You already know that big clients are chasing down blockchain specialists and offering them amazing benefits, but do you know what kinds of professionals are the most sought-after at the moment? If you’re willing to join the space, you need to stay on top of the market. In an interview with Elena Sidorenko, partner at Joel Bene Consulting, you’ll find what the criteria set by a client is, what experience and knowledge is required from you, and what employers are doing to attract specialists when the demand is much higher than the offer in a global market!
Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself and your experience? What does your company do? Could you please provide examples of the big clients who came to you for help in hiring blockchain specialists?
I have been in the recruiting sphere for more than 15 years. I used to work in big international companies holding management positions. Four years ago, my colleagues and I have created a recruiting boutique agency. We offer hiring services, headhunting in particular, and we provide consultations on team building and staff assessment and motivation.
The new specialization of fintech and informational security has appeared in our agency, but we have not planned on it during the launch of our business. Our clients are, as usual, venture investment funds, which invest in companies in their different life stages.
Now we see the main trend – funds that are going to carry out ICOs. So, we have the demand not only for back and frontend developers but for development operations, information security, etc. We also look for specialists who have a deep understanding of the blockchain as product managers, lawyers, analytics experts, marketers, PR specialists, and developers. In other words, all the people who can plan, develop, and implement the token’s launch. We can easily say that ICOs are the way to attract the money for the future development of portfolio companies and to increase the portfolio itself.
But we have not yet had requests from the real sector of financial companies who want to implement blockchain technologies in their business operations.
What kinds of professionals are the most sought-after at the moment? Smart contract developers, lawyers, product managers? Do any interesting trends appear?
In the beginning of last year, we had the orders “to find a blockchain specialist” to implement an ICO without the specifications on what kind of a specialist should it be: a lawyer, a financial analytics expert, or a developer. Clients could not set the task clearly, and we assumed that they did not understand what people they needed. They just wanted to build up hype.
I tried to figure it all out by myself without having the understanding of the technology’s specifics. I spent a lot of time talking to experts, visiting blockchain events, readings experts’ publications… to be honest, I got the impression that most of the experts had only casual knowledge because they could not answer questions about what kind of tools they had used, what problems they faced, or what the solutions were.
Why should a client understand the technology? The client should understand what goals to set, what facilities and technological stacks they should provide, and what team is needed in order to implement the idea. In the opposite case, there is no clear understanding about the professional level of the potential candidates, and no evaluation criteria. As the outside consultants, we should evaluate candidates based on the requests and criteria set by a client. Otherwise, the goal “to find someone, but I don’t know which one” is infeasible.
So we have a lot of candidates who use the magic words in their CVs – blockchain, cryptocurrency, token, smart contract, white paper, – and it guarantees that the salary can be increased in time. It is crucially important to evaluate the candidate upon entry in order to understand if he or she really does know something and can do it, or if it is just self-PR. Unfortunately, we mostly face the self-PR type.
We had a very interesting case here. An investor had been looking for a financial analytics expert to evaluate projects within blockchain technology, and he told us that he will not consider the candidates who use the word “blockchain” in their CV because it’s just yakityak. I do not mean to say that you should not write it if you have concrete knowledge and experience in that field, but it is important for you to prove it with real detailed examples.
To sum up. The success of a blockchain project relies on teamwork and intelligently set tasks, goals, deadlines, and resources.
Independent of the project’s goals and stages, the team can consist of the following professionals:
• Development operations manager
• Product manager or product owner
• Head of projects
• Investment analytics expert
• Smart contract developers, core developers
• Crypto specialists
• Security specialists
• Technical writers
What kind of experience during the hiring process of a developer is the most preferable?
If we talk about the experienced developers, then experience in smart contract development and their migration onto a blockchain is important. A clear understanding about how they work is also important to a client. Then it is important to evaluate the quality of a code from concrete examples (formatting, optimal usage of a language’s capabilities and libraries, etc.).
There are too few specialists out there because the field is still very young. So if there is a development leader who can intelligently split the project into manageable pieces, define a technological stack, clearly set tasks and goals, check the implementation, and combine it all into a single product, then you can hire specialists with minimal experience.
