processes, but a good understanding of business outcomes is important to build valuable connections within the ecosystem. Development with a business-driven architecture will help blockchain developers implement their technology more successfully.
Approaching blockchain as a service
Collaboration skills are a must for blockchain developers, especially when forming consortiums. Familiarizing yourself with the concept of blockchain as a service (BaaS) can be particularly valuable when collaborating with consortiums.