Especially Now, Mainstream Tech Could Pay the Price for Crypto’s Talent Shortage

By Kaaran Kalantari, Spokesperson of WingRiders

It’s no surprise computer science has become the most sought-after degree in higher education. Valued at $5.2 trillion in 2021, much of the world’s economic growth is powered by the tech industry, whose engine requires many more software engineers and developers than are available.

Crypto and blockchain firms, specifically, are struggling to find skilled contenders for thousands of open positions across the globe. If you speak to a CTO or CEO in the blockchain space, they will all claim that they simply cannot find enough skilled developers. This phenomenon coincides with the crypto industry’s unprecedented growth, reflected in a 491 percent rise in crypto unicorns in 2021. Despite generous salary packages, career growth opportunities, and a plethora of other unique benefits, the overall growth of the crypto and blockchain industry is severely hindered by these staffing shortages.

The shortages are likely to be exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, a country that plays a key role in the global tech ecosystem, both in crypto and traditional tech. The disruption of Ukraine’s economy means many Ukrainian developers will be off the market for as long as this ends, and that has already had a ripple effect across the industry as refugees pour across the country’s western borders. Eastern Europe’s long focus on science and technology will impact not only those with developers in Ukraine, but potentially Russia, Estonia and Lithuania as well.

The tech-crypto tug of war

“There are an estimated 30 million software developers globally, yet the number of blockchain developers is in the several hundred thousands,” said ConsenSys Founder Joseph Lubin at DevCon 5, in October 2019. Regardless of the exactness of his estimations, Lubin’s comments, at the time, were a call for action. And more than two years later, following the unprecedented growth witnessed in 2021 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a crypto and tech hub, his comments are even more relevant now.

Crypto and blockchain companies are engaging in a tug of war with traditional-tech companies for the top talent, leading to a rise and fall in salaries depending on the boom or bust of the crypto market. The ebbs and flows of this competition tend to correlate with the general trend of the cryptocurrencies market. When the market is bullish, the advantage lies with the crypto side, but when the market is more bearish, non-crypto–or mainstream tech–has the upper hand.

Blockchain startups raised $25 billion in venture capital funding in 2021, compared with just $3.1 billion in 2020. That’s more than a 700 percent increase. While this funding is great for the industry as a whole, it places further emphasis on the need to find quality workers, in a tight job market with limited candidates who have the desired skill set needed in the industry.

Despite the influx of funding, the industry still faces an uphill battle in winning over developers from traditional tech companies. That’s partially because many tech veterans aren’t necessarily sold on the advantages crypto and Web3.0 offer, or even that they are legitimate industries.

When tech-industry icons, who happen to be crypto enthusiasts, like Jack Dorsey of Twitter say Web3.0 is controlled by venture capitalists, and Tesla’s Elon Musk dismisses it as a “marketing buzzword,” this automatically creates skepticism and hesitation about the entire industry. Crypto and blockchain need to find ways to counter this narrative without engaging in a war-of-words with mainstream-tech figures. Instead the battles should be fought (and won) in the interview rooms.

Furthermore, the current Russian invasion of Ukraine that began on February 24, and the devastating refugee crisis that it triggered will only fuel the competition between the competing tech industries. Ukraine has branded itself as the world’s “decentralized finance hub,” with its government in 2021 beginning the process to regulate digital assets.

Ukraine has become a hotbed for talented software developers and engineers, with many notable tech companies taking advantage of their talented workforce and low wages to outsource all or parts of their developer teams. “Companies that have outsourced talent there have grown to rely on them,” said Katie Gove, an analyst at Gartner.

The potential for a large-scale war taking place in a significant global-tech hub, serving both traditional tech as well as crypto, certainly could further disrupt the hiring market as well as the competition for the best talent.

What’s the answer to the talent question?

Several executives from tech giants, such as Google and Amazon, have been lured into the cryptosphere, but that trend hasn’t consistently played out at the developer and engineer level.

One of the biggest hiring challenges that crypto- and blockchain-based companies face is persuading those who view the crypto market as too volatile. These developers and engineers often elect to remain in their current positions simply due to the stability that mainstream tech seemingly provides.

Employers can turn this challenge into a selling point, by positioning the industry as the face of web3.0 and therefore the future of the Internet. In fact, a Protocol survey of tech-industry employees found that 80 percent believe the industry is too powerful.

No novel industry is entirely stable, and with the risk comes the potential for great reward. That’s the thing—the reward aspect shouldn’t come first. Companies that obsess over the returns early investors and employees can make on their tokens or NFTs come across as shady and possibly pump-and-dump schemes. Rather, startups should focus on the added real-world value the company provides to win them over.

On the more practical front, working conditions can’t be underestimated. To this end, culture makes a huge difference. To lure away the best candidates, crypto and blockchain businesses and projects need to approach it from a team-building angle. They need to assemble personalities that match in addition to possessing the needed talent levels.

Building a team of developers is challenging, and chemistry is vital to the team’s success. As we know, coders and programmers aren’t exactly “people’s people,” and finding the right chemistry takes dedication, but once it’s accomplished, the team will run like a well-oiled machine.

For this to happen the industry needs to make the developers and engineers feel comfortable and valued. This includes, but also goes above just providing incentives such as meals and attractive salaries. It could be providing remote-working options, flexible scheduling, and other ways to make them feel important.

Going forward

It’s clear that crypto is making up ground on mainstream tech but the volume of projects in the space has grown year on year, but you simply cannot train a developer fast enough. On top of the fact that in more obscure coding languages, or functional languages like Haskell, the first few years of experience post university is where many critical skills are developed. These are disadvantages that the industry needs to address and face head on.

The hiring challenges facing the industry are two front: being able to attract talent from non-crypto competitors while simultaneously building the human infrastructure needed to match the anticipated growth going forward. Assuming the crypto and blockchain world is able to purge many of mainstream tech’s top software developers and engineers, it would be wise to invest in some basic crypto development and skills training programs to make the onboarding process smoother.

Purging the best developers and engineers will require a major financial and cultural investment, but it is vital for the further growth and development of the maturing industry.

About the author:

Kaaran Kalantari is an ex-crypto hedge fund manager with a strong understanding and knowledge of the crypto market and trading experience. Kalantari was an early investor in Web3.0 protocols, with nine years of knowledge and experience in the space. He has active experience in major sectors of the industry and is currently immersed in Metaverse, GameFi, NFTs, and DeFi 1.0 and 2.0. Additionally, he brings decades of experience in marketing, and more specifically, digital marketing to helping brands develop and meet their goals.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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