Job profile: Become a blockchain engineer
Posted on
February 8, 2022
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As more and more companies get accustomed to blockchain, it's a great time to become a skilled blockchain engineer.

As a technologist, you need to stay up on the latest trends — you need to find the sweet spot between knowing what is out there but not always buying into the hype of the “latest” technology. When it comes to jobs, it’s the same thing. One of the top “newish” job titles out there is that of “blockchain engineer.”

Let’s talk about blockchain

To understand what a blockchain engineer does, I think it’s important to define blockchain. The short answer is that blockchain is a shared, immutable ledger that facilitates the process of recording transactions and tracking assets in a business network. An asset can be tangible (a house, car, cash, land) or intangible (intellectual property, patents, copyrights, branding).

Virtually anything of value can be tracked and traded on a blockchain network, reducing risk and cutting costs for all involved. A perhaps easier-to-understand model might be to imagine a lending institution that stores its full accounting ledger with each individual who has an account. This takes away the “central” from “central bank,” and that makes people very worried.

All of this is good for computing, because you can distribute load to keep track of the transactions and central processing isn’t a thing anymore.

With any engineering position, you pretty much do the same thing: You need to keep in mind that an engineer would not only build the solutions but also analyze what the company needs. You just do these with blockchain, as described above. You can put any solution on the blockchain if you want a user-based way of keeping track of your solution.

Remember, people’s value of money is only in their head. Since the U.S. dollar, for example, is no longer backed by gold, it’s our trust in the dollar that keeps it afloat. That shared trust, put into anything, creates value. That’s why through history, peoples were able to trade/buy necessary goods with clam shells, tin, and trinkets made of wood and spit.

Job skills and responsibilities

As more and more companies get accustomed to blockchain, it's a great time to become a skilled blockchain engineer.

A company really has two paths open to it when it wants to “work with” crypto or the blockchain. It can use transactions to enable things like profit sharing, or monetary payments. It can also use it on their balance sheet as an asset.

There are a lot of factors to play here but I see a lot of companies trying to reach a broader — and younger — demographic with the blockchain. This is enabling payment systems for their companies. They need blockchain engineers to help with this enablement.

In that regard, an engineer must collaborate with managers to determine the blockchain technology needs and functionalities that will best serve the company. Again, this one is easy, it’s the same for any engineer.

A blockchain engineer must also apply the latest cryptology techniques to protect digital transaction data against cyberattacks and information hacks. This is where a cybersecurity background is crucial to the position’s job duties.

After the programs are made, you will need to maintain client and server-side applications. You will also need to optimize and secure blockchain applications by integrating new tools and technologies. If you sell it, you will need to put on your engineering hat and educate sales personnel on blockchain features that allow secure digital payments.

Above all, a successful blockchain engineer must keep up with current blockchain technologies and cryptography methods. These are just a few of the technologies and skill sets you must master to maintain an internal, ever-changing blockchain for your company.

Technology to watch

A few of the emerging technologies surrounding blockchain don’t have to do with the blockchain itself, but rather with its usage. A few of these are music rights and payments to artists. Tracking statistics on plays and crediting the artist is something that is easier to do on a distributed blockchain — and can’t be edited by hackers.

As more and more companies get accustomed to blockchain, it's a great time to become a skilled blockchain engineer.

The other rapidly growing area is supply chain management. Removing intermediate vendors and providing accurate, authenticated and transparent transactions while allowing fully audible and immutable fees is something the supply chain will continue to grow into. Look for this to be the new normal for all digital supply chains.

Background and skills

As for almost any job that includes the word “engineer,” a high degree of math competency is required. A good blockchain engineer should also have demonstrable competency in C++, Java, and Python. They will also need extensive experience in back-end development, algorithms, and data structures.

A security background is nice, because a good blockchain engineer will need to be proficient in cryptography and blockchain protocols. Math and computer science majors are great for blockchain engineers just starting out, but employers will also be on the lookout for hardcore long-time developers for senior spots.

Certification

For certifications, there are quite a few emerging. Caveat emptor applies to most of these credentials, however, are they tend to be of the opportunistic, startup, grab-a-buck variety.

Rather than a certification — and there are a few good ones — I would steer you toward a certificate from a university program. Find a way to cover the cost or, better yet, have your employer kick in, and plow through a 6-to-12-month program to get yourself into the blockchain space.

As more and more companies get accustomed to blockchain, it's a great time to become a skilled blockchain engineer.

If you have the “base brick” of professional IT experience and knowledge, then you will be able to pick this up in no time. Some of the top schools like Cornell, MIT, and Berkeley offer courses in blockchain and blockchain engineering.

If you have a really good grasp of the programming languages and technologies that make up blockchain, then you could opt for an online learning site like Coursera and take as many self-study courses as possible. If you go that route, focus especially on courses that offer a certificate or other form of skill validation. This usually costs extra, but the additional layer of legitimacy is well worth the added expense.

Blockchain shows every indication of not being a passing IT fancy. The skills and knowledge that you gain will be in high demand. I wish you the best on your career path as you venture into the job world as a blockchain engineer.

About the Author

Nathan Kimpel is a seasoned information technology and operations executive with a diverse background in all areas of company functionality, and a keen focus on all aspects of IT operations and security. Over his 20 years in the industry, he has held every job in IT and currently serves as a Project Manager in the St. Louis (Missouri) area, overseeing 50-plus projects. He has years of success driving multi-million dollar improvements in technology, products and teams. His wide range of skills include finance, ERP and CRM systems. Certifications include PMP, CISSP, CEH, ITIL and Microsoft.

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