Knowledge of Java, C/C++/C#, Go, and JS will be an advantage. Developers who code in a native language without frameworks have much bigger chances to find a job in the blockchain. And, of course, there is no way to go without knowledge of mathematics and algorithms because it is a necessary base. Good knowledge in hashing, cryptography, and encryption are requested as well.
How important is the image of the company for a typical blockchain professional?
We talk about the brand of a company here. The reputation of an employer is always important. It is important to carry out your obligations and fulfil your promises.
Developers are the creative people. The possibility of self-realization and professional growth (interesting tasks, technologies, tools) are important for them. The project itself and interesting goals are important for them. The possibility to complete the project, ideally from beginning to end, is very important. They don’t want to do sterile busy work. Salary in important. The obligations fulfillment is also important. It is vital that the work process be organized correctly, without a lot of meetings, shifting from task to task, etc. It is important to work with a professional team. It is also important for the emotional (ideological) health of the younger talent.
The personality of the owner, investor, or boss will be always important in a startup. Serious developers will not join projects If the owner has been spotted cheating or caught up in a murky legal case.
How can the employer attract the specialists from the market when the demand on them is much higher than the offer, and the market itself is global?
With the consciousness, openness, and the project itself. If an employer understands what he or she wants to achieve, can set goals and timings clearly, and can finance the project from beginning to end, then they will be interesting to candidates. It’s not prittle prattle, candidates ask all of these questions. What is the team, what is the technology, what is the concept? An experienced candidate considers openings as an investment opportunity. Sometimes recruiters cannot answer the questions above, and therefore candidates prefer to talk to an employer directly. For an experienced candidate, it is crucially important to talk to a project leader. And if he gets all the answers, then cooperation will happen.
How can a company hold the already-hired specialist? Because finding the right one is only a part of the problem.
There is no special moment for the blockchain. To carry your obligations is the most important thing. The industry is still very young, and no one wants to work in a one-day startup. Experienced candidates try to evaluate a new employer and a project in the beginning, and when they begin to work, it is important for them that the promised work conditions, obligations, and facilities are delivered. If the promises are not met, it will be very difficult to hold the experts. They usually find a new job pretty fast. But if a project is interesting, has good work condition with, no information vacuum inside, and the leader is present then creative and goal-oriented people do not leave.
Which educational courses are valued by an employer the most?
There is a great course on Coursera from by Princeton University which runs you through the most basic cryptography to the advanced levels of what the blockchain is. To learn the basics, one should also consider taking George Levy’s course on the fundamentals of the blockchain and Bitcoin. And when you’re done with the basics and want to get more tech-focused knowledge, Stanford’s course on Bitcoin engineering would be a great choice.
If it is impossible to find the candidate with the relevant experience in the blockchain, what kind of alternative is a solution?
It all depends on the position. For a project manager, lawyer, investment analytic, the relevant experience is obligatory, as they should understand details, know and understand the risks, and know how to avoid them. In development, a big part is on the dev leader. If he or she is an experienced professional, then they can hire candidates with minimal experience but good technical skills. They can set goals clearly, teach, control, and combine the project. It is a rough comparison, but a technician can machine a piece of equipment without the knowledge that he is participating in the construction of a spaceship. The personality of a leader is extremely important.
What is your advice to a person looking for an opening in the blockchain world?
During the job search:
• Deeply analyze the information about the job.
• Search and analyze information about the managers and owners.
• Search and analyze an information about the project leader, consider the team roster and their professionalism.
• Talking to a project leader and asking questions is a must.
• You should be flexible and ready to learn and meld into a team fast because you will get very little time for adoption. You should have a willingness to work in a constantly changing environment.
• You should want and be able to work in a team, set priorities, and utilize good time-management skills.
• For developers: understand the principles of agile development, be ready to work in short sprints.
• Have a stern knowledge of English, as you should be ready to work with English sources. Understand it and communicate using it.
• Subscribe to relevant channels, participate in the community.