Let me introduce you to Aaron Brown. Aaron is VP of Engineering at MadHive, a company building cutting-edge advertising solutions running on blockchain technology. We’re thrilled to have him contributing his expertise to our Blockchain Developer Nanodegree program.
Aaron is a passionate blockchain advocate who envisions using this emerging technology to balance privacy, security, and transparency concerns across a wide variety of industries. His experience recruiting people into the blockchain space has been crucial for ensuring our curriculum is laser-focused on what industry needs, and what our students need to learn in order to secure rewarding roles.
We spoke with Aaron recently to get his insights on the current hiring landscape for blockchain developers.
Great to talk with you today Aaron! Let’s start by hearing what you think of the blockchain job market right now.
The employment market is definitely advantageous for qualified blockchain talent right now, and very competitive for employers. Lots of companies are exploring blockchain, including big companies like IBM and Deutsche Bank. More still are exploring ideas in-house. You can see why there’s so much demand for people who can help bring these companies’ blockchain ambitions to fruition.
Blockchain is a powerful technology with great potential to change how things are done—so there’s been a lot of interest in the space. People are truly excited about it, similar to how excited people got about the internet 20 years ago.
“The really thrilling part of the blockchain job market right now is that there are still so many possible directions for the industry. It’s a great time to be a part of it.”
So what are the key skills a person needs to be successful in the blockchain space?
I think the industry is looking for people who can demonstrate they have strong fundamental software engineering skills. That’s key because engineering standards can be heightened with blockchain because of the security implications—you don’t always have the luxury of iterating, and there’s the risk an attacker could see holes in your code.
The best way to demonstrate these skills is to be ready to show recruiters evidence you’ve actually gone out and completed projects where you’ve applied your programming skills to blockchain.
You also need to have computer science knowledge locked in. Having a solid understanding of things like data structures and algorithms at your fingertips makes understanding blockchain far more straightforward. And a good grasp of cryptography is really useful. It’s a core part of how blockchain works—ensuring the identities of the parties are secured, that past records can’t be tampered with, and that data privacy can be protected.
What’s the ideal mindset for an aspiring blockchain developer?
A “hacker mentality”—being prepared to think around problems—is definitely useful. If you’re confronted with something you struggle with, a person who goes off and tries to find different routes to the solution is going to be far more successful in the industry than someone who just complains about the problem. Again, the best way to help make sure recruiters understand you have this mindset is to provide real-world examples of what you’ve built. If you can talk them through how you approached a challenge, the different solutions you trialled, and how successful you were, it’s easier to demonstrate you have the hacker mentality.
At MadHive, we have amazing engineers who will solve problems on their own. But they also understand the other side of that equation—knowing when to ask for help and use the brains around them. We look for engineers who know the difference between not knowing something right away, and knowing when it’s time to lean on other people. So if you’ve collaborated on a project as part of a team to surmount a challenge you couldn’t have beaten alone, recruiters should hear about it. Make sure it’s a part of your portfolio, and be ready to explain how it shows you understand when to draw insights from a wider group.
How do you determine who to bring in for an interview, and what’s it like when they do come in?
Usually, we will do a first screen of their skill sets, in person, on the phone, or from their resume. Then, if they’re up to our initial standard, we’ll bring applicants in. We don’t do arbitrary code tests, we just want them to meet the team. We’re looking at whether you know what you’re talking about, and we don’t need to do a code test for that.
“If you’ve built your own blockchain, for example, that’s a great way for recruiters to quickly establish you have the programming skills to succeed.”
A great example of that is one applicant who’d made some prototypes for advertising that they brought in for their interview. The prototypes didn’t work at all, but we were impressed because we could see the applicant was willing to put something together and try it. We knew they’d be a success.
You mentioned the excitement around blockchain earlier. What is the best way to cut through this noise so you’re really prepared for interview with a blockchain company?
It’s really helpful to be aware of the features and advantages of at least three different blockchains: at a minimum Bitcoin, Ethereum, and one other. While all blockchains share some similar aspects, they each rely on different designs, have different community cultures, and are developing to become different things. Not only will the ability to make those distinctions make you a better engineer, it’s the kind of question you’re likely to be asked in an interview!
And it doesn’t hurt to keep a broader eye on the latest blockchain news and trends. There are some interesting ideas out there—even if they haven’t been proven yet—and it’s good to have a broad view of what’s being worked on. Don’t be afraid to start reading whitepapers! Eth Research is a great place to start. Before you know it, you’ll be making contributions of your own.
Thanks for talking with us Aaron, and for sharing some amazing insights into what blockchain recruiters are looking for.
The Blockchain Developer Nanodegree program was developed in partnership with working blockchain developers, including Aaron! It offers the most comprehensive curriculum available for learning the key skills, mindset, tools, and best practices you need to become a blockchain developer. Enroll today!