Interview with Nydia Zhang of Social Alpha Foundation


Blockchain and crypto have been dominating not just the commercial world but the job market as well. In 2018, LinkedIn listed Blockchain developer as one of their most in-demand jobs. However, with the boom in crypto and Blockchain jobs, are there enough skilled individuals being produced to fill this need? 

We speak with Nydia Zhang, Co-founder and Chairman, Social Alpha Foundation about this phenomenon. 

Nydia Zhang - Chairman and Co-Founder of Social Alpha Foundation
Nydia Zhang – Chairman and Co-Founder of Social Alpha Foundation

As the blockchain industry grows along with the demand for jobs, do you think enough is being done to train individuals who will meet the demand? 

With companies such as Facebook, Mastercard and IBM dabbling in blockchain, with Facebook recently announcing its cryptocurrency project codenamed Libra, there has naturally been a surge in the number of blockchain jobs available.

With the number of blockchain jobs having grown over 33-fold in 2018, there is currently a lack of supply when it comes to skilled blockchain engineers and developers to meet the exponential growth in demand, and there is undoubtedly a need to plug the skills gap.

There are already some fantastic initiatives and blockchain education is already being introduced in some of the world’s best-known institutions, but there is a need to up the ante with training in order to ensure our workforce is better equipped with the skills required to see enterprise blockchain adoption.

Do you think we will see a blockchain degree course being offered at university level in the near future?

The future is already here as blockchain courses are already being offered in universities around the world, including at the University of California, Berkeley, which offers professional certificate programs in Blockchain Fundamentals and Blockchain for Business. UC Berkeley is also home to Blockchain at Berkeley, a student organisation focused on blockchain innovation via education, research, design and consulting, where one of our previous grantees and Thiel Fellow, Aparna Krishnan, was Head of Education.

The University of Oxford also currently offers an Oxford Blockchain Strategy Programme which aims to get business leaders up to speed with the developments of this emerging technology, with Dublin City University having recently announced Ireland’s first Master’s in blockchain as well.

It is extremely encouraging to see some of the world’s most renowned universities taking a positive step towards equipping younger generations with blockchain skills and allowing them to explore how this emerging technology might disrupt the business status quo.

While there is certainly the need for skilled individuals in blockchain, do you think the people themselves are interested in blockchain careers to a significant degree? 

I think people are very much interested in the potential to effect powerful and significant change through a career in blockchain, much like a career in IT, as opposed to the technicalities of the job itself. Such a role requires a sense of curiosity and problem-solving skills, and people involved in the technology sector have the opportunity to build the future, especially as it will infiltrate every possible industry globally.

What can world governments do to support blockchain education? 

Governments can support blockchain education by introducing technology syllabi and making this mandatory in schools. This doesn’t have to relate to blockchain specifically and can be on the wider technology landscape — such a syllabus will ensure that students are equipped with the knowledge and skills required for the workplace in the post-digital era.

Could you tell us a bit about your organization and what you do?

Absolutely. Social Alpha Foundation (SAF) is a not-for-profit, grant-making platform which focuses on supporting blockchain education and outreach to empower communities to utilize blockchain technology for social good. We provide no-strings funding to companies and projects that educate communities on blockchain for social change and to non-commercial blockchain applications that focus on improving public health, education, and the environment. 

Some of our recent grantees include the Yale Openlab, which aims to create a university program that meaningfully applies blockchain technology to climate change solution-building; the Blockchain Trust Accelerator, who are building a registry of social impact blockchain projects spanning the non-profit, public, and for-profit sectors; and the Tsinghua-Cornell Blockchain Winter School, which brings together top talents in blockchain, education, government and enterprise to share ideas and innovations.

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