How to Become a Smart Contract Developer
There are currently many factors that make becoming a smart contract developer an attractive career prospect, from the opportunity to work with technology that is having a transformational impact on the world to the great demand for smart contract developers in the talent market.
Furthermore, smart contract development skills are becoming increasingly relevant. In the 1990s, engineers moved from the closed world of mainframes to the open databases of the Internet, and a similar transition is happening now with the introduction of smart contracts. Just as developers transitioned to a more relevant tech stack for the future back then, developers now are making the move to the Web 3.0 stack.
Aspiring smart contract developers are bound to have many questions about how to make this transition: What is the Web 3.0 developer stack? What coding languages should you learn? What technical skills will be required, and how can you learn them? Below, you’ll find the answers to these questions and more, priming you to leap into the world of smart contract development.
The main language of blockchain smart contracts is Solidity, with Vyper being a leading competitor. Unlike interpreted languages like Python, Solidity is statically typed (variable types are declared) and compiled, meaning you need to generate a binary before running. Solidity is the language developed by Gavin Wood to solve the unique problems Ethereum faced in 2014, and it’s now the default language of all Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM)-compatible chains. This means that whether you are developing on Ethereum, Avalanche, Polygon, Binance Smart Chain (BSC), or any other EVM chain, you are going to need to know the ins and outs of Solidity. However, there are some chains which do not utilize the EVM and are programmed in different languages. Solana is one example of a blockchain which does not use Solidity, but rather the pre-existing languages Rust and C/C++.
So how do you choose a blockchain to develop on? There are many considerations and no one-size-fits-all answer. Ethereum is currently where most dApps exist, and it typically has the most liquidity. Additionally, Ethereum’s considerable history gives it a reputation for reliability. Ethereum is a strong choice if speed and low cost are not your primary concerns and you have ecosystem needs (a dApp you want to interface with is only on Ethereum, for example).
You could also deploy on a scaling layer (L2) such as Arbitrum, which has full EVM compatibility but “rolls up” the transactions into compressed bundles so transaction throughput is higher, meaning costs are lower and speeds are faster. As for the other EVM chains, each offers some form of scalability improvement over Ethereum; BSC uses larger transaction blocks, Polygon is a sidechain which trades off some decentralization for scaling, while Avalanche uses a new consensus algorithm to improve its transaction speed/cost.
For the sake of this article, we’ll be focusing on EVM chains via Solidity since this is the most common option.
Perhaps the most critical skill to develop is security. Your smart contract may one day be handling billions of dollars in value, so it’s of utmost importance that it is free of flaws. Vulnerabilities like reentrancy are important to consider in smart contracts. Since smart contracts often call other smart contract functions, it’s possible for that other function to interrupt the flow of your smart contract. This was the cause of the famous $70M ETH DAO hack. A security mindset is essential for smart contract developers.
So what does the development flow look like for these contracts? Are there tools and IDEs to help us? Of course! A popular IDE is Remix, which is a web-based IDE that can handle both the compilation of your contract and its deployment onto your chain of choice. Additionally, Truffle and Brownie are two development frameworks also built to assist you. To learn more about the process from beginning to end, including how to use these frameworks, we highly suggest checking out the extremely thorough smart contract course Chainlink Labs’ Lead Developer Advocate Patrick Collins gave through freeCodeCamp: Solidity, Blockchain, and Smart Contract Course – Beginner to Expert Python Tutorial.
To recap, these are some of the languages, libraries, and tools you should familiarize yourself with to become a smart contract developer:
Community is extremely important in the smart contract space. With so much innovation happening so quickly, it’s hard to keep up on your own. That’s why the best developers actively network on Twitter, join hackathons to meet other developers and potential investors or employers, pick up Gitcoin bounties to assist open-source development, engage on thoughtful forums such as the Smart Contract Research Forum, and chat on Discord to learn and help others learn.
Hackathons are a particularly good place to build your smart contract skills. At hackathons you learn by doing and sharpen your talents in real time as you build, all while respected members of the industry help guide you—maybe even becoming collaborators on your project! The Chainlink Fall 2021 Hackathon is a great place to start building. With $550k in total prizes, leading experts and VCs in attendance, and thousands of developers to meet, it can be a massive boost to a smart contract developer’s career. Another fantastic resource is the Chainlink Discord, where developer advocates and passionate community members are available to help you get started.
Where to Learn
There’s an abundance of resources available to support your learning, from hackathons to blogs to Discord servers to YouTube channels and more. We’ve selected eight resources that offer an excellent combination for those looking to become smart contract developers below, followed by top resources from each resource area.
- Solidity, Blockchain, and Smart Contract Course – Beginner to Expert Python Tutorial
- Chainlink YouTube
- Chainlink Blog
- Chainlink Discord
- ConsenSys Bootcamp
If you’re a visual learner and prefer having someone walk you through a tutorial rather than following one alone, YouTube is a great resource. These YouTubers all provide excellent materials for those learning smart contract development, offering detailed tutorials for you to follow to support your learning.
Participating in the community is critically important in the smart contract space. Learn from others who are more experienced, make friends, and help others who will help you in turn. Discord and Reddit communities are a powerful resource for getting real-time help and expanding your social circle with other like-minded developers. Here are some spaces that will help you along in your smart contract development journey.
Hackathons are an exciting way to accelerate your developer journey. Push your limits while developing at the cutting edge of new tech all while celebrated community leaders are there to advise and investors are searching for the next big project—which could just be yours. The Chainlink Hackathon is an excellent place to start, with a huge collection of resources, workshops, prizes, and networking opportunities on offer.
Take the First Step on Your Smart Contract Journey
There are many paths to becoming a smart contract developer. We’ve laid out some options, but it’s up to you to choose which fits you best. What’s most important is that you get started, build something for fun, begin exploring, and start asking questions—the rest will follow. Whether you’re a backend developer, a web developer, or new to development work altogether, there’s a path for you to succeed and plenty of people who are happy to help. So take that first step: join the Discords, read the tutorials, join a hackathon, and start building the exciting future that is Web 3.0.
When it comes to building secure, feature-rich dApps, Chainlink’s proven oracle infrastructure unlocks countless possibilities for developers. To learn more about Chainlink, visit chain.link, subscribe to the Chainlink newsletter, and follow @chainlink on Twitter. To understand the full vision of the Chainlink Network, read the Chainlink 2.0 whitepaper.