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IBM Layoff Sees 1,700 Go but Spares Most Blockchain Staff

IBM Layoffs 1,700 But Spares Most Blockchain Staff

The Block Crypto has reported that a global IBM layoff has seen some 1,700 positions shorn off its workforce, but that its blockchain division was spared the majority of this decision.

Sources close to the tech giant told The Block that earlier in June, IBM let go of 1,700 employees, but did not really touch those working for IBM Blockchain. Those who were released from that division were working on the consulting side, they said, and still only made up a “very tiny, tiny percentage” of the total layoffs. They said:

“The product team had no layoffs, there was nothing out of development. It was very limited on the blockchain side.”

There was no specific comment on how its blockchain operation had been affected by the current downsizing, but VP of IBM Blockchain Technology Jerry Cuomo said: “Blockchain skills are the priority… And we’re full-steam ahead of blockchain… We plan to grow for a very long time.”

Job postings online for IBM blockchain roles do appear to suggest Cuomo’s telling the truth, with scores of open positions stretching from India in South Asia to Australia in the Pacific. CNBC’s own reporting of the “resource action” does indicate that it was in fact its GTS cloud infrastructure that bore the brunt of the job cuts.

“We are continuing to reposition our team to align with our focus on the high-value segments of the IT market, and we also continue to hire aggressively in critical new areas that deliver value for our clients and IBM,” explained IBM spokesperson Ed Barbini in an email to CRN.

Before the cuts, the company had a reported workforce of 340,000 people across the globe, which means only a 0.5% contraction in size after the IBM layoff.


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Universities Need to Promote Crypto and Blockchain Education to Push Industry Forward

The study of cryptocurrency and blockchain at educational institutions could impact positively on the space filling skill gaps in the industry, according to a report by Bitcoinist.

The University of Nicosia, Cyprus, announced that it would offer the world’s first Masters programme in digital currency back in 2013. The postgraduate course was aimed at financial services professionals:

“The MSc in Digital Currency is designed to help financial services and business professionals, entrepreneurs, government officials and public administrators better understand the technical underpinnings of digital currency, how it will likely interact with existing monetary and financial systems, and what opportunities exist for innovation in digital currency systems.”

Bisade Asolo, writing for Bitcoinist, argues that the lack of high-level blockchain and cryptocurrency courses has caused a skill shortage within the industry, thus producing more opportunities for those already with expertise.

Professor Dan Boneh of Stanford’s Computer Security Lab suggests that “cryptocurrencies are a wonderful way to teach cryptography… a lot of people are attracted to the huge valuations in these currencies”.

There are now many opportunities for blockchain developers, but clearly not enough skilled technicians to fill these gaps. Toptal, a marketplace for hiring tech talent, recorded a 700% increase in demand for blockchain developers since January 2017. These positions can be well paid. According to Jerry Cuomo, VP of IBM’s Blockchain Technologies division, the best blockchain developers can command a salary above USD 250,000.

Such positions can only be filled by those that can display an expert knowledge of the industry. Masters degrees such as the one offered in Nicosia are scarce but an essential source of knowledge for those wanting to take the industry forward.

There are, however, some educational institutions offering courses in digital information systems, blockchain, and cryptocurrency. In the US, the Northeastern University College of Engineering in Boston and George Mason University in Virginia run courses in blockchain tech as part of other advanced educational postgraduate Science programs.  The University of Cape Town now offers a cryptocurrency and FinTech elective module as part of its wider Data Science Masters programme.

In Scotland, the University of Sterling – as part of its Financial Technology (FinTech) Masters programme, offers participants a primer to blockchain technology, which includes cryptocurrencies, decentralized applications, smart contracts, and applications and case studies.

Sao Paulo University Fundacao Getulio Vargas (FGV) is the most recent university to try and fill the educational gap, offering a Masters Degree in Cryptofinance as part of its program in order to “prepare students for the coming era of digital currencies”.


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