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Challenges of Web3 Education, Solidity Engineers Training and First Free Guide on ZK Tech: Interview With RareSkills Founder Jeffrey Scholz

Mon, 6/05/2024 - 9:40
Challenges of Web3 Education, Solidity Engineers Training and First Free Guide on ZK Tech: Interview With RareSkills Founder Jeffrey Scholz
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Today we have a privilege to speak to Mr. Jeffrey Scholz, founder of one-of-a-kind Web3 engineers education platform RareSkills (the name speaks for itself!). Mr. Scholz is here to cover the most important trends in Web3 education and bust the most dangerous myth around this thriving segment.


U.Today: Please briefly introduce yourself, covering your career tracks and your product basics.

Jeffrey Scholz: Hi! I’m Jeffrey Scholz, the founder of RareSkills. RareSkills is the leading continuing education platform for Web3 engineers. We teach existing Solidity smart contract engineers advanced concepts in smart contract development.

Additionally, we are the only bootcamp that teaches how cutting edge zero knowledge proofs work — both in a paid bootcamp and with free materials in our ZK Book.

U.Today: What are the three main bottlenecks of Web3 education right now?

Jeffrey Scholz: The first problem actually is the correlation between audience size versus audience quality.

Education platforms have an incentive to publish and market entry-level content to have as wide an appeal as possible. That way, investors and stakeholders can see "readership goes up." However, the space does not need more entry-level materials competing for the wide swath of beginner attention. "How to break into Web3" is more of a marketing ploy to gain an audience or a scheme to make money off of newcomers. What the space really needs is education that targets difficult and consequential topics.

The space needs education that deeply explores topics such as how and why the major DeFi protocols are designed as they are — down to the last bit of math. The space needs education that thoroughly examines seemingly minor subroutines in Web3 smart contracts that engineers aren't searching for on Google — but are actually consequential. The space needs education that covers topics which aren't "hype" but cover knowledge gaps even experienced smart contract engineers have.

The trouble is that most education platforms do not want to create education products for engineers later in their journey because 1) the cost to create advanced material goes up dramatically; and 2) the audience is orders of magnitude smaller. However, it is this small audience that disproportionately drives innovation in the space and can build and secure more complex and novel protocols that unlock new possibilities.

The smartest and most impactful engineers do not need education materials in a traditional sense — they are hackers who can figure out complex systems on their own. What they need is a resource that helps them get up to speed on unfamiliar topics more efficiently so that their time can be leveraged more.

The second problem is that truly expert-level content is expensive to create.

Educators like to throw the word "expert" around to describe their courses, but allow me to illustrate what generating truly expert-level content looks like.

Obtaining expert-level knowledge is largely an investment of time. You spend a lot of time studying and practicing well, and eventually, you become an expert. We literally pay some talented engineers a full-time salary for several months to do nothing but explore a certain topic, run experiments, learn all the non-obvious facts nobody has documented yet, and summarize the cutting-edge. No doubt there are already people out there who know this information intuitively, but organizing and categorizing it takes a lot of work.

An industry-leading engineer might be able to gain mastery over the topic in one month, whereas someone who is reasonably competent might take three months. However, that industry-leading engineer has so many demands on their time that setting aside one month isn't feasible. So if we spend three months researching on their behalf to condense a topic down to a few days of study, then we end up unlocking significant value for that engineer and everyone their work touches. Yes, it's a very expensive way to produce content, but hard subjects take time — I don't see any possibility for major efficiency gains.

For most companies, spending thousands of dollars to produce a single blog post makes no sense financially — but this is what the space needs to leverage talent where it really matters.

We've been fortunate that the brand equity we've built up through our content investment has helped us close very large sales that help the content mostly pay for itself — but it is nonetheless an expensive and risky investment. I can understand why most companies – education or otherwise – don't take the risk.

Last but not the least, education is generally not a good business model on its own, which leads to bad incentives.

If you write and sell a reasonably successful programming book, or you make a reasonably successful course on Udemy, you'll be lucky to make a few thousand dollars a month in royalties. And as time goes by, the content will become older and less desirable. I know from first-hand experience that selling content is not a scalable business. Even Udemy as a company has been unprofitable despite their course creation cost being zero since it is all done by third parties.

Two suboptimal outcomes happen as a result of this:

1) Course creators oversell their courses with absurd promises or implications: "Buy my expensive course, get a high-paying job!"

2) Course creators have a different agenda: promote a profitable product using education as a funnel.

I'm not saying "education as a funnel" cannot create good content. However, their incentives are fundamentally misaligned — their goal is eyeballs, not content depth.

