Jimmy Song teaching his Programming Blockchain Seminar in Austin, Texas, at WeWork.
One of the hardest things about running or scaling any technology business is finding good developers, especially when it comes to blockchain. Everyone wants ninja engineers who can pull a rabbit out of a hat, but they are unicorns. The ones I know are either founders, co-founders, CTOs or in some senior engineering role being paid a ransom.
There are all kinds of tricks that startups and big companies use to lure and sweeten the pot to keep them happy. Equity, stock options, flexible schedules, signing bonuses and a laundry list of other perks. Ninja engineers are like artists or pro athletes. They literally make companies win by making the magic happen. The really special ones are constantly being recruited with large sums of money or they are on the verge of charting their own path founding or co-founding a new startup.
Building Ninjas and Unicorns
Helping run a technology business over the years, I have found searching for unicorns is really a waste of time unless they come from an excellent referral from your friends and family network. This is why I prefer finding young guns, junior or mid-level developers and giving them their shot to sink or swim.
We encourage our developers to take classes to learn and will pay for their education. We may sacrifice the immediate magic effect a new senior ninja developer can have, but put a hungry junior developer with a senior ninja developer willing to take them under their wing, and a new soldier is born.
In the last 10 years, mobile engineers have been some of the most sought-after developers in Silicon Valley. With the latest boom in the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency space, blockchain engineers are the new rare unicorn. There are many brilliant blockchain engineers working in the space, but with the hockey stick growth of crypto, the ecosystem needs more specialized developers. There is no way to find enough ninja engineers to meet the demand, so soldiers must be trained, and the next generation of ninjas and unicorns will emerge.
Who is Jimmy Song?
Jimmy Song has always been a credible source of Bitcoin information for me. I have watched countless hours of his web content on YouTube channel “Off Chain,” learning about the technical side of Bitcoin and crypto. Jimmy is a Bitcoin developer and entrepreneur; and his credibility resonates with me. He is not the only one I listen to, but I really trust his perspective.
I recently got to know Jimmy working on a few articles. The guy is extremely sharp and a wealth of information on many subjects. Getting to know him, I learned he travels all over the US and teaches classes for developers called Programming Blockchain, focused on Bitcoin development and training. This is not some "learn to code for noobs" type of thing. There are some prerequisites you must know to be able to get the most out of it. However, it is a great entry point for anyone interested in learning to code blockchain.
I dropped into Jimmy’s Austin, Programming Blockchain class last week. The two-day seminar was held at WeWork in downtown Austin. The class size was smaller than average which worked out well for those attending. I am not a developer and most of this was over my head, but the vibe was not intimidating. I was in a room of fellow crypto-heads and it awesome learning the math and cryptography behind Bitcoin.
Jimmy is a great teacher, and I am not just spreading him sunshine. The guy has a gift and is very hands-on and patient with his students, making sure everyone understands each lesson. The two-day course builds on a series of topics. Each student is on their laptop coding through each lesson. I was merely sitting in on the class, and I never once felt stupid asking mundane questions. At the end of the course everyone receives a certificate of completion. The rest is up to that individual if they choose to learn or pursue more in blockchain.
Sharpen Your Weapons
Some of the people at Programming Blockchain, Austin worked for companies in the industry, and others were just there sharpening their skills. Either way attending a class like this is a very smart career move for anyone looking to work in this rapidly emerging space. There is a ton of opportunity in blockchain for motivated developers or individuals willing to jump in and work hard.
Q&A with Jimmy Song
I caught up with Jimmy and asked him some basic questions about how to become a blockchain engineer. Hopefully this will inspire or motivate some of you to step out of your comfort zone and get involved.
What is a blockchain engineer and what do they do?
They are software developers that figure out how to secure an immutable, distributed database. It’s very different than web developer, database developer or distributed systems developer, though it has aspects of all three. Blockchain engineers have to design protocols, figure out how to plan for adversarial incentives and do lots of testing of assumptions.
What kind of projects might they work on?
Bitcoin, obviously and to a lesser degree, private blockchain projects.
Why are blockchain engineers in such high demand?
An immutable, provable auditable ledger turns out to be pretty useful for a lot of applications. The fact that they’re really hard to design hasn’t deterred companies from trying to make them work. That would be the blockchain-not-bitcoin crowd.
The other demand is coming from Bitcoin companies. Many are struggling with scale and want to hire lots of people, so they can expand and do new projects.
Where would you recommend someone start if they want to get into coding and working on Bitcoin and blockchain projects?
Start with the basics, like the whitepaper. Read it, understand it and read it again. Then start by learning the math and cryptography behind it. Only then do transactions and blocks make sense. Andreas Antonopoulos’s Mastering Bitcoin is an excellent resource as are stackexchange and others. I wrote a primer for contributing to core that you might find useful.
I also teach a course that helps programmers learn in person over two days.
What type of experience does someone need?
Skills wise, some programming experience and ability to learn high-school level math.
What type of computer languages should someone know?
Almost every programming language has some sort of Bitcoin library. Contributing tends to be C++ and Python heavy, though.
What classes, books or materials do you recommend for anyone that might help them?
Do schools and colleges teach this?
Some do, though it’s hard to tell what the quality of teaching is.
Name some Bitcoin or blockchain developers that people should pay attention to?
Bitcointechtalk.com is a good resource. Twitter has a bunch of personalities. Generally, core devs are good to pay attention to, especially their GitHub.
Any other tips for aspiring new developers?
Be humble and be confident at the same time. Be humble in the sense that you’re not going to contribute much at the beginning. It’s going to take time so be patient.
Be confident in the sense that everything is understandable given enough study. Again, be patient and keep going at it until you have a good grasp.
We are in the early stages of an incredible technological revolution. Now is the time to jump in the trenches and get your hands dirty. It doesn’t matter where or how you learn to program blockchain. Get involved and step outside your comfort zone. Do whatever mental pushups you have to do to learn as much as you can about Bitcoin and blockchain.
There are more places to learn to code than Jimmy’s Programming Blockchain course. Check online and look at reviews and find a qualified place or just start hacking away. Don’t make 10 excuses why you can’t do it. Sometimes you just have to take the gloves off and get after it. I guarantee you the crypto game will change your life.
Endnotes from author:
Special thanks to Jimmy Song! Follow Jimmy on twitter @jimmysong and read more of his work on his medium page. Jimmy does a daily Bitcoin show called Off Chain where he has tons of videos to learn from.
Check out Jimmy’s 2-day, in-person seminar for Bitcoin Development training. Find out more at programmingblockchain.com
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Just a simple pirate who likes to research & write about technology, bitcoin & Travel. 📷