Building a blockchain team: Challenges and opportunities

Do you have a team working on blockchain projects?

Blockchain technology can seem really abstract. Although names like Bitcoin and Litecoin connote familiar items such as nickels and dimes or even the gold coins from "Super Mario Bros.," they refer to entirely electronic commodities. Every blockchain-based project is ultimately just a series of entries in a distributed ledger.

That's because blockchain, as something that only emerged within the last decade, has been built from the ground up to take advantage of digital technologies, including data encryption and client-side access via multiple applications. This sets it apart from the standard fiat money system, which has only gradually grafted technical innovations onto its infrastructure over the years. Think of how long it took between the creation of personal computers and the launch of services like PayPal and Square Cash as alternatives to checks, wire transfers, money orders and cash.

However, the same technical sophistication of blockchain can make it difficult for organizations to harness its power. A highly skilled team is necessary for developing and integrating blockchain solutions, but putting one together isn't easy, due to the relative novelty of the field and the overall crunch in the availability of skilled IT professionals. With those constraints in mind, let's look at how you might approach strategic IT staffing for blockchain.

Step #1: Identify your use cases

While blockchain technology is complex, its biggest use cases generally are not. It's often an enabler of simple, routine tasks like making payments or keeping records, only with the added benefits of immutability and decentralization. However complicated it is on the backend, the frontend user experience needs to be intuitive enough even for non-technical users. Identifying your use cases will help you narrow down what types of professionals you might need to recruit to deliver such an experience.

Step #2: Define staff roles

There are several common distinct roles within blockchain teams. Although requirements will vary by company and project, these positions are fairly standard:

  • Blockchain developer: Makes sure all security requirements are met.
  • Network engineer: Designs and implements a scalable P2P network for the blockchain.
  • User researcher: Investigates the behaviors and expectations of the user base, so that the system can serve its particular needs.
  • UX designer: Oversees application design to ensure a seamless experience for all users.
  • System architect: Synthesizes feedback from the above roles in making the system as a whole scalable and sustainable.

Step #3: Perform due diligence

The meteoric rise of blockchain has meant many developers with little previous background in the subject have, virtually overnight, rebranded themselves as blockchain experts. As of 2018, the odds of almost any given candidate having extensive experience (e.g., 5+ years) in the field are slim, since blockchain was obscure for most of its first decade.

Instead of looking for people who already have blockchain experience, it might make more sense to seek individuals with analogous background. For example, expertise in APIs and microservices is relevant, as is familiarity with a wide range of tech stacks. There are many good candidates to consider who fit this description.

Step #4: Enlist the help of an IT staffing services provider

Strategic IT hiring, whether in blockchain or cybersecurity, can feel like looking for a needle in the haystack. It's difficult to find a candidate who is affordable to hire and knowledgeable enough to contribute on day one. That's why working with an IT staffing services company is a good idea. Experienced providers like Paramount can help you find the right IT professionals to fill out your blockchain team. Contact us today to learn more!