Updated: Oct 28, 2020
Blockchain and everything it encompasses. Blockchain is ranked has the #1 hard-skill employers are seeing in 2020 based on LinkedIn's review of all jobs postings on it's platform - just ahead of cloud computing and AI.
Blockchain will continue to be one of the hottest areas over the next decade. Why?
It is not just an emerging technology, it has also enabled disruptive business models and created brand new business value-chains and ecosystems. We see this across all sectors, with Financial services, Supply chains, Health care, Government and Agri-food services leading the pack. Most recently, central banks globally are announcing plans for sovereign digital currencies powered by Blockchain and smart contracts.
Decentralized Finance (DeFI) is just one example of this, where Blockchain start-ups are giving the new FinTech Neo Banks a run for their money through a combination of Blockchain technology, crypto assets like stablecoins, and a burgeoning ecosystem that is now building on top of the earlier layers of technology innovation in this space.
This, coupled with corporations such as JP Morgan announcing JP Coin's first commercial use by a large international company for global payments; Facebook Libra platform to support users buying stablecoins; has pushed central banks globally to look at digital currencies more seriously. Expect several central bank initiatives on digital currencies, led by the Bahamas, China, and followed by others.
Similarly, we find examples of Blockchain, crypto and digital currencies, and tokens helping tp transform existing ecosystems across health care (efficacy and provenance); supply chains (operational efficiencies and real-time tracking); and Agri-food (traceability) and governments (digital identity, records management) to name a few of the many areas of growing applications.
Therefore, Blockchain (see what this spans below) is a rapidly growing field and continues to broaden with time. Here are some areas for consideration when thinking of Blockchain:
1. While many looking to enterprise Blockchain applications have avoided the whole aspect of financial transactions, experience shows that this is highly limiting. The importance of cryptocurrencies; the emergence of Decentralized Finance (DeFi) including stablecoins; and the growing interest of central banks in sovereign digital currencies - this is an important area of disruptive transformation, growth and emerging opportunity.
2. Tokens and digital assets have been used in open/public and permissionless applications for a while now. Some have resulted in concerns, such as ICOs. However, they should be paid attention to and offer incredible value to those consulting or leading businesses in regulated industries (i.e., Health, Finance, etc. that must comply with HIPAA, AML/KYC, securities regulations, etc.). The work being done under the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance’s Token Taxonomy Initiative with partners from enterprise-focused DLT communities is some indication to skeptics that tokens can have value in enterprise applications of Blockchain; also, this space continues to evolve to offer better compliance, i.e., Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT).
3. While the area of FinTech is broader and Blockchain would be a subset of it, it is important to realize that Blockchain is disrupting the FinTechs themselves also! You can see this in the emergence of crypto-centered NeoBanks (like Juno, Linen, and Dharma), that are competing against their fiat-only cousins through open lending via collateralized stablecoins.
Of course, before you get into these areas of emerging growth, you should learn and get as much understanding of the broad scope of Blockchain, cryptocurrencies and Digital Assets as quickly as possible and then specialize as you see fit.
Irrespective of what your background (tech/non-tech) and industry focus is, start with learning about Blockchain, cryptocurrencies and tokens. There are many options for online and in-class courses from free ones to professional grade courses. If you really want to start quickly, pay for the premium business professional focused courses. Based on a review of some of the globally top ranked Blockchain certification courses you can determine for yourself which one suits you better.
Then, you can start to specialize in the industry you are in, for instance, if you practice securities law, understand the implications and legal precedence being applied. Learn about Blockchain and its applications from a broad perspective. You can do this on - perhaps focusing more on the crypto, digital assets, and financial transactions side of things as these will be important. Also, smart contracts are an important consideration here. Depending on where you want to focus, a better understanding of Ethereum and its smart contract environment and some of the popular tokens and emerging NFTs would be important to learn
More technology-focused professionals and leaders such as technical product managers, solutions architects, CIOs, CTOs - need to dig deeper into the technology, developer and vendor ecosystems, smart contracts, and depending on your needs further into things like identity management, governance, privacy and security, etc.
In most training programs you will definitely learn about Bitcoin - the seminal Blockchain and bitcoin the cryptocurrency. You will learn about Proof of Work consensus in permissionless Blockchains and how value is transferred without double spend. It is also likely that you will learn about Ethereum the Blockchain that is the 2nd largest in terms of decentralization to Bitcoin, has a native currency, and most importantly offers tokens and has support for smart contracts. It would be good to spend more time here to learn about Ethereum and understand how it is evolving to better scale; learn about the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA); and how value-add communities of business ecosystems such as DeFi are building on this.
Next, learn something about the variants of Ethereum with Quorum, especially if you are more active in the financial industry.
For other enterprise users, Hyperledger Project offers some of the best options with Fabric Blockchain. Fabric continues to improve the permissioned Blockchain space with pluggable capabilities, scaling, security and privacy capability improvements, and a strong enterprise-focused vendor ecosystem for support.
For the even more technical solutions architects, infrastructure folks, etc. it is also important to understand Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) environments. Azure has the broadest areas of support with Quorum, Corda, and Fabric. Azure and AWS have majority of the market with over 50% of the Ethereum workloads being hosted. AWS supports Ethereum and is planning to also support Fabric shortly. IBM Cloud and Oracle Cloud are both focused on Fabric and SAP Blockchain Service supports Fabric, Multichain, and Quorum with a focus to be more ERP-out than Blockchain-in.
Lastly, there are many great opportunities to network via local meetups and online meetups and events. Many of them are for no fee during these days of social distancing.
Network with your colleagues and friends that are in the space, it’s still a well-connected community given that it’s still relatively small but growing. People are great and they will love to guide you.
Contact us if you have questions, we'll be happy to help.