How to Start a Career in Blockchain

You have likely heard about blockchain technology through its association with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. However, while cryptocurrency remains an important application of blockchain technology, it is only one example.

Blockchain has emerged from the once-shadowy world of cryptocurrency to become a transformational technology for many businesses. Companies such as IBM, Microsoft, and JP Morgan Chase are making huge investments in blockchain that they hope will make operations more efficient and give them a competitive advantage.

Blockchain is now recognized as the most in-demand skill in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Australia. With many companies seeking talented blockchain professionals, there has never been a better time to pursue a career in the field. This blog will outline a career pathway to becoming an in-demand blockchain professional.

Understanding the Basics

Blockchain is the latest version of distributed ledger technology (DLT) that helps people do business with each other by tracking who owns what. For people to do business with one another, we need:

  • Trust
  • Transparency
  • Auditability/verifiability

These values exist in modern business, but they are almost exclusively dependent on a trusted third party (for example, a bank or government agency). These trusted third parties can be expensive, which adds drag to the system. Blockchain presents the possibility of replacing these trusted third parties with trust in an automated system.

So, how is this done? Blockchain provides trust, transparency, and auditability by combining well-known technologies into the following:

1. Shared Ledger

Systems that rely on a trusted third party give full control of the official ledger to that third party. In the case of a discrepancy, the businesses involved assume that the trusted third party holds the ultimate source of truth and that each participant in the transaction is responsible for reconciling with that source of truth.

Blockchain, on the other hand, has a shared ledger (also known as a distributed ledger). Every participant in the business transaction has a copy of the source of truth, which cannot be manipulated. The blockchain system ensures that all copies are up-to-date and consistent with one another, eliminating the need for a third party to hold the source of truth.

2. Cryptography

Cryptography is used to provide a positive identity of participants involved in a transaction and to verify those transactions. This includes ownership of assets transfers to and from the correct accounts. It is easy to detect attempts to corrupt the transaction data with the help of well-known public/private key encryption technology currently in wide use in other applications.

3. Consensus/Trust Mechanism

The blockchain system provides an agreed-upon protocol that allows all participants to decide on the order of the transactions in the ledger. The blockchain system asks participants to replace their trust in a third-party organization with trust in the consensus protocol.

4. Smart Contracts

Smart contracts are computer functions that automate the execution of transactions based on predetermined business rules. Here is a simple example: A bank writes a smart contract for the purchase of a new home. When the home purchaser’s loan balance reaches zero, the title to the house automatically transfers from the bank to the owner without human intervention and is visible to anyone with access to the blockchain ledger.

What Skills Do I Need?

Blockchain relies on many commonly used enterprise technologies and techniques, including software development and distributed systems.

Existing software developers can leverage their current skills to create smart contracts in Java, JavaScript, Go, or Solidity (similar to JavaScript). Systems administrators and DevOps engineers can use their enterprise experience to build, deploy, manage, and scale leading blockchain platforms.

Where Do I Start?

Blockchain has the potential to disrupt many business processes that we currently take for granted, and smart contracts can automate many things that are done manually today. The shared ledger has the potential to make digital goods (such as ebooks or MP3s) more like physical goods (think about selling an ebook to a friend after you have read it).

As with any new disruptive technology, we cannot predict all the future possibilities for blockchain. Learning how blockchain technology works and how to apply it is a great way to complement your existing development skills and to open new career opportunities.

Two of the biggest blockchain platforms are IBM’s Hyperledger Fabric and Ethereum. Quorum, the JP Morgan Chase-backed blockchain, is a variant of Ethereum, so skills such as smart contract development are transferable between various platforms.

Hyperledger is a great place to start if you want to get into supply chain, logistics, or inventory management applications. Hyperledger is a large project, much of its technology is open source, and a large amount of material is publicly available.

If you’re interested in fintech, cryptocurrency, smart contract development, or if you want to dip your toe into blockchain without a lot of overhead, Ethereum is a strong starting point. There are great Ethereum and Quorum resources available, including developer tools and tutorials for smart contract development.

Learn More

Visit Vanderbilt University FinTech Boot Camp or contact our admissions team at (615) 200-1138 to discover how you can learn the skills to use blockchain to conduct business.

Fintech boot camp attendees learn blockchain and other in-demand technologies at a professional level, which provides them with the skills they need to bring value to a potential employer and thrive in this emerging industry.


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