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The Global Talent Shortage: Where to look for Blockchain Developer jobs?

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The San Francisco airport is bustling as programmers jet in for a Blockchain developers’ job interview. Many of them will receive job offers and become part of the Silicon Valley blockchain hub. As blockchain developers, these young software engineers with less than two years of experience on average are the most sought-after IT professionals on the globe.

Comparisons to the dot-com era tech talent shortage seem inadequate. In Beijing alone, over 10,000 jobs are posted for blockchain developers on one online jobs site. Tens of thousands of blockchain trial projects are underway in enterprises around the globe. Hundreds of startups are competing to build the fastest, most scalable and secure blockchain platform for the private enterprise, and e-commerce platforms and other public dApps.

This review of blockchain developer salaries reveals regional wage advantages quickly evaporating into a global labour pool. A six-month certificate in blockchain development and a published consensus protocol could land you the same salary as Google PhDs in cryptography, AI and machine learning. Only 50% of Blockchain developers have bachelor’s degrees versus 70% for software developers in general. Two-thirds of blockchain developers, who are in their early twenties on average, have less than two years experience. Where a startup locates in this tight market for blockchain developers could make or break it.

Silicon Valley – What’s in a Name?

The highest paying blockchain development jobs are situated in the region’s with the deepest private capital pools—the Silicon Valley area of California and Crypto Valley in Zurich’s countryside. State-side, technology centres from Seattle to New York are developing blockchain technology hubs. The average US blockchain developer makes $114k, according to paysa.com. About 0.4% of this salary represents an equity stake in the blockchain startup.

Blockchain startups setting up in Silicon Valley should be prepared to pay top dollar for talent.  A blockchain developer in Mountain View or San Francisco earns 121k, on average.

Salaries drop to a still respectable 107k in New York.

In addition to salary, startups will increasingly compete with tech luminaries as the mainstream technology community backs more blockchain and cryptocurrency ventures. Andreessen Horowitz’s newly launched $300 million crypto fund is backing well-respected technologists who can attract talent and press. The blockchain community is already buzzing about its first investment, UC Berkeley’s Dawn Song’s Oasis Labs, which is developing a high-performance blockchain that protects sensitive enterprise data. The man who helped create the P2P market, BitTorrent founder Bram Cohen, heads another AH portfolio company, Chia, an energy efficient cryptocurrency.

This pull from the mainstream software development pool will also help meet demand. Harmony, headed by a group of former Google technology heads, is among the first wave of this migration. Using the UDP engine that powers Google Chrome, the Harmony blockchain plans on processing a whopping 10 million transactions per second.

London Calling

London’s high cost of living is not every programmer’s cup of tea, especially when living on software developer salaries that can be as much as $15–25k lower than those in the US.  The blockchain talent shortage is creating wage equality with developers across the pond.

UK blockchain developers made a healthier 75k GBP (about 100 USD) in the first half of 2018, according to IT careers specialist itjobswatch.com, an increase of 15% year-over-year. The number of permanent positions for Blockchain developers increased 2.7 fold over the year-ago period. Blockchain developer jobs represented 23% of all IT developer jobs in 2018.

Blockchain developers, who are generally starting their careers, further benefit from strong career resource support. London Blockchain Labs connects students across major universities with learning, training and job search resources. It recently partnered with Crypto Talent’s jobs board to provide job and internship opportunities, mostly centred in Europe.

Switzerland – Crypto Valley

Over 100 blockchain companies make their home in Crypto Valley, a blockchain technology hub in the Swiss canton of Zug about an hour from the Zurich airport. In this sleepy countryside, you will find crypto ATMs, municipal services paid in Bitcoin, shared startup space, and the 500-member strong Crypto Valley Association.

Switzerland’s relaxed stance toward ICOs attracts blockchain and crypto startups. The tech talent inflow is pushing up average blockchain developer salaries. Software development salaries are generally high but slightly lower than those in the US. Beginner blockchain developer salaries range between 50k–70k, while engineers can pull in 50k–100k. If you can find a CTO position, a coveted job often taken by a co-founder, you can earn 100k plus.

The culture of equity pay is well-rooted in Crypto Valley, a major centre for ICOs. In lieu of salary, for example, a developer could opt to accept an equity contribution of, say, 5–25 percent. With salary, the equity portion may range from 0.05–1 percent.

The home of the Ethereum Foundation has attracted some of the most seasoned blockchain talent. One area of focus is making blockchain development easier. Emotiq uses a natural programming language to provide smart contracts that are writable by anyone. DApps application platform Lisk makes it easy to create dApps in JavaScript. Other Crypto Valley startups are already household names, including crypto wallet and exchange ShapeShift and P2P-shared computer resources Golem.

Cross fertilization across blockchain hubs is increasing. Silicon Valley’s Blockchain Capital is an investor in several Crypto Valley startups.

Other European Centers

Berlin has a very active market for blockchain and cryptocurency jobs but it worries about its lack of a crypto culture. One solution is Full Node, a large coworking space hoping to create more of a crypto community vibe by bringing 100 or so Blockchain developers and other professionals together.

For blockchain techies who venture to the capital city, the pay is competitive. German software developer salaries are generally on par with London, and only slightly lower.

France software development salaries can be 5k–10k below those of the UK, but the fringe benefits may make up for the difference. France is rolling out the red carpet with tax and other incentives to attract businesses post-Brexit.

Go east startups. Eastern Europe provides an attractive value proposition — salaries are 25–30 percent of those in the USA and elsewhere in Europe, according to Glassdoor, and blockchain developer talent is high. Estonia, Belarus and Slovenia have emerged as blockchain hubs.

Singapore

In Singapore, startups will be competing with some impressive technology for crypto talent, including some next generation blockchains, such as the cross chain platform Wanchain and the high throughout blockchain Zilliqa. The IBM Center for Blockchain Innovation for developers, a collaboration with Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB) to make Singapore a Blockchain finance, trader and commerce innovation leader, ismalso actively recruiting. IBM is currently trying to fill 40 blockchain developer/engineer positions worldwide.

The world’s largest ethereum wallet, imToken, has recently moved to Singapore, following $10 million in financing from IDG Capital. It is worth enquiring, what made imToken move from China? Was it the competition for talent? China’s universities graduate over 500,000 IT students each year. A recently anlysis of job ads on lagou.com by news.8btc.com, found over 28,000 job postings for blockchain technical developers in Beijing alone. These professionals can command 300,000 yuan ($44,700) a year. Similar jobs are offering $36–60k in Singapore. A blockchain research engineer for a multi-year wallet could make $75–145k, indicating that the competition for higher levels of programming expertise is in the global not local market.

One sure sign the competition for blockchain developers is heating up is the salary perks, reminiscent of the dot-com days. More startups are offering equity stakes to attract tech talent.

When assessing where to find the best Blockchain tech talent, startups also need to consider the regulatory landscape. South Korea’s ban on ICOs is a huge disincentive for global tech talent who increasingly depend on an equity stake in ICOs to fatten their pay packages. Dot-com-era perks such as free gym memberships, nursery schools, and car service are starting to be rolled out. YosemiteX in Palo Alto, the business blockchain run on fiat currency, is offering a top tier salary, plus free meals and laughter.  

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