How to Start a Blockchain Development Career

Blockchain, the distributed ledger supporting bitcoin, is finding its way into an increasing number of domains. Here's an intro to this exciting new technology along with tips on getting started in a blockchain development career.

Blockchain Skills In Demand

Along with other technology trends like Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality, blockchain has become a buzzword in Silicon Valley and beyond. Blockchain is the distributed ledger that powers bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Now it’s proving its potential in other fields including the Internet of Things, supply chains, finance and entertainment

Tech giants such as IBM and Microsoft are starting to invest in blockchain and plan to incorporate its features and innovations into their businesses. Experts believe that blockchain will be a defining factor in the future of the Internet and online business.

Consequently, knowledge of blockchain use cases and development can help your business in the long run, and your career as a technology expert and software developer. Here's what you need to know about getting started with blockchain development.

What Is Blockchain?

At its core, blockchain is a distributed data store. As opposed to traditional data repositories, which store data in centralized servers and server clusters, blockchain creates copies of its ledger and stores it on thousands and millions of computers, also called nodes. A reasonable number of nodes must validate every new record before it is registered. Once confirmed, the record is stored in the ledger and propagated across the network of participating nodes.

What makes blockchain special? As the culmination of decades of cryptography and cybersecurity research, the mechanism underlying blockchain makes it a reliable and tamper-proof platform for exchange of sensitive information. As the blockchain relies on no centralized point of access, it has no single point of failure and is virtually hack-proof.

With the advent of bitcoin, blockchain overhauled the online financial landscape and enabled the secure transfer of monetary value in trustless environments, without reliance on third party brokers such as banks and payment platforms. Blockchain fixes a number of problems that stem from the ephemeral nature of virtual currencies, such as independent ownership and double spending. A number of platforms are using blockchain as a cybersecurity tool to prevent attacks on data stores and servers.

Smart contracts, programs that are automatically run on the blockchain after transaction completion, further expand the capabilities of the technology. Smart contracts enable the development of autonomous organizations and companies that can be run via crowd consensus and control.

Who’s Hiring Blockchain Developers?

Beyond the world of cryptocurrencies, blockchain is showing promise in a number of industries. A few examples follow.

  • In the music industry, blockchains are creating new possibilities by creating direct relationships between artists and fans and putting power back into the hands of those who create the art.
  • In manufacturing and distribution, blockchain is enforcing greater transparency into the supply chain, making it easier to audit and verify the provenance of goods and the true cost of production.
  • In the gaming industry, blockchain can support the virtual economies that have emerged in the past decade, giving players more control over their assets inside and outside games. It is also making it easier for indie developers to compete in an environment that is becoming increasingly polarized and controlled by bigger players.
  • A number of institutions that handle sensitive information, such as the military and healthcare organizations, are considering blockchain as the key to maintaining the integrity of their information and infrastructure.

These are just some of the fields where you can expect to find a well-paying job if you have solid blockchain development knowledge. Blockchain is slowly finding its way into other domains and industries as well. Wall Street is heavily investing in blockchain, creating lots of new jobs.

What are the Leading Blockchain Platforms?

There are currently two main blockchain platforms: bitcoin and ethereum. Most applications are built on one of the two. There are other less popular blockchains, and some companies create their own proprietary blockchains.

While these blockchains are public, which means all users and applications share the entire ledger, other blockchains such as Hyperledger, provide private, permissioned blockchains for a limited and defined number of users. These are more useful in industrial and niche sectors where a limited number of parties take part.

How do I Get Started in Blockchain Development?

Blockchain is an infrastructural technology, which means it will underlie other software such as web and mobile applications.

Fortunately, as the technology becomes increasingly popular, the tools and applications that facilitate its use are increasing in number.

As open-source projects, the source code for popular blockchains is available for reuse and adaptation. Getting involved in the projects and different forks will require experience with GitHub, where the developers share and discuss their code.

Since most of these projects have been developed in C++, having solid knowledge of the language is almost fundamental. However there are libraries available in easier programming languages and platforms. Here are a few resources to help you get started:

  • If you're a web developer, this lengthy post from The Marmelab Blog will get you started in understanding the dynamics of the technology. Its no-less-lengthy follow-up gives a hands-on example in Solidity, a language that resembles Javascript.
  • If you're a C# programmer, Blockchain Programming in C# is an in-depth and free book that will get you started on blockchain programming.
  • DApps for Beginners is a blog that gets you started on Decentralized Apps on the ethereum blockchain. The platform requires Javascript knowledge, but knowing C++ will also help.
  • IBM Blockchain 101 is a good resource for learning blockchain development. It's mostly focused on IBM's own Bluemix platform and coding for Hyperledger Fabric with Go and Java, but the base knowledge can be applied to other platforms too.

Blockchain as a Service (BaaS)

An alternative to quickly get started with blockchain technology is to sign up with one of the blockchain cloud providers. Some of the more popular services are IBM Blockchain and Microsoft Azure Blockchain.

The benefit of using a cloud-based blockchain service is that it abstracts away the complexities of implementation. This can help you harness and master the technology and its uses without the need to acquire sophisticated skills.

With less than eight years of age, blockchain is still in its infancy and has a ways to go. But what's for sure is that it's here to stay, and it will have a louder voice in the tech community and other industries in the years to come. Now's a good time to start on a blockchain career path.

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