What's In This Article
- 1 No FUD plz
- 1.1 What Makes a Career in Blockchain Exceptional
- 1.2 Traits of a Great Blockchain Professional
- 1.3 What Careers Are Available in Crypto?
- 1.4 Technical Careers in Crypto
- 1.5 Non-technical Careers in Blockchain
- 1.6 The Stages of Blockchain Companies
- 1.7 Early stage startups: the seedlings
- 1.8 Series A: the saplings
- 1.9 Late Stage Startups: mature trees
- 1.10 ‘Blue Chip’: redwoods
- 1.11 Types of Blockchain Companies
- 1.12 Geography and Working Conditions
- 1.13 What Can You Earn in Blockchain?
- 1.14 It’s Not For the Faint of Heart
The crypto industry seems to have an enigmatic effect on people who aren’t in it:
From the outside, it looks complex, exclusive, and downright confusing. For anyone interested in a blockchain career, it may seem like an impossible industry to break into.
But, at the same time, blockchain is a dynamic and fast-paced industry that presents a range of exciting opportunities, from the potential for lucrative financial rewards to the chance to take risks and have fun. It’s no surprise that you’re so eager to join what some call the most exciting industry on earth.
If you’re one of those people who’s curious about a career in blockchain, you’re in the right place. Here’s a comprehensive overview of what you can expect when job hunting in crypto. Let’s dive in…
No FUD plz
First, let’s get one thing out of the way: crypto isn’t going anywhere. Sorry, haters.
Yet, the perception from outside the industry is that crypto is absolute chaos. And who could blame them? Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely heard that FTX went up in flames, as well as Terra/LUNA before that, and MtGox before that.
Inevitably, those are the stories that get the mainstream headlines. But that’s not the nature of the entire industry. Not even close.
In the crypto world, we’d call most mainstream media attention FUD: Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.
Like any industry, the crypto space has its ups and downs. Bear markets and bull markets come and go, but regardless of what stage of the cycle we’re in, there’s always money to be made for those with the right skills and experience.
Sure, you’ll see the sensational headlines about layoffs and hiring freezes at some companies during bear markets, but at the same time, there are other companies that are thriving, expanding, and hiring new talent.
As a blockchain recruiter who’s been through many cycles, I can tell you that the overall outlook for the crypto space is incredibly bright. Yes, there will be downturns, but the industry isn’t falling apart, and there’s no chaos happening.
Even in the worst of times, there are still plenty of job opportunities available in crypto.
Despite what the news headlines may say, the blockchain industry is thriving, and it will continue to do so, no matter what cycle it’s in.
So don’t cheat yourself from potential career opportunities in crypto. Don’t let yourself fall victim to the FUD.
What Makes a Career in Blockchain Exceptional
Working in blockchain is a highly rewarding career choice.
The work environment is fast-paced, exciting, meaningful, and impactful. People working in blockchain manage the transition from a centralized to decentralized world. That’s a civilizational-level impact. If you ever wanted to make a real difference in the world, crypto is the place to do it.
And because everyone in crypto is excited about what they do, you’ll find your passion matched everywhere you go in the space.
It’s rare to meet someone working in blockchain who doesn’t like their job.
The crypto space isn’t just a place where you can find your dream job; it’s a playground for creativity and innovation, where your unique perspective is not only accepted but also rewarded. Here, you can work on some of the most challenging problems in the world and develop your skills in ways that you never thought possible.
What’s more, the blockchain industry attracts some of the brightest and most talented individuals in the world today. If you want to work alongside some of the most intelligent and interesting people on the planet, then the crypto space is the place to be.
And let’s not forget about the potential for financial rewards. Unlike other industries, the opportunity to make astronomical amounts of money is readily available in the crypto space for those who know how to play their cards right.
Of course, a career in blockchain isn’t all fun and games. It requires hard work and dedication, but the rewards are well worth it. You’ll find yourself in an energetic industry with endless opportunities for growth and development, all while enjoying flexible working conditions that traditional industries simply can’t match.
Traits of a Great Blockchain Professional
There isn’t exactly one personality “type” that excels in a crypto career, but there are certain traits that are common among successful people in the industry.
For example, most crypto professionals are:
- willing to go the extra mile
- willing and able to constantly learn and develop themselves
As such, crypto isn’t an industry for 9-5ers. It’s for curious, passionate people who want to accomplish more, who think differently, and who want to make an outstanding contribution.
Rare is the crypto professional who works less than 50-60 hours a week.
People in blockchain careers tend to be obsessed with Web3 (even outside of work), and they’re constantly contributing to the community.
- If they’re an engineer, they’re probably writing code in their spare time.
