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‘Blockchain will explode in two years, so now is the time to get involved’

It barely existed five years ago, but is a career in blockchain now worthwhile? We asked the experts

A lot has changed in five years, but a recent survey from consulting firm Amárach found that 75 per cent of the general public wouldn’t want to work in the blockchain sector – primarily because they don’t know what it is

A lot has changed in five years, but a recent survey from consulting firm Amárach found that 75 per cent of the general public wouldn’t want to work in the blockchain sector – primarily because they don’t know what it is

 

In 2014, a school student wouldn’t have considered a career in the blockchain sector. And not just because they wouldn’t have known what it was, but also because the sector was only really beginning to develop then.
A lot has changed in five years, but a recent survey from consulting firm Amárach found that 75 per cent of the general public wouldn’t want to work in the blockchain sector – primarily because they don’t know what it is. Are they missing on a promising career? We asked three experts for their insights.

Paul Healy is chief executive of Skillnet Ireland, which provides courses for blockchain developers.
Lory Kehoe is managing director at the Irish branch of ConsenSys, the world’s largest blockchain company.
Amy Pugh, project and business development manager within Deloitte’s EMEA blockchain lab, is responsible for leading blockchain solution projects for a variety of clients.

What type of jobs are available in the sector?

Paul Healy: “Software developers in general are in high demand and those in specialist roles are particularly difficult to find.”
Paul Healy: chief executive of Skillnet Ireland

Paul Healy: Knowledge of languages like Go, Solidity, JavaScript, Angular or React. Because Blockchain is developed and delivered in the Agile system there is also a demand for scrum masters, product designers and product developers and those with project management experience. Specialist skills or experience in the main blockchain platforms, such as Ethereum, Hyperledger, Corda and Ripple, are in high demand. But “blockchain developer” is not yet seen as a specific job title. No specific numbers are available at present, but upwards of 50 large and small companies in Ireland are currently engaged in a variety of blockchain initiatives.

Lory Kehoe: We have 1,000 people in 30 locations. Our graduates are primarily from software development and computer science, and we’ve had people join us from the major tech firms, such as Google, Amazon and Facebook, as well as from consulting houses. We need front and back-end developers, business analysts and designers.

Amy Pugh: Deloitte’s EMEA blockchain lab have a number of open technical and strategic roles, from developers and cloud architects to sales, business development, scrum masters and digital consultants.

Is it hard to fill these roles?

PH: Software developers in general are in high demand and those in specialist roles are particularly difficult to find. Companies are hiring for passion and interest and then helping new hires to upgrade their specialist blockchain skills. Blockchain related jobs are very popular as they attract high salaries and offer great opportunities. There may be a perception in the public mind linked to the use of blockchain technology as the basis of the cryptocurrency revolution, but blockchain – as distributed ledger technology – is now widely used across the broad economy and far beyond the cryptospace.

Lory Keogh: “We haven’t struggled to attract people: we’re building the next internet”
Lory Kehoe: managing director at the Irish branch of ConsenSys

LK: We haven’t struggled to attract people: we’re building the next internet and people are keen to work on this cutting-edge tech.

AP: People may be reticent to work in the sector as they haven’t fully realised Blockchain’s key role in the wider digital disruption and innovation agenda. But we have an amazing pipeline of talent and are inundated with CVs from people with different skillsets and experience. It is important to note that we do not require people with seasoned blockchain expertise all the time. Given that blockchain is a relatively nascent technology, professionals may be hesitant to change career, but we envision that this attitude will evolve as the technology matures. There are many blockchain start-ups within the ecosystem that have yet to be tested; Deloitte sets itself apart here as we are tried and tested.

What resources are available for further training and upskilling?

PH: There is little by way of provision in Ireland in this space currently, with courses available to date predominantly online and based in the USA. Technology Ireland ICT Skillnet have in the past 12 months provided three intensive short courses for blockchain developers. In May 2019, the Technology Ireland ICT Skillnet and DCU will launch the first ever MSc in blockchain, a two year part-time course for employees to upskill in this emerging technology. We understand also that the Irish Computer Society are developing a new blockchain developer course.

Amy Pugh: “There is an abundance of resources available from multiple sources”
Amy Pugh: project and business development manager within Deloitte’s EMEA blockchain lab

LK: ConsenSys’s academy team provides training around blockchain technology and how to be a developer or business analyst in that space. We also won a competitive tender with Skillnet to provide training to members of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation. Writing solutions, developing code and working on smart contracts are part of our training.

AP: There is an abundance of resources available from multiple sources such as: open source communities, The Blockchain Training Alliance, 101Blockchains, platform specific courses and many more. To support emerging talent, universities need to develop blockchain programmes. Deloitte have advised Irish higher education authorities on the content and modules for blockchain masters courses.

How important is the sector for Ireland, and do you expect this importance to grow?

PH: IDA Ireland regards blockchain as an area with huge potential and confirm significant interest in the technology among its client base. It aims to position Ireland as a global blockchain centre of excellence and along with Enterprise Ireland, Skillnet Ireland, Government departments and agencies and scores of companies has facilitated the Blockchain Expert Group and Blockchain Ireland – an online resource and support base.

LK: We’ve grown from one person to 43 people in Ireland, and we are aspiring to have more than 100 employees. We’re also looking for a second premises, so the indicators are good. We’re seeing an increased appetite from local clients across sectors including insurance, supply chain, government and county council. Blockchain will explode in two years, so don’t miss the boat: now is the time to get involved.

AP: As Ireland is a tech hub with highly skilled talent we are primed to embrace emerging and innovative technologies. A highly skilled talent pipeline will be critical to the growth of a sector which is disrupting every industry within the Irish ecosystem including financial services, agriculture, aviation and pharmaceutical.