U.Today: Who is the best candidate to join Web3 development training — and who is the worst?

Jeffrey Scholz: Someone who is motivated and disciplined is the best candidate. Learning a new field is not a short journey. Just being able to stick to something for a year straight and longer, even when learning gets difficult and frustrating, already puts you in a minority of learners. Of course it will help if you have a natural knack for the subject, but to become successful — and stay successful — you have to have a lifestyle of learning.

U.Today: Are your services tailored to newcomers? If not, which basic level of expertise will be sufficient for an applicant?

Jeffrey Scholz: We’re able to train anyone who knows how to program, but the majority of our students have at least six months of Solidity experience, whether working at a company or on personal projects.

We’ve trained protocol leads and research heads at top companies in advanced topics like zero knowledge proofs. We really aim to serve senior+ engineers.

We also do recruitment services through

U.Today: Is coding training in Web3 somehow different from Web2 education tracks?

Jeffrey Scholz: Kind of. I think it’s similar to a backend engineer transitioning to become an IOT engineer. A lot of fundamentals carry over, and if you’re lucky, you can use programming languages you are already familiar with.

However, there is a lot of framework-related and domain-specific knowledge to acquire.

I have noticed that successful Web2 cybersecurity practitioners tend to do well as Web3 cybersecurity practitioners. The “attacker’s mindset” that Web2 hackers develop carries over very naturally to Web3.

U.Today: All in all, your services are for entrepreneurs interested in boosting the expertise of their employees — or are they directly for learners themselves?

Jeffrey Scholz: Our services are for any engineer who wants to learn or any company who wants to train their employees. We’ve done B2B engineering training for very large companies like Lido. We’ve trained very early stage technical entrepreneurs just beginning to build their product. We’ve trained professional Solidity developers paying on their own dime. And we’ve trained Web2 engineers who only want to work on Web3 projects for fun.

Something we should stress is that our content is completely free with no login. Paying gives you access to the community and time with instructors — there aren’t any “secret super tutorials” we have for insiders.

U.Today: How do you think this bull run will bring a new generation of developers to Web3?

Jeffrey Scholz: Bull markets generally attract new developers when the prices are rising fast — but most of the developers leave just as quickly when the job market inevitably cools off.

Bull markets are a bad thing for technology in that they encourage short-term oriented entrepreneurs to make a quick buck, and this misallocates capital from projects that make blockchain a more viable technology in the long term.

Bear markets are better for engineers because there is less pressure to ship something for the sake of raising for the next round while the market is still hot. During bull markets, capital is generally misallocated toward un-innovative projects like meme coins or clones of existing projects that try to succeed with promises of airdrops or aggressive marketing campaigns.

The only good thing about bull markets is that there is extra capital flying around, and hopefully worthwhile projects get more funding on average.

U.Today: At the very beginning of someone's Web3 journey, what do you recommend to start with?

Jeffrey Scholz: Check out our resource and then follow the next steps it provides.

When starting out, just make it your goal to learn something new every day for six months. Then you can decide which specialization in Web3 interests you.

U.Today: What is the main difference between your service and competitors'; what would you describe as its "killing feature?"

Jeffrey Scholz: Where to start?

We are the only paid bootcamp with an open curriculum. For example, our Zero Knowledge Bootcamp has the accompanying ZK Book, which anyone can read without a login or paying.

Our instructors aren’t your run-of-the-mill Solidity professionals. They’ve found extremely complex bugs in the most significant protocols (including Uniswap) and have secured billions of dollars in the Ethereum ecosystem.

U.Today: To sum up, what is your advice as a seasoned professional for newcomers in Web3?

Jeffrey Scholz: If you are a developer and want to work in Web3, but don’t care about working on smart contracts or blockchain technology directly, start applying today. Web3 has a strong demand for traditional backend and frontend roles.

If you are thinking of becoming a Solidity developer because of higher pay — beware — you are probably fighting a losing game. A lot of engineers are competing for limited roles. If money is your motivation, someone who has stronger intrinsic motivation, i.e., someone who is genuinely passionate about the subject, will learn faster than you will and be a more competitive candidate.

It’s only during a strong bull market that you can get a job in the field quickly. I’ve seen several engineers hired during a bull market, laid off during the bear market and struggling to find jobs until the market picks up again.

If you are totally new to smart contract development, you are at a disadvantage competing against engineers who gain experience in the previous bull market. So only embark on the journey because you love blockchain as a technology. That’s the only way you can succeed in the long term.

U.Today: That was a great interview, Mr. Scholz! Thank you for coming!


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