- If they’re a marketer, they’re probably promoting projects on the side.
- If they’re a founder, it’s probably not their only rodeo.
Therefore, the only “type” in crypto is the person who is all in on the space. Crypto is their life (more or less).
What Careers Are Available in Crypto?
Blockchain careers can be broken into two broad categories:
- technical blockchain careers
- nontechnical blockchain careers
For anyone with a technical background, the career opportunities in blockchain are abundant. But there are plenty of nontechnical jobs as well. Here’s a breakdown of the technical and nontechnical jobs available in crypto:
Technical Careers in Crypto
- Frontend Engineering
Frontend engineers in crypto typically work on developing the UI/UX of Web3 applications, such as wallets, decentralized exchanges, NFT platforms, and more. Typescript and React are the most common frontend languages used in blockchain, with increasingly rapid adoption of Flutter & Dart.
- Backend Engineering
Because there’s a constant need to build and refine the core software powering blockchain applications and infrastructure layers, there’s always extensive demand for backend engineers. Golang, Python, C++, and Rust are popular development languages in blockchain.
- Full Stack Engineering
Full stack engineers in the crypto space often work on decentralized applications (DApps), which require a combination of front-end and smart contract development skills. The most commonly used tech stack for this type of work is Typescript/React for the front-end and Solidity for the smart contracts.
- Protocol Engineering
Protocol engineering is a specialized form of back-end engineering that’s unique to the blockchain environment. To excel as a protocol engineer, you’ll need a broad and deep skillset that covers low-level systems programming, decentralized computing, and distributed systems. The work tends to be algorithm-heavy, and precision is essential, as any code written to a blockchain cannot be undone.
- DevOps, Infrastructure and Site Reliability (SRE) Engineering
DevOps, infrastructure, and site reliability engineering play a critical role in ensuring the smooth operation of decentralized and distributed infrastructure. As such, these functions are especially important in the typical blockchain company, which faces unique challenges related to both performance and security. The level of coding skills required can vary greatly depending on the company and the structure of its engineering teams.
- QA/Test Engineering
QA/Test Engineering is a notably important job function in blockchain, as any code committed to a blockchain is permanent. This is especially true for infrastructure-layer blockchain environments, which have zero tolerance for bugs or development errors. Unlike other engineering environments that may be more forgiving, the blockchain industry demands a high degree of precision and attention to detail in all aspects of development and testing.
- Smart Contract Development
Smart contract developers do exactly what their job title suggests: they write smart contracts. Typically, EVM-compatible smart contracts are written in Solidity, though other programming languages may be used depending on the specific blockchain platform (e.g. Rust for Solana).
- Security Engineering
A security engineer’s primary responsibility is to test the security of software systems by identifying and resolving potential security issues. They specialize in developing ethical hacking methods to uncover security vulnerabilities and create procedures to fix them. In addition to being proficient in cybersecurity and system analysis, security engineers must also have a strong understanding of programming and software development to successfully secure blockchain systems.
- Research Engineering
Research engineering teams are commonplace in most blockchain ecosystems. The nature of this role can vary depending on the specific company, but it typically involves a combination of hands-on coding work to develop MVPs and new engineering concepts, along with theoretical research, speaking, and writing.
- Developer Advocacy / Developer Relations
Devrel (Developer Relations) is a unique and interesting career path for people who enjoy combining their engineering expertise with people-centric work around events, business development, and marketing. Developer advocates or relations engineers help enable developers to build successfully on blockchain ecosystems, typically covering the entire process from attracting and onboarding developers to helping them maximize the utility of the protocol.
Non-technical Careers in Blockchain
Unlike the more qualitative types of marketing, growth marketing in crypto typically entails using data-driven approaches to drive quantitative growth in users, revenue, customer acquisition, and similar metrics.
- Content Marketing
Web3 companies typically use content marketing to engage with their audience, build trust and credibility, and drive profitable behavior. The preferred channels include videos, articles, podcasts, Medium, and others. The field is often approached quite differently depending on whether the audience being targeted is “crypto-native”, more traditional, or some combination thereof.
- Social Media
Social media plays a crucial role in helping Web3 companies reach and engage with their audience, build brand awareness, generate leads, and drive revenue. As a social media marketer in the crypto industry, it’s essential to stay informed about the latest trends and memes in the crypto community-this will vary depending on how crypto-savvy your target audience is. In some cases, there may be some overlap between social media and community management job functions.
In contrast to most industries, community management and development are crucial functions for any crypto project. If you have a talent for building online communities, your skills will be in high demand in the blockchain space. Discord and Telegram are the most commonly used platforms for community engagement and development. As a community manager in the crypto industry, you’ll need strong communication and interpersonal skills to build and engage with audiences across different online platforms.
