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Bitcoin and blockchain jobs are booming — and they pay well

Research shows that employers are working to find more talent in the blockchain space, and they're willing to pay higher rates for it.

Glassdoor Economic Research
  • A study by Glassdoor found that demand for blockchain work has risen 300% since last year.
  • Glassdoor reported the median starting salary for blockchain job openings was over $32,000 higher than the median US salary, an increase of 61.8%.
  • Despite the issues in the current crypto market, blockchain technology appears to have a bright future.

For those in the United States, the economy continues to push forward full steam ahead. According to a recent jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the month of October, the US economy added 250,000 jobs to reach an unemployment level of 3.7%, extending a record streak of 97 consecutive months of growth. That's great news for Americans in the job market as unemployment maintains a steady 49-year low; however, there's one area of the economy that's seeing even more growth: blockchain-related jobs. A recent study from Glassdoor found that blockchain-related job openings in the US have increased 300% compared to last year and that the salaries are growing too. Even with the drastic price drop in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, those with blockchain skills are a hot commodity in the tech workforce.

Growth in demand

Glassdoor's study found a significant increase in demand from employers looking for talent in the blockchain space even after the price of bitcoin dropped dramatically. As of August 2018, the website reported 1,775 unique blockchain-related job opening in the US. That number represents a 300% year-over-year increase from 2017. The good news for those in the workforce is that the numbers remained essentially unaffected by bitcoin price volatility.

During the so-called "crypto-mania" bull run that occurred during the end of 2017, Glassdoor calculated unique position openings in the range of 695 - 748, compared to the current openings which more than double that. Regardless of the volatility in the markets, employers are still seeking talent in the blockchain space like never before. Further contributing to the data is Upwork's Q1 2018 Skills Index, which ranks the 20 fastest-growing skill sets for freelancers and companies looking for contractors. According to the report, blockchain was the number one fastest-growing skill set.

Job compensation

Besides a growing number of employers looking for blockchain talent, there's more good news for those in the space: the pay. While those with technical skills already tend to command higher than average salaries, job openings in the blockchain space are offering significantly higher salaries than most others.

Glassdoor reported the median starting salary for blockchain job openings was $84,884 compared to the median salary in the US of $52,461. The difference in salaries is substantial, to say the least, at over $32,000 higher than the median US salary, an increase of 61.8%. The burgeoning field in the tech sector is offering such high salaries for a few reasons, including the lack of available talent in blockchain and the locations of the jobs themselves, with major metropolitan areas topping the list of locations for job openings.

Location and skills

Golden Gate Bridge

upload.wikimedia.org

One of the reasons for such high starting pay with job openings is due to where the jobs are located. As is often the case with the tech world, major cities like New York City and San Francisco top the list of American cities with blockchain job openings, followed by expected locations like San Jose, Chicago, Seattle, Boston and Los Angeles. Outside the United States, other international hubs are seeking blockchain talent as well. London, Singapore, Toronto, and Hong Kong claim the top of the list for blockchain job openings in the international job markets. The variety of companies looking for workers in the space is huge as well, and companies such as IBM, Facebook, JPMorgan and many others are only a few of the names in the mix. With higher average cost of living, larger salaries are a way for companies to incentivise talent to come to them, but what type of talent are they looking for?

Chai Shepherd is an advisor to the Resto project, a blockchain solution for food services, and Co-Founder of PLAAK, a project aimed at making blockchain implementation easier. He is a well-known crypto investor and has a lot of experience finding new talent. Through his experience in the industry, Shepherd has noticed particular skills that stand out to employers and innovators and knows that it's not always easy to find skilled developers.

"Blockchain companies are looking for Internet-of-Things (IoT), Java, Javascript, C++, and Golang developers, as well as for those with knowledge in cryptographic algorithms. However, developers are getting harder to find as a lot of this type of work is mainly research and development (R&D) that's not normally required in a technology organization. Universities are currently teaching solidity code, but I feel that there is more to blockchain than just ETH solidity smart contracts."

Also included in Glassdoor's research is the type of talent employers are looking to attract. According to the data, software engineering is the most sought-after occupation, which is unsurprising as more companies look to implement blockchain technology into their platforms. Software engineer listings alone accounted for nearly 20% of all job opening postings on Glassdoor related to blockchain technology. Other sought-after positions included analyst relations manager, product manager, front-end engineer, and technology architect, though all in the single-digit percentages of openings.

So, what does all this mean? For starters, insights from Glassdoor show that even with the hefty volatility of bitcoin and other cryptocurrency prices, blockchain technology appears to be staying relevant. In fact, listings for blockchain-related job openings have only increased (by a lot) after the drastic decline in the cryptocurrency markets. That's good news for those interested in the field of study and work.

Additionally, the research shows that employers value knowledgeable individuals enough to offer much higher starting pay for those with the know-how to help implement blockchain technology.

