Meet the Director of Blockchain, FinTech and Innovation at PwC | WebTalksNI
18th Aug 2018
Our Web Development consultant, Gareth Stirling, caught up with Seamus Cushley at Digital DNA. Seamus is the Director of Blockchain, Innovation and FinTech at PwC in Belfast. Seamus discusses 'What is Blockchain?' and 'How Blockchain can benefit everyday life' in the latest episode in the WebTalksNI podcast.
Gareth- “Thanks for joining us Seamus, so your primary focus is to help client understand the shape of how blockchain can be applied to solve real-world problems. I wrote a short blog there last month trying to describe blockchain to a laymen. Could you help with that?”
Seamus – “Absolutely, so part of my job in PWC is to absolutely understand the application of blockchain. So, the issue with blockchain more broadly, is that we talk about ‘the how’ and ‘the what?’. How it works, people only care about how it works and why is it important.
The important why of blockchain is that for the first time we would signal is to allow the establishment of trust between two people, two machines or two corporates. Based on that trust they exchange values.
Let me bring that to life for you.
So, let’s say you bought a property. You have to trust a bank to exchange funds and a solicitor to exchange contracts. With the technology of blockchain you don’t need those 3rd parties to trust, you could exchange a contract with me and funds with me directly. That is the invention of why blockchain is an important conversation. Put that into context of all the transactions you are involved in either personally or professionally, you trust a third party with some element of identification. That is the arena we want to discuss.”
Gareth- “How does mining come into it? How do you mine, is it cryptocurrency?”
Seamus- “Mining really came from bitcoin, bitcoin was the first implementation of a bitcoin technology back in 2009. It is the most famous or infamous but it’s important to realise that bitcoin has two components; there is the currency piece that people are interested in buying and investing in and there is a technology component attached to that.
Bitcoin technology is all about consent. Mining is the computation that each of the network computers do to establish a fact and it has been referred to as mining because the amount of electricity involved to actually getting to that answer. So really simplistically think about it like this, if I were to solve a crossword that would involve me investing an amount of time and energy to solving that crossword but if I then share that with you, you can validate that and agree that is a fact quite simply.
It is that consent, the consensus quite simply is why mining exists in bitcoin.
Gareth – “When I was doing the research for the blog, it went into detail about other real-life applications that blockchain could be applied to. Could you go into a little more detail on that?”
Seamus – “Absolutely, Blockchain came from that payment bitcoin background. It was involved in the financial services market, were you exchange value or money. Very quickly it became more interested in the broad use of exchange of assets either physical or digital, identity itself and the supply chain or smart contract conversation.
To give you a non-financial services example, think of media, were you originate digital media where you produce a song or a movie.
How can you then broadcast that movie globally to the point of how has touched it to more importantly who has consumed it? So the application at the moment is around digital consumption of media. The birth of the media and providence of it’s consumption.
Another example is the utilities in mining. Think about how you track and trace what comes out of the ground, anywhere were you need the providence of something. Tracing its ownership and membership as the transfer of exchange in blockchain is really important.
The one that people only use in a physical basis is diamonds. It is the most interesting application physically because a diamond itself has physical properties and they are all unique. They have an established registration process from the mine to the ring on your finger.
So, if you take that manual process and that registration process and apply blockchain it gives you full transparency from the mine to the ring on your finger. Therefore, you have non-manipulation of the providence of the diamond and that is why blockchain is important.”
Gareth – “Obviously, we come from a recruitment background. What advise would you have for i.t. professionals or even graduates who want to move into blockchain related technology?”
Seamus – “There are two parts about this topic which we should talk about separately, the one were blockchain will impact the recruitment industry more broadly which we will get to in a second. From getting a job in blockchain world, there are many different types of career in technology more broadly. The first premise is whether you’re an engineer or product person, whether you work in the business on the commercial side, a lot of those skill sets are required in the blockchain industry.
To first understand the problems, we are trying to solve for those clients or businesses. Translate that into something we can actually build in software. So that’s where the engineers, developers and devops comes to play. You need to be a strong engineer, it’s like anything else, you can learn this technology. The technology is maturing at a rate which you don’t have to be a specialist per se.
The utilities of ethereum, multichain, hyperledger , any of the utilise technologies are now maturing at a rate where any other engineers can have play.
I think for the broader recruitment industry, one of the really interesting applications I’ve seen is around the claim that I have a qualification. It’s a huge challenge at large. I might come up to you and say ‘I have a degree in computer science’ and you may go ‘that’s quite interesting, I’ll need to validate that with Queen’s or Jordanstown, Ulster University’. Think of it as you as an individual has a passport with your qualifications and assets on that passport. When I come up to you as a recruiter and say “I have a certificate” or “I have a qualification”, you can take that as a fact.
If you look at that part of the industry with onboarding new staff, retention of staff, learning and development around staff, there is an interesting application for the technology in that space.”
Gareth – “Really interesting, that’s great! Good luck with your talk tomorrow.”
Are you interested in being a part of the WebTalksNI podcast? A podcast dedicated to web specialists in Northern Ireland. Or you may be seeking new career opportunities across Northern Ireland, please get in touch with Gareth on firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 028 9091 8529.