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Blockchain Updated: 02 Aug 2017

Blockchain talent wanted: much more than programmers

As the finance sector’s interest in creating blockchain-based products grows, so does the demand for professionals with the right skills for capitalizing on this exponential technology.  Just as occurred at the time with software developers, right now the demand exceeds the supply.

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Teresa Alameda (BBVA Creative)

A survey taken by  Business Insider of more than 100 executives in the United Kingdom showed that the struggle to acquire talent in the finance sector is most pronounced in areas or sub-areas related to blockchain. Some 51% of those polled said they were looking for employees with knowledge of trading technologies, 47% were seeking programmers and 29%, experts in cryptography.

These data reflect a current trend in the finance industry: companies are facing a fierce competition for expert technological talent in this new discipline. “When a great technological change takes place, there comes a moment when the demand for profiles exceeds the supply. This happened with the arrival of mobile phones, apps, and big data,” says Carlos Kuchkovsky, CTO for New Digital Business at BBVA. “and undoubtedly, this is happening now with blockchain.”

The increase in demand for these profiles is also reflected in online job searches. According to the Financial Times,  the number of job offers on LinkedIn related to blockchain has tripled in the past year. Data provided by LinkedIn show that the number of advertisements related to blockchain is growing at a rate of more than 40% each quarter.

Currently, there are more than 10,000 people on LinkedIn that include blockchain in their skill set. (LinkedIn still does not include the term in its official list of skills, but plans to do so.) Of these, half come from the technology industry and a third, from financial services. Geographically, the majority are in the United States, followed by the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Holland.

Much more than programming

As for the skills the ideal candidates must have to work with blockchain, Kuchkovsky explains that there isn´t a single profile, but several. “The discipline covers different areas: the most technical parts, related to advanced mathematics and cryptography, or knowledge of game theory, P2P networks and smart contracts, but also business development or the creation of online ecosystems,” he says. To illustrate the variety of skills required, the BBVA expert takes the example of the development of a mobile app: developing it requires, not only a person to write the code, but also someone to create the flows of interaction that define the user experience, the design and a business model, among other things. “The same happens with blockchain,” he says.

He also underscores the growing interest in the sector among people with knowledge of cryptoeconomy or tokenomics. However, for the BBVA expert, the most valued skill is not “knowing how to program,” but knowing what is being programmed. “The most difficult thing is not the syntax of the code in itself, but understanding what they are programming for,” he explains, referring to the importance of knowing the  dynamics of the online functioning of blockchain and understanding how to operate with the new economic models that are generated by the decentralization of the certification processes.

In recent years, numerous groups have appeared, both public and private, to respond to the growing need for training that has been generated by this boom. The University of Nicosia, in Cyprus has launched one of the first Master’s programs specializing in cryptocurrencies and blockchain. And the University of Copenhagen has created the European Blockchain Center, which this summer organized the first Blockchain Summer School, where the students will have to develop their own solutions based on blockchain.

In Spain, the University of Alcalá (Madrid) has created a Master’s in Ethereum, blockchain technology and cryptoeconomy. Also, institutions like the Blockchain Observatory and Blockchain España promote meetings where knowledge is shared among experts and developers in the sector.

Beyond the academic world, in the blockchain space an important role is played by the large number of “self-taught and passionate” developers that share their knowledge in forums and in the growing number of open source platforms and projects where people learn on their own account. “Just as occurred with the app developers, when it wasn't yet a formal  discipline,” Kuchkovsky notes.

Transversal knowledge

In promoting the learning of new technologies such as blockchain within the company, BBVA is committed to an open and transversal model. Just as with other technologies, BBVA has been expanding its knowledge of blockchain in a horizontal manner in different areas, “beyond the specialized technical teams,” Kuchkovsky explains.

For more than three years, BBVA has had experts that help the company to understand the impact of how the technology works and its impact on the different areas of financial services. “We continually explore what new skills are needed by the areas of business, architecture, security, quality and even legal, to create blockchain systems that are practical, useful and secure.”

In order to keep up to date, the BBVA expert also stresses the importance of staying close to the ecosystem of startups, of the regulatory agencies and of the blockchain associations or consortiums such as Hyperledger, EEA, R3 and of Red Lyra in Spain.

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