For IT pros, adding blockchain skills can pad your paycheck – by a lot

Beefing up on skills around blockchain development, management or engineering can earn techies some big bucks above their current salary.

Certification / Graduate silhouette surrounded by abstract technology and blockchain imagery.
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Extra pay for tech professionals who’ve attained non-certified skills is nearing a 19-year high, adding an average of 9.4% to their salary. But if you really want to pad your paycheck, blockchain skills may be the way to go, according to a new report from from Foote Partners.

The market value for IT workers with blockchain skills increased by 6.3% in the six months through Oct. 1, 2019 and a whopping 13.3% for the full year – “well above average,” according to the Foote Partners research.

“So, companies are willing to pay a premium above salary – cash money – for Ethereum skills and a market basket of other blockchain skills,” Chief Analyst David Foote said.

The “market value” increase, Foote explained, is different from additional pay offered for blockchain skills. For example, the average pay premium for blockchain skills is actually 17% above base salary, Foote said. So, if a tech employee is earning $100,000 a year, and they can offer their company blockchain development, management or engineering skills, they would, on average, see an additional $17,000 per year.

At a high level, blockchain technology is a way of securely managing access and information on an open, distributed electronic ledger. What makes the distributed ledger technology (DLT) so interesting to businesses and some governments is how it is positioned to improve an almost endless array of transactional activities, according to the report.

Blockchain jobs skills pay Foote Partners

Because it’s in high demand, skills shortages will continue for blockchain developers – especially for the architects, project managers, and quality engineers who can design, build, and test blockchain operating models, according to the report.

Understanding how blockchain integrates with artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, and IoT is seen largely as a plus for technologists at the moment. But it will be a requirement in the future as these other technologies mature and adoption rates increase.

Salaries for blockchain developer or "engineer" positions are high, with median salaries in the U.S. hovering around $130,000 a year; that compares to general software developers, whose annual median pay is $105,000, according to Matt Sigelman, CEO of job data analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies.

People with experience with specific blockchain iterations such as Solidity and Hyperledger Composer are in even higher demand – and that demand is increasing steadily, said Eric Piscini, a principal in the technology and banking practices at Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Universities are some of the best places to learn blockchain skills, though there are online courses available from vendors as well.

According to a new Gartner research note, 75% of IoT technology adopters in the U.S. have already adopted blockchain or are planning to adopt it by the end of 2020. That indicates the integration of IoT and blockchain is a sweet spot and accelerating at a faster rate than expected, according to Avivah Litan, a Gartner vice president of research.

IoT sensors can be “oracles” or data input devices to blockchain ledgers, enabling the automated management and recording of data from smart buildings, infrastructure and even healthcare devices. Additionally, IoT sensors combined with blockchain can track and trace cargo location in real time as well as the temperature of and vibration to products being shipped, such as food or pharmaceuticals.

Overall, extra pay awarded by employers to tech professionals for 573 non-certified tech skills – also known as cash pay premiums – increased only slightly in the third calendar quarter of 2019, according to Foote Partners.

Foote’s report follows research from other organizations and job search sites showing blockchain careers are so hot that companies cannot find enough applicants to fill positions. Last year, the position of “blockchain developer” hit the No. 1 spot on LinkedIn. This year, blockchain jobs remained in high demand.

In particular, non-certified skills related to rolling out and administering the Ethereum business blockchain platform are in particularly high demand, according to Foote.

“It’s not like security skills or even AI where skills are needed in every marketplace,” Foote said. “We’re pointing out if [you] want to look under the covers, there are five or six industries driving it. So, it’s not pervasive, but [companies] investing in it are going after it aggressively. If your customers are measuring you up against other vendors and security is important to them, they’re probably going to go in the direction of blockchain at some point.”

Financial services, supply chain tracking, healthcare, government, trust and identity management are among the hottest markets for DLT.

By 2021, at least 25% of the Global 2000 enterprises will use blockchain services as a foundation for digital trust at scale, according to IDC. Large vendors such as IBM, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Amazon Web Services, Baidu and SAP have made sizable investments and begun rolling out blockchain-as-a-service solutions for partners.

“Aside from North America, we see big blockchain technology investments in the Middle East, Asia, and in Europe where blockchain centers in Berlin, Zurich, Singapore, London, and South Korea are creating buzz,” the Foote report said. “There are hundreds of DLT (distributed ledger technology) start-ups around the world, employing thousands.”

David Foote compared blockchain adoption to that of DevOps, where “everyone knew it was a no brainer it would eventually take off,” but it took a long time to be pervasive because enterprises must retool their architectures to make use of it.

“I can remember as an analyst going to my clients and saying, ‘I can’t believe you’re not doing DevOps,’ and them telling me their environment was not built to handle that yet,” Foote said. “Maybe that’s what’s going to happen with blockchain. It is a fairly major change to the way businesses do things today, but there are certainly advantages to it.”

Blockchain’s greatest attribute is its ability to create a single, immutable version of data (some call it a single version of truth) that can be shared among entities in real time. Because it a peer-to-peer technology, all that’s needed to run it is a bit of software downloaded to a local computer; once authorized, that computer then becomes part of the blockchain network. In enterprise blockchain technology, such as the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger platform, one business can govern a blockchain network, controlling what business partners are authorized not only to join but what data they can see.

Distributed applications (dApps), such as smart contracts, cryptocurrencies and digital wallets, can also be added on top of blockchain to make it more automated, useful and user friendly.

“Smart contracts help you exchange money, property, shares, or anything of value in a transparent, conflict-free way while avoiding the services of a middleman,” the Foote report said. “They’re the product of the decentralized ledger systems that run the blockchain, and so skills in smart contracts are be catapulted along with Ethereum and others for an almost unlimited number of uses ranging from financial derivatives to insurance premiums, breach contracts, property law, credit enforcement, financial services, legal processes and crowdfunding agreements.”

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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