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What Skills Do You Need To Become a Blockchain Engineer?

Michiel Mulders 28 June, 2021 | 5 min read

Blockchain is booming, so is the number of blockchain jobs. Not only the core jobs like blockchain engineer, cryptographer, or tokenomic designer are growing, but also supporting jobs like marketing, design, operations, and human resources.

However, the people fulfilling those supporting jobs must have a good understanding of blockchain technology as well. It’s not easy for a marketing person with little or no technical experience to promote a strongly technical product like blockchain technology.

Yet, most projects are looking for blockchain engineers who understand the fundamentals of blockchain technology. This article looks at the skills you need to become a blockchain engineer or those who want to transition from software engineering to blockchain engineering.

1. Blockchain Terminology

It definitely makes sense to get a good understanding of blockchain terminology. If you are able to understand the technological basics that makeup blockchain technology, it becomes much easier to develop blockchain technology.

To give you an example, learn about the different consensus algorithms. Make sure you understand the most well-known algorithms such as proof of work (PoW), proof of stake (PoS), or proof of authority (PoA). Learn about each algorithm and compare them. It’s a bonus if you can sum up the advantages and disadvantages of each algorithm.

2. Industry Awareness

Again, industry awareness is more of an implicit or soft skill that’s expected from a blockchain engineer. You must understand the current trends of the blockchain space. Make sure to follow important projects and learn from their technological innovations. It’s helpful knowledge to solve potential problems you encounter as a blockchain engineer. On top of that, it also shows a general interest in your job and the blockchain industry.

For instance, during one of my job interviews, a recruiter asked what I could tell about the Ethereum 2.0 announcement that was sent out just a few days before the interview. It shows that companies care about blockchain engineers who are involved with the blockchain space. Therefore, subscribe to influential news outlets to get the most critical blockchain-related updates.

You might wonder why this is so important for a blockchain engineer? Blockchain is well-known for being a fast-paced environment. It’s not easy to stay on top of all updates. If you don’t like reading, take a look at the following newsletters and podcasts that provide weekly digests.

  • Week in Ethereum: Newsletter by Evan Van Ness that covers everything related to the Ethereum ecosystem.
  • The Defiant: Sends out interviews of key people within the crypto, specifically the DeFi space.
  • Zeroknowledge.fm: Podcast that covers the latest news in zero knowledge research and applications, the open web as well as future technologies and paradigms that promise to change the way we interact and transact online.

3. Learn About Smart Contract Technology and Paradigms

Besides being a solid software engineer, you should master smart contract development. Most developers using a blockchain project will write smart contracts. Therefore, it’s important that you understand how other platforms implement smart contract technology.

If you lack this understanding, it’s hard to understand the requirements of smart contract development, which makes developing a blockchain protocol much more difficult. It’s like developing software for the car industry while not knowing anything about car management or cars themselves.

A great starting point is CryptoZombies.io that offers gamified coding games to learn smart contract and DApp development using Solidity. Feel free to pick a couple of blockchain platforms to learn about different interaction paradigms. For instance, the Stellar blockchain doesn’t offer smart contracts but works with configurable assets that users can transfer. It’s a great paradigm to understand as a blockchain engineer.

Of course, the starting point is Solidity, as the Ethereum blockchain remains the most significant job source for blockchain engineers.

4. Networking and Distributed Computing

A good understanding of networking and distributed communication is a big plus for a blockchain engineer. Blockchain nodes have to transmit information such as blocks and transactions to other nodes. To improve the efficiency of the network, you have to design a communication protocol that allows for fast updates between all nodes in the network.

For instance, get started with learning about different network topologies like a mesh or fully connected topology.

“A mesh network is a local network topology in which the infrastructure nodes connect directly, dynamically and non-hierarchically to as many other nodes as possible and cooperate with one another to efficiently route data from/to clients.” (Mesh networking)

1082px-NetworkTopologies.svg.png (Source: Wikipedia)

5. Cryptography and Key Generation

You could have guessed that cryptography is a key element of blockchain technology. Blocks are linked together by hashing them, and new keys are generated using cryptographic signature systems.

One of the most widely-used signature systems is Ed25519 to generate public-private key pairs. On top of that, this signature system allows for fast signature verification which makes it so popular among blockchain developers.

Therefore, make sure you know a couple of key generation systems. You don’t need to understand the implementation details of how each algorithm works as that’s too complex but, for instance, learn how elliptic curve cryptography works. It’s a popular key-based technique for encrypting data.

6. DeFi and Oracle Technology

Suppose you seek to work at a company that is involved with DeFi. In that case, it’s important to learn about decentralized oracle technology and why they are so useful to the blockchain ecosystem.

In short, they allow you to access off-chain data on-chain. Obviously, the DeFi ecosystem is most interested in off-chain pricing data to execute complex smart contracts. Therefore, if you are looking for a job in DeFi, get used to working with oracles such as Chainlink, Band Protocol, or Tellor.

7. Tokenomics

In short, tokenomics is concerned with mechanics that control the supply and demand of a crypto token, which eventually determines its market price. Therefore, tokenomic design is very important for the long-term survival of a crypto project. Tokenomics tries to evaluate which factors impact supply and demand. For instance, you can try to predict how different token usage scenarios influence the token demand and how it can influence the token’s market price.

You don’t need to be a master at tokenomic design. However, understanding the notions of economics and tokenomic design is beneficial for a blockchain engineer.

How To Get Started?

First, start with learning about the blockchain basics and follow crypto media outlets, podcasts, or newsletters to get a deeper understanding of the blockchain space. It’s important to form a solid technical base before you dive into actual blockchain development.

Furthermore, a successful blockchain engineer should understand different blockchain protocols and their smart contract paradigms. A great starting point is the Solidity programming language because it will teach you how to develop smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain. On top of that, many blockchain projects search for Solidity developers.

And finally, after doing all the learning, you can find your dream job at the best blockchain companies hiring on Blockchain Works.

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Author's avatar
Michiel Mulders
Passionate about Documentation Strategy, Developer Expierence, and Developer Advocacy. Software and blockchain engineer (Node.js & Go) and technical writer. And oh, crypto nerd!

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