Arguably no industry is bigger on events than crypto. What other space can boast nine-day conferences that start and end with a DJ? We’re tired just thinking about it. As a result, there’s significant demand for event production, management, and marketing in the blockchain space. This includes organizing mass events such as attending conferences, as well as more specialized gatherings such as hacker houses for developers.
- Public Relations (PR)
In the fast-paced and ever-evolving Web3 space, effective public relations is crucial for helping companies differentiate themselves from competitors, stand out in the market, and navigate potential crises that often arise in this rapidly growing industry. The ability to effectively communicate complex technical concepts to both technical and non-technical audiences is especially important in this field.
Product management is a less common job function in Web3 compared to Web2, and the focus of the role is notably different. In the blockchain industry, product management is a more public-facing role, with traction driven primarily by token incentives and the quality of the community, rather than the inherent product experience itself. As a result, product managers in the blockchain space must possess a significant versatility of skills, including proficiency in marketing and community management, in addition to more traditional product management skills.
- Business Development & Ecosystem Growth
Strong partnerships are crucial to the success of any crypto ecosystem. Business development professionals play a key role in building and nurturing these partnerships. In the blockchain industry, BD careers can have a distinct flavor depending on whether the focus is on partnering with other crypto projects or with traditional industries, such as traditional finance (or TradFi). Business development professionals in the blockchain space must have strong communication and interpersonal skills, as well as the ability to navigate complex regulatory and legal frameworks.
- Tokenomics & Governance
Tokenomics and governance are unique fields in Web3, focused on designing and structuring incentives and decision-making within crypto projects. These fields play a crucial role in the success of blockchain ecosystems, as they ensure that the incentives and decision-making processes are aligned with the goals of the project and its community. Proficiency in tokenomics and governance requires a deep understanding of economics, game theory, and decentralized decision-making.
The Stages of Blockchain Companies
The same way trees grow from tiny seeds into towering giants, blockchain companies go through different stages of growth. A blockchain company’s funding stage greatly influences its work environment and opportunities available to its employees. The level of pay, creativity, structure, growth potential, and future opportunities all depend on the company’s stage. As such, it’s crucial to understand the different stages and determine which one aligns with your personal goals, values, and work style.
Early stage startups: the seedlings
These are called “seed stage” startups for a reason. Seedlings are small and vulnerable, just like early stage startups. But it might grow into a mighty oak…
In this stage, you can expect to wear multiple hats and have a lot of autonomy as you experiment with building the fundamental product and achieving product/market fit. It’s a very entrepreneurial environment. While the pay might be modest, you may be given equity in exchange for the inherent risks of working at a new company.
Series A: the saplings
As a startup grows and becomes more established, it’s like a sapling that’s beginning to take root.
In the Series A stage, a crypto company has achieved product-market fit and is starting to scale up. It’s big enough to have some structure and pay its employees properly, but still small enough to allow for plenty of creative freedom. You’re not quite in a corporate environment yet, but it’s less risky than the seedling stage.
Late Stage Startups: mature trees
A mature tree is a thing of beauty, just like a late stage startup that’s well-established and has hundreds of employees.
At this stage, things become more process-driven and bureaucratic, but you also get more specialized tasks that use and develop your skills. The pay is usually great and the company is more stable, just like how a mature tree is solidly rooted and provides shade and shelter.
‘Blue Chip’: redwoods
In the crypto world, companies with 1,000 or more employees are considered ‘blue chip’. The same way redwoods are the largest and most majestic trees in the forest, blue chip crypto companies are the biggest and most established.
However, not all redwoods come from the same forest. Some blue chip companies in the crypto space aren’t even primarily in the crypto industry. Take IBM and Mastercard, for example. Both of these traditional companies have blockchain divisions, and they’re using the technology to streamline their businesses and offer new services to customers.
But regardless of a company’s original industry, blue chip startups are more corporate environments, meaning they can also offer great pay and stability. However, just like how redwoods are susceptible to disease and damage, blue chip crypto companies are not immune to risks and challenges.
Just ask FTX…
Types of Blockchain Companies
There are several different types of blockchain companies:
These companies offer infrastructure services for individuals to connect, integrate, or build various elements in the crypto industry. They serve as a foundation for users to build upon, enabling them to connect disparate components or to engage in specific actions.
This is an interesting sector because, even in a recession, everyone still needs infrastructure. Therefore, these companies tend to be more resistant to the whims of the market than other types of companies.
These are businesses that focus on building and maintaining the underlying blockchain infrastructure or network itself. Layer 1 blockchain companies create and develop the basic protocol and architecture of a blockchain, including the consensus mechanism, the rules of the network, and the features that enable decentralized applications (dApps) to be built on top of it.
