My Journey into the Blockchain Space

Mary Alenoghena
4 min read
Remote Religion is a series which shines a spotlight on the life of a remote tech worker in Africa. We explore the promise and perils of remote work and how to navigate career transition.
In this edition of Remote Religion, we spoke with Henry Onyebuchi, a Lead Smart Contract Developer at DeSpace Protocol. We talk about his journey into blockchain engineering without prior programming experience in the web2 space.

Hi Henry! Thank you for doing this. Please tell me about yourself

I am Henry Onyebuchi, a blockchain enthusiast, and a Solidity engineer with 3 years of professional experience in developing smart contracts for EVM blockchains.

How did you get started in the blockchain space?

It started sometime around the third quarter of 2016. I wanted to start making money from the financial market, and I bumped into a centralized exchange called Bittrex. I learned about the crypto market and the different assets trading on the exchange. Then shortly, I deposited funds and lost over 85% of my money within the first week. That was how I got to know about the likes of BTC, ETH, ETC, XRP, etc.

In 2017, I started researching the different crypto projects because I wanted to know what they individually stood for. Ethereum was the most popular network that had many projects building on it, and so I became aware of different exciting startups building on the network, which made me understand its ideology.

I started getting into social channels for different projects, and I started doing some viable bounty hunting which included writing articles and making social media and forum posts daily.

At the time, I was also taking boot camps on digital marketing because I wanted to set up an online business. I had completed training on several other online businesses like affiliate marketing, ebook writing and selling on Amazon, copywriting on freelance websites, and creating WordPress websites for clients. I was combining these side hustles with the bounty programs I was running as a means to generate funds as I was at the moment, undergoing my master's degree program in Mechanical Engineering (Industrial Production) at Rivers State University.

Being a volunteer in the social media department of my church, I started looking for blockchain startups looking to hire social media managers and community moderators. I eventually landed a Social media management role in a cryptocurrency news company. The job required me to closely read every publication and craft engaging heading for the social media posts. Doing this role exposed me more to the space.

Shortly in 2018, I got a new job as a technical support manager for a community moderating firm in the blockchain industry. I was assigned some interesting startups that were doing something with IoT and Blockchain. I got very attached to this project because I had gone through all the available documentation of the project, and they had a tech-savvy community, so I had to be on my game. Doing this role made me understand the uses of this technology more in-depth. I also participated in its ICO.

After some months, towards the end of 2018, I along with the majority of my team members in the company got relieved of our duties because of the bear market that hit during the time. We decided to stick together and form a company. We wanted to develop a simple multichain crypto wallet because we understood that one of the major entry barriers into the crypto space was complexity, and we know that one would need to own a wallet before owning crypto, so we decided to make an easy wallet that would help onboard users into the space which we had become bullish about.

It was at this point that I decided to go full-time into blockchain development. I embarked on several boot camps on web2 development, and web3 with several tutoring bodies including BlockchainDev1000, 500NigeriaDevs4ETH (now Web3Bridge), EattheBlocks, ConsenSys, etc.

Within one year, I was already deploying smart contracts on production networks, and I have since worked in several SC integrations, as well as interacted with relevant existing protocols in a decentralized way.

To be clear, were you a developer in the web2 space before diving into blockchain development? Or was blockchain development your entry into software engineering.

Blockchain development was my entry. I didn't have any prior experience with programming. I only learned how to spring up websites using templates from the likes of WordPress and Wix which I did a handful of times

That’s really interestingHow would you describe the experience of getting into blockchain development without prior software development experience? Would you consider it easy or harder?

I had already come to the point where I was familiar and comfortable with the basics of blockchain before venturing into development. I was already using metamask on dApps, and able to track transactions on the explorer, so I had a fundamental understanding of how things work before ever going further.

I would consider it doable if you ask me. My motivation to move further with this and adopt it for a career was because I saw a statistic in mid 2019 showing how huge blockchain development could be in the coming years. I also saw that the demand was high, and the salaries were nice. I also always liked mathematics and solving technical issues, and at the time as a social media manager, I didn't feel like I was utilizing my best attributes as an Engineer, so I wasn't really considering staying on that career path of social media management.

When I researched about the viability of becoming an expert in blockchain development from scratch, after reading about mechanical engineers who turned a blockchain developer, I became convinced that I wanted to go that direction, and I have been consistent with the process. It hasn't been easy, but it has been very enjoyable to me and I am happy I made the decision over 3 years ago.

Awesome! You mentioned doing a master's degree in mechanical engineering. Did having a technical background in anyway have an effect in your ability to transition into blockchain development?

Yes, I would say. I think it gave me the ability to systematically break down technical issues. Also, when creating smart contracts that require some type of algorithmic logic, you need a good background in mathematics to tackle it.

Was it hard to find your current job?

No, it wasn't. I got my current job through a referral. I always tell folks to stay active and be willing to contribute to open source or work as an intern for startups that might not be able to pay a salary. Working with/for them will give you the experience you require to land a bigger and more challenging role

Did contributing to open source play a role in you getting your job through referral?

You become better from every relevant contribution, and you tend to be able to do more for your referees from being better. So yes, that plays a part

What is the hardest thing about your job as a solidity engineer?

I'd say staying updated with technical advancements. Things tend to be outdated quite fast. Sometime even before you get a full graspIt is fun to learn new things though. It only gets frustrating when the bucket list grows longer

What advice would you give to people looking to transition into a solidity engineer role?

I would encourage them to learn about cryptography, how the EVM works, programming language(s) like javascript, python, c++, and eventually solidity. They need to build basic dApps and learn the security pitfalls. I would also encourage leveraging Openzeppelin codebases which carry some of the most secure and optimized boilerplates. It isn't an easy journey, but an enjoyable and revealing one. It also needs consistency and accountability I'd say if you intend to track your progress. One year is enough to attain junior level.

What’s a typical day look like for you? (what hours do you work? What are your routines?)

My routine is pretty dynamic. I get to understand my weekly tasks and then try to fit them into my productive hours. I also spend some of my productive time learning. In some weeks, I do more work during the day, and other times, during the night

And what do you do for fun?I rap, box, watch combat sports, watch football sometimes, and play chess

Sounds fun!What are your plans for the future?

I plan to keep developing myself and actively contribute in building relevant fintech products. It is also my desire to establish a training institute to help onboard web2 developers into web3, and also help provide startups with talents that can help them scale their ideas.

Thank you so much Henry for your time and for sharing all these with me. How can people connect with you?

You can connect with me on LinkedIn or by email.

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