For a nascent industry like cryptocurrencies, the research comes not so much as a surprise, but as an affirmation for the future of the industry to come. What we're seeing happen is following a similar pattern in the tech world for those with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning skills. Though the regulatory status of cryptocurrencies remains unclear in the US, the growth in the industry related to the underlying technology is not. Looking forward, the blockchain industry is poised to continue its rapid growth.

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Human brains remember certain words more easily than others

A study of the manner in which memory works turns up a surprising thing.

Image Point Fr / Shutterstock
Mind & Brain
  • Researchers have found that some basic words appear to be more memorable than others.
  • Some faces are also easier to commit to memory.
  • Scientists suggest that these words serve as semantic bridges when the brain is searching for a memory.

Cognitive psychologist Weizhen Xie (Zane) of the NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) works with people who have intractable epilepsy, a form of the disorder that can't be controlled with medications. During research into the brain activity of patients, he and his colleagues discovered something odd about human memory: It appears that certain basic words are consistently more memorable than other basic words.

The research is published in Nature Human Behaviour.

An odd find

Image source: Tsekhmister/Shutterstock

Xie's team was re-analyzing memory tests of 30 epilepsy patients undertaken by Kareem Zaghloul of NINDS.

"Our goal is to find and eliminate the source of these harmful and debilitating seizures," Zaghloul said. "The monitoring period also provides a rare opportunity to record the neural activity that controls other parts of our lives. With the help of these patient volunteers we have been able to uncover some of the blueprints behind our memories."

Specifically, the participants were shown word pairs, such as "hand" and "apple." To better understand how the brain might remember such pairings, after a brief interval, participants were supplied one of the two words and asked to recall the other. Of the 300 words used in the tests, five of them proved to be five times more likely to be recalled: pig, tank, doll, pond, and door.

The scientists were perplexed that these words were so much more memorable than words like "cat," "street," "stair," "couch," and "cloud."

Intrigued, the researchers looked at a second data source from a word test taken by 2,623 healthy individuals via Amazon's Mechanical Turk and found essentially the same thing.

"We saw that some things — in this case, words — may be inherently easier for our brains to recall than others," Zaghloul said. That the Mechanical Turk results were so similar may "provide the strongest evidence to date that what we discovered about how the brain controls memory in this set of patients may also be true for people outside of the study."

Why understanding memory matters

person holding missing piece from human head puzzle

Image source: Orawan Pattarawimonchai/Shutterstock

"Our memories play a fundamental role in who we are and how our brains work," Xie said. "However, one of the biggest challenges of studying memory is that people often remember the same things in different ways, making it difficult for researchers to compare people's performances on memory tests." He added that the search for some kind of unified theory of memory has been going on for over a century.

If a comprehensive understanding of the way memory works can be developed, the researchers say that "we can predict what people should remember in advance and understand how our brains do this, then we might be able to develop better ways to evaluate someone's overall brain health."

Party chat

Image source: joob_in/Shutterstock

Xie's interest in this was piqued during a conversation with Wilma Bainbridge of University of Chicago at a Christmas party a couple of years ago. Bainbridge was, at the time, wrapping up a study of 1,000 volunteers that suggested certain faces are universally more memorable than others.

Bainbridge recalls, "Our exciting finding is that there are some images of people or places that are inherently memorable for all people, even though we have each seen different things in our lives. And if image memorability is so powerful, this means we can know in advance what people are likely to remember or forget."

spinning 3D model of a brain

Temporal lobes

Image source: Anatomography/Wikimedia

At first, the scientists suspected that the memorable words and faces were simply recalled more frequently and were thus easier to recall. They envisioned them as being akin to "highly trafficked spots connected to smaller spots representing the less memorable words." They developed a modeling program based on word frequencies found in books, new articles, and Wikipedia pages. Unfortunately, the model was unable to predict or duplicate the results they saw in their clinical experiments.

Eventually, the researchers came to suspect that the memorability of certain words was linked to the frequency with which the brain used them as semantic links between other memories, making them often-visited hubs in individuals's memory networks, and therefore places the brain jumped to early and often when retrieving memories. This idea was supported by observed activity in participants' anterior temporal lobe, a language center.

In epilepsy patients, these words were so frequently recalled that subjects often shouted them out even when they were incorrect responses to word-pair inquiries.

Seek, find

Modern search engines no longer simply look for raw words when resolving an inquiry: They also look for semantic — contextual and meaning — connections so that the results they present may better anticipate what it is you're looking for. Xie suggests something similar may be happening in the brain: "You know when you type words into a search engine, and it shows you a list of highly relevant guesses? It feels like the search engine is reading your mind. Well, our results suggest that the brains of the subjects in this study did something similar when they tried to recall a paired word, and we think that this may happen when we remember many of our past experiences."

He also notes that it may one day be possible to leverage individuals' apparently wired-in knowledge of their language as a fixed point against which to assess the health of their memory and brain.

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