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Chainlink Labs’ Zak Ayesh Shares How To Become A Smart Contract Developer

The future is being shaped by blockchain technology. Hybrid smart contracts that execute on-chain agreements using tamper-proof off-chain data from decentralized oracle networks like Chainlink are evolving to transform the very nature of how people form agreements at nearly every level of society.  

The smart contract industry is highly technical and growing so rapidly that it can seem impenetrable and overwhelming. But there is such a demand for talent that, with enough hard work and dedication, it’s possible to go from someone with no programming knowledge to a working smart contract developer faster than you might imagine.

At SmartCon #1, developer advocate at Chainlink Labs Zak Ayesh detailed how to become a smart contract developer based on his own journey from a mechanical engineer in the automotive industry to a self-taught developer who landed a job doing what he loves.

Put the “why” before the “how.”

After “falling down the rabbit hole” of Bitcoin and Ethereum in 2017, Ayesh was soon impressed by smart contracts’ value in solving some of humanity’s most difficult problems. Inspired by compelling use cases like decentralized crop insurance and digital public goods funding, he said the ability to make a meaningful impact is what ultimately drew him to the industry. 

“You really don’t feel like you’re just another cog in the wheel; you feel like you’re building the future and making an impact on the world that will ultimately help humanity,” he said.

Referencing Habit 2 of Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Begin With the End in Mind,” Ayesh recommended identifying companies and protocols that are solving problems you care about from the get-go. This will help you stay focused for the long haul.

Acquire the right technical skills.

Smart contract developers need a diverse skill set and knowledge base. This includes OOP languages (Java, C#) and front-end programming languages (HTML, JavaScript) as well as familiarity with computer science fundamentals (data structures, algorithms, cryptography, distributed systems) and blockchain fundamentals (consensus algorithms, UTXO vs. account-based blockchains).

As the primary language used to write smart contracts, Solidity is essential for smart contract developers. Ayesh also recommended learning a local development environment like Brownie, Hardhat or Truffle and familiarizing yourself with middleware like The Graph and Chainlink. 

Enter hackathons.

“You can enter hackathons at any time on this path, even before you’ve started step one,” Ayesh said. “There are a lot of people who go to hackathons who know nothing and a lot of teams who need nonprogrammers to help out.” The purpose of attending a hackathon is simply to learn and network with other people. The upcoming Chainlink Fall Hackathon’s new “Welcome Track” makes it even easier for complete beginners to overcome hackathon hesitancy and win prizes.

Be persistent and have fun.

Ayesh recommended becoming an active participant on your favorite projects’ social media channels, hosting local meetups and even creating your own content on platforms like Medium. Once you’ve acquired the right skills and knowledge to look for a job, he said it’s important to focus on quality over quantity and send tailored applications to the projects you care about the most. 

“Be persistent and do not give up after rejection.” Ayesh said it took him several rounds of interviews with Chainlink Labs to find the right fit. At the same time, he stressed the importance of having faith in yourself and recognizing when imposter syndrome creeps in. “Everyone began where you’re beginning and it’s totally possible to go from where you’re at right now to a smart contract guru.” 

Find Zak Ayesh on Twitter and watch his full presentation on how to become a smart contract developer.

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