The war for crypto talent
From startups to major organisations, the prospects for crypto talent have never been so good
Cryptocurrencies aren’t just creating buzz – they’re creating jobs.
The technology might be relatively new, but it’s one of the world’s fastest-growing industries. What’s more, it’s a huge draw for those who believe that decentralised financial systems can change the world. For these employees, the evolving industry offers job opportunities on a scale not seen since the emergence of the internet in the mid-1990s.
The surge in demand for crypto talent was fuelled by the growing interest of investment heavyweights like BlackRock and Goldman Sachs, which in turn helped spark new interest from companies in technology and finance. There is now a new recognition of blockchain – the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies – as one of the most significant technological developments of this generation.
Banks and other financial institutions are scrambling to open crypto departments to meet their clients’ demands, says Chris Mason, co-founder of private tutoring and research hub InCrypto.UK, noting that “there isn’t enough skilled crypto talent to go around. For those who’ve made the move to understand blockchain and realise that this space will grow at an unprecedented pace, it’s very hard to not want to be involved.”
Mason says his company has seen a significant increase in the number of people from the more traditional financial world seeking private tuition on cryptocurrencies.
“Interestingly, many of them are ‘crypto sceptics’ who feel they have no choice but to get educated on the subject for fear of being left behind.”
From engineers to marketers, the cryptocurrency boom has created jobs that span a variety of skills. The majority of job openings have focused on programmers and software developers, with many listings calling for “hard skills” like Java, machine learning, Python, artificial intelligence and C/C++.
But there are opportunities for non-techies. With the rapid emergence of decentralised finance, a large number of jobs have opened up for those with a legal or compliance background. Companies are also seeking help in areas like marketing and PR: US crypto exchange Coinbase, for example, is now recruiting editorial talent to build its own media operation.
Financial institutions are the most prolific recruiters, predominantly banks and investment funds. However, virtually any organisation looking to expand or build new projects in the crypto space is effectively joining a war for crypto talent.
From a hobby to a career
Although banking and fintech are the conventional industries from which many launch a crypto career, many have entered the business after developing a genuine passion for the sector, perhaps as a hobby.
Katharine Wooller is managing director in the UK and Ireland for crypto wealth platform Dacxi - her third blockchain business. Having first purchased crypto three years ago, she went on to create the “Women Who Crypto” movement, which encourages women to embrace crypto assets as a genuine wealth builder.
When she’s recruiting, Wooller says she prioritises those with a genuine interest in crypto, who’ve been learning and investing in their spare time as a side hustle, over someone with a traditional banking or IT background.
“The industry is so new that a hunger for knowledge and an open mind tend to be common traits, over and above a long CV specialising in crypto,” Wooller says.
For Wooller, the industry’s biggest challenges are the rate of growth and the speed of change.
“As with all crypto businesses, we are in the early stages of adoption of the technology globally and much of my day is about educating retail investors and traditional financial businesses. You can expect, therefore, to spend a lot of time in educator mode,” she says.
The potential of blockchain
While the cryptocurrency market and blockchain technology are intrinsically linked, the latter is being used in a much broader range of applications. This opens up career options for talent from an increasingly diverse range of backgrounds.
Tamara Haasen made an unconventional journey from political science and law - via studies in corporate governance and emotional IQ – to become chief of staff at blockchain engineering company IOHK, highlighting the growing intersection between technology and people.
Governance, law and emotional intelligence are increasingly core skills in a sector that relies on participation and consensus among thousands of people across the globe, just to have a functioning network and product, Haasen says.
“Creating self-governing financial systems that operate ethically without the need for external regulators requires expertise in everything from relationship management to behavioural psychology.”
The future dream blockchain CV will likely belong to someone with skills in people management and collaboration, an understanding of behavioural psychology like game theory and a passion for democratising financial and social systems. This is what Haasen finds most rewarding about her job: helping blockchain deliver on its original promise of a people-powered financial and social system that can provide economic identities to the 1.7 billion unbanked people around the world.
A risk worth taking
Ivan Soto-Wright began his career in portfolio construction before founding the cryptocurrency payment solutions provider MoonPay, driven by a fascination with the evolving sector and its potential to democratise the financial system.
Launched in 2018, the team comprises people from a diverse range of backgrounds, including tech giants Google and Amazon, early-stage tech startups and industries like fintech, ecommerce and software-as-a-service.
“To be successful in the crypto field, you have to want to push boundaries,” he says. “Not just accepting the status quo, but imagining what could be and then making the imagined possible.”
Cryptocurrencies remain highly volatile: the recent rollercoaster ride in the value of bitcoin and dogecoin are a case in point. For some finance professionals, the reputational risk of moving into the world of digital assets is high. Still, many are willing to take the risk.
“The cryptocurrency space has always been volatile, but that’s only looking at one facet of it,” says Soto-Wright, noting the significant opportunities to democratise finance, provide services to the unbanked and underbanked, and improve financial systems in terms of cost, speed and security.
“That’s what drives so many people to consider a career in this sector. It really is the future of finance.”