Behind the words blockchain and cryptocurrency, there exists a growing industry and companies focused on creating the next version of the Internet. As blockchain technology has become more prevalent in the financial and gaming industries, developers and non-developers benefit from a knowledge of blockchain. Here is a helpful primer on blockchain and the blockchain industry, along with information about the types of jobs you can expect to see when you start the application process.
What Is A Blockchain?
A blockchain is a digital distributed ledger with shared permissions and rules governing the sending and recording of transactional data. Transactions are packaged into a data structure called blocks, and each block is connected to the next block using cryptography.
Activity on this database forms a chain of blocks, hence the name blockchain. Anyone can download a public blockchain, like Bitcoin or Ethereum, participate in keeping that blockchain up to date, and help to decentralize the governance of the system—making each person equally responsible for maintaining and updating the ledger’s records. A blockchain provides a platform where rules of participation are enforced between many parties without requiring a central entity overseeing the system, making the system resistant to certain types of attack or manipulation.
This ability to systematically create rules around the sending, receiving, and recording of transactional data on a decentralized database opens up new possibilities to the way that business can be conducted. A blockchain serves as a documentation and settlement layer where any participant can observe the transactions taking place. Data and code written to the blockchain are inspectable in ways that were not previously possible. Let’s walk through an example from ConsenSys to illustrate this technology.
A blockchain record was used to prove the tuna was caught legally in the South Pacific Ocean off of Fiji. When the tuna fish was caught, the geolocation of the catch was recorded to Ethereum blockchain. As the fish was brought to shore, processed, and shipped to the final destination, data associated with each step was also recorded to the blockchain. This allows the traceability of sustainably caught food. Each company or individual that plays a role in getting the tuna from the ocean to your plate can participate without needing to store the data in their own database. At the step of the process they participate in, they send a transaction that is stored on the blockchain. The final consumer of the tuna can look up these data points on the Ethereum blockchain, and have confidence that the tuna they are eating was sustainably fished.
Insights into a supply chain, particularly when the supply chain consists of many independent participants, is just one of the many applications of the blockchain. This can show customers and businesses that the products they are purchasing meet the standards they seek.
So, the blockchain industry is the set of companies building software and hardware to support this technology for a variety of these applications. The blockchain industry encompasses startups, large technology firms, and organizations using the Internet to extend their current business model and capabilities. Companies vary from those building customer-facing blockchain-based applications to those who are using the blockchain for a specific application or use case related to their industry.
How Are Cryptocurrencies Related To Blockchain?
Cryptocurrency and blockchain are linked due to blockchain technology being the innovation that solved the “double spend problem” in the Bitcoin whitepaper. Bitcoin relies on a blockchain to allow peer-to-peer payments to occur without double spending of the digital currency. Anyone who wants to participate in the Bitcoin blockchain can simply download a copy of it.
Blockchain has since been extended in its uses. For example, the Ethereum blockchain allows for programmable code to be run on the blockchain, meaning blockchain-based internet applications can be built and run on the computers participating in the network. Digital currency is one application of blockchain technology, but not a requirement of using a blockchain.
An example of how digital currency is useful is illustrated by a ConsenSys project with the South African Reserve Bank, called Project Khoka. A private version of the Ethereum blockchain was used as a settlement layer between the South African Reserve Bank and a consortium of seven banks participating in the project. The banks transferred and settled digital rand (the South African currency) between them to track and redeem balances between the banks. Another example is of Project i2i, in which rural banks in the Philippines were connected to a real-time payment platform built on the Ethereum blockchain. This allowed the rural banks access to money transfer networks they previously did not have access to, and for larger commercial banks to connect with rural counterparts.
What Industries Is Blockchain Technology Used In?
Similar to other internet-enabled technologies, blockchain is relevant to almost any industry that has a need to enable interactions between participants requiring an exchange of information or value. Leading the adoption of blockchain are financial services firms, supply chain and logistics companies, and the gaming industry. All three find uses for blockchain due to the traceable, transactional, and programmable rules that blockchains provide. Additional industries that are finding value in blockchain technology are healthcare, media and advertising, retail, government services, education, and legal services.
The best candidates for blockchain jobs will have an interest in both the technology and the relevant industries to which it applies.
What Does A Developer In The Blockchain Industry Do?
Blockchain jobs require specific knowledge of the underlying technologies related to blockchain and the design of blockchain systems to allow their successful implementation. Jobs are often related to developers, but also encompass positions which enable blockchain developers to build full scale applications.
At ConsenSys Academy, computer science majors and self-taught developers are prepared to work in the following roles via their Blockchain Developer Bootcamp and Blockchain Developer Program. Anyone can dive in by accessing the Developer Portal and building their first blockchain application.
- Smart Contract Developers – Those who work in blockchain specific coding languages like Solidity/Vyper and can create custom tokens, build decentralized applications or build custom blockchain clients.
- Protocol Engineers – Those who can build out custom blockchain applications or work on the protocols of existing blockchains.
- Security Engineer / Auditor – Those who identify and fix security issues to ensure smart contracts don’t have vulnerabilities.
- Front End Developers – Those building effective and secure interfaces to help users successfully interact with blockchain products.
- Full Stack Developers – Those who are working across a full software stack to implement blockchain solutions.
- Developer Relations – Those who interface and create community amongst the engineers and developers building the applications, writing smart contracts, and conducting security audits.
- Technical Writers – Those who are writing the technical documentation for code bases on which blockchain applications are built.
What Does A Non-Developer In The Blockchain Industry Do?
Non-developers are needed in the blockchain industry to increase the adoption of technology by customers and enterprises.
At ConsenSys Academy, they teach those who are non-developers about blockchain and help them understand relevant use cases via courses like Blockchain Essentials. This can help you add additional context to roles like:
- Designers – Those who prototype, build, and implement the design elements of a blockchain-based application. They often work hand in hand with developers to ensure a smooth experience for the user.
- Growth Marketers – Those who help increase the adoption of blockchain products by users via marketing, advertising, and content strategy, oftentimes enabled by the Internet. They can also include individuals who are building a community amongst the users of a blockchain application.
- Product Managers – Those guiding the creation of a blockchain product or protocol, and coordinating amongst the developers, designers, and other staff to launch and maintain a blockchain application.
- Business Developers – Those who help sell customers on blockchain applications, and show how those applications apply to their lives or businesses.
- Operations – Those who help with the internal operations of the company, ensuring that the employees have access to the systems and processes to carry out their day-to-day work
- Analysts – Those using data and research to reveal insights that are useful for blockchain applications, blockchain use cases, or understanding a segment of the market where blockchain would apply.
- Customer Success – Those helping customers achieve successful outcomes with a blockchain application or solution, typically by providing support and troubleshooting.
Whether you’re a developer or not, or specifically entering the blockchain space or not, understanding this technology and this new paradigm could be a highly relevant factor in your next job. Getting trained—even certified—in blockchain could give you a particular edge when applying to jobs in the blockchain space, where industry-specific knowledge is currently in short supply, particularly amongst applicants on the non-technical side.
Want to work at a blockchain industry leader? Check out open opportunities at ConsenSys on WayUp! Want to learn more and prepare for a blockchain-powered career? Check out ConsenSys Academy for courses, resources, and more.