The alleged lack of available talent for blockchain industry jobs was high on the agenda at the DTCC's Fintech Symposium, held at the Grand Hyatt in New York City yesterday.
There, executives from a wide range of companies took turns addressing an audience of several hundred financial industry executives to express their concern about what they believe is a problem preventing wider growth and use of the technology.
The issue came to a head following remarks by DTCC CEO Mike Bodson, who listed the lack of qualified blockchain professionals as among his company's top industry concerns.
After the opening remarks, blockchain leaders speaking on a panel centered on the "hard lessons" they've learned over the past year echoed Bodson's concern in near unison.
Brian Behlendorf, executive director of the Linux Foundation-led Hyperledger project, said:
"The tech recruiting is very thin. So, recruiting is hard."
In the year since Hyperledger launched, it has grown to over 100 members, but the firm is currently still hiring for four positions, including two non-developer 'community architect' openings, Behlendorf said.
But even what is considered a blockchain job is changing.
According to Credit Suisse's head of blockchain development, Emmanuel Aidoo, members of what might be considered 'traditional finance' need to stop being "worried about what happened to their slice of the cake".
"This is not going to stop," he added.
Instead, he encouraged members of the audience without blockchain skills to focus on what they do know, and how it may relate to a blockchain-based financial infrastructure.
"Folks that really know how the process works today are going to be very important," he said.
The blockchain job market
Though concrete blockchain employment numbers are hard to come by, there is some anecdotal evidence that can begin to paint a picture.
In a report earlier this week that focused exclusively on companies that were actually building a blockchain, only four had more than 100 employees, with the total people employed by the 'Top 10' blockchain companies equalling less than 600 people.
Job site Indeed.com currently lists 300 job opportunities that mention 'blockchain' somewhere in the description. Of those, 70 are listed for tech giant IBM, 19 for ethereum startup ConsenSys and 14 for global auditing firm Deloitte.
Still, the two most active blockchain developer ecosystems remain the two with cryptocurrency: bitcoin and ethereum.
As such, it wasn't a surprise when, at the launch of enterprise version of the ethereum network this week, talk about its ample development community took center stage.
Knowing where to look
And not everyone agrees that finding blockchain talent is as difficult as some say.
One theory was put forth by Todd McDonald, co-founder of blockchain consortium startup R3CEV. The company, based in New York, is one of four listed in the recent report with more than 100 employees.
According to McDonald, the demand for blockchain jobs doesn't add up to a dearth of jobs, but a glut, if you know where to look.
"There's a need for talent," he said. "But there's so much out there."
McDonald encouraged the audience of mostly finance professionals to look within their own ranks for opportunities to retrain existing staff.
"Dozens of folks that you don't even know about ... are hacking away on the weekends," he said.
Investing in blockchain jobs
Regardless, the demand for new talent in blockchain was positioned by Bodson as being part of a bigger, industry demand.
Speaking during a keynote address that kicked off the symposium, Bodson described it as "imperative" to nurture blockchain jobs, along with those for machine intelligence, cloud computing and financial technology positions
Citing a recent poll, Bodson said 70% of his clients are having trouble filling fintech positions, including for blockchain.
To help meet the growing demand Bodson said the DTCC is "prepared to do all we can to support" the education of scientists, engineers and mathematicians.
"We need to place a greater emphasis on developing future talent."
Image via Michael del Castillo