These companies are generally focused on scaling infrastructure that’s built on top of a Layer 1.
For example, one of the downsides of blockchains like Ethereum is that because they’re built for security and decentralization, they’re generally slow.
The way to get around this speed problem is to build a Layer 2 infrastructure on top. So on Ethereum, for example, there are various Layer 2 scaling solutions, which would enable you to achieve a rapidity of transactions on top.
Think of it like paying by card in a traditional financial infrastructure. When you pay by card, it’s instant, but the settlement between banks can actually take days. The card payment would be like the Layer 2 transaction, and the bank settlement several days later would be like Layer 1.
Layer 1 transactions are final. They can’t be undone. Layer 2 wouldn’t have that level of security on those transactions, but it would have the speed and get settled to Layer 1 later.
Centralized Exchanges (CEXs)
Centralized exchanges (CEXs) are platforms that facilitate the buying, selling, and trading of cryptocurrencies and digital assets. They’re called centralized because they are operated and controlled by a central entity, usually a company or corporation, which acts as an intermediary between buyers and sellers.
On a centralized exchange, users typically deposit funds into their account and then use those funds to buy or sell cryptocurrencies. The exchange takes a fee for each transaction and usually holds the assets in custody until they are withdrawn by the user.
Decentralized Finance (DeFi) refers to actual decentralized financial systems, including decentralized exchanges (or DEXs). This includes decentralized exchanges where there is no intermediary involved, as well as DeFi protocols where you can log in anonymously with your hardware wallet and carry out financial transactions.
Unlike centralized exchanges like FTX, DeFi systems provide users with complete control over their funds and transactions.
An NFT company is a business that focuses on creating, selling, or facilitating transactions of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on a blockchain. NFTs are unique digital assets that are verified on a blockchain, providing proof of ownership and authenticity.
NFT companies may specialize in specific types of NFTs, such as digital art, music, or collectibles, and may offer various services such as minting, storage, and trading of NFTs. These companies are at the forefront of a growing industry that is revolutionizing ownership and value in the digital world.
Geography and Working Conditions
Most blockchain companies operate remotely, and have been doing so since the industry’s inception. However, some companies prefer hybrid or office setups.
While San Francisco and New York City used to be the typical crypto hubs, Miami has now emerged as a major hub, with a high concentration of crypto professionals also in Puerto Rico, although not necessarily in offices. In Europe, hubs tend to be in London, Lisbon, and Berlin, with additional hubs in Israel, Dubai, and Singapore.
People in the industry generally work long hours and have a lot of autonomy and flexibility, but they also work hard. If you prefer a more traditional schedule, a career in blockchain may not be the right path for you.
What Can You Earn in Blockchain?
Blockchain careers are known to offer significant earning potential. The combination of chronic skills shortages, a large amount of investment flowing into the space, and a rapid growth curve provides ample room for upward mobility, particularly compared to other industries. Token-based compensation is also a common feature in blockchain companies. This means that, in addition to salary, employees may receive tokens as part of their compensation package.
Salaries in the blockchain space can vary greatly, as the industry is still less mature than others. On average, you can expect a 20-25% uplift compared to equivalent web2 salaries. Geographically, North America pays the highest salaries, followed by Asia & the Middle East, Europe, and then the rest of the world. Some fully remote companies offer cost-of-living-adjusted salaries, while others standardize salaries regardless of location.
Token compensation can also provide significant opportunities for wealth creation. If you join the right company at the right time, achieving financial independence over a 4-5 year vesting cycle is not uncommon. Offers during a bear market are typically lower than during a bull market. However, those who join a company during a bear market may be in a better position to gain future upside.
When it comes to compensation packages, some blockchain companies offer tokens as part of the package. Younger companies may offer fewer dollars in salary but more tokens. As you move up in a more mature company, you’ll generally get more stability, but the compensation may consist of more dollars than tokens. There are also people who achieve financial independence but continue to work in the blockchain space due to the exciting nature of the industry and the opportunities it provides.
It’s Not For the Faint of Heart
Working in crypto can be one of the most exciting and rewarding careers, but it’s not for everyone. If you’re not willing to go above and beyond, and if you’re looking for a clock-in, clock-out job, then a career in blockchain may not be a good fit for you. In fact, if your work is not the most important thing in your life, crypto is probably not the right path.
However, if you’re hungry and have a passion for your work that borders on obsession, a blockchain career may be the perfect way to fuel that fire.
The industry rewards those who are willing to put in the extra effort and deliver more than what’s expected. It’s an environment where innovation and creativity are highly valued, and the potential for growth and advancement is significant.