March 20, 2020

Alum Q&A: Study the Blockchain Grad Nick West

Nick West has long held a fascination for programming and new development tools. His interest in coding started early on— he gained a certification in full-stack web development from an intensive program at Rutgers University, and had already been coding for several years prior to completing it.

Nick became interested in blockchain during the early years of Bitcoin, and was excited by its potential applications outside of currency. As his interest grew, he decided to attend the blockchain-focused bootcamp Study the Blockchain in order to have the dedicated time to learn about and building decentralized applications, and to have a digital classroom environment for discussing and learning about Ethereum development tools.

We sat down with Nick to learn more about his interest in blockchain, his experience at the program, and his advice those interested in mastering this rapidly-growing technology.

You came to Study the Blockchain with experience in web development and native/web app development. Tell me about your previous education and experience

While I have a bachelor's degree in English, I have been coding for the web for around nine years total, I have a certification in full-stack development from an intensive in-person course offered by Rutgers University from years back, but even prior to that I was coding for the web professionally.

For the past four or so years, I've been writing mostly Elixir on Phoenix and JavaScript (NodeJS, React, React Native, VueJS), building web app and mobile apps in academic, NGO, and start-up contexts. I currently work as a systems engineer with a team of developers.

How did you get started in programming? What made you decide to learn more about blockchain?

I did my first pure html/css website in the early 2000s on Angelfire (the old Angelfire) -- it was a site for downloading custom Diablo II items that I had created using a Diablo II mod program. The site had a repeating fire .gif as its background.

I was interested in blockchain during the early days of Bitcoin, and after Ethereum became a reality and projects like Zcash were taking off, I got deeper into blockchain and its potential applications outside of currency, including decentralized applications and asset tokenization.

I got started with Solidity smart contracts (using the Ethereum blockchain) and some blockchain programming before STB (I contributed some code to the Ethereum Solidity compiler and XVG C++ core), but didn't get serious with end-to-end dapp development until taking STB.

How did you decide to attend Study the Blockchain? What were your goals for the program?

I decided to attend Study the Blockchain to have dedicated time to learning about and building decentralized applications, and to have a digital classroom environment for discussing and learning about Ethereum development tools.

Since the ecosystem for building dapps of all sorts is not yet mature, and documentation in the blockchain community is seriously lacking in clarity and consistency (given how much the tech changes month to month), attending Study the Blockchain helped me achieve my goal of becoming a highly skilled blockchain developer.

For you, what were the pros and cons of attending an online bootcamp?

Pros: Being able to attend a course transmitted from San Francisco, USA from Hong Kong.

Cons: Due to the time difference (PST <-> HKT), I had to wake up at dawn on Mondays and early morning on Saturdays.

What was most helpful about the environment and teaching style at Study the Blockchain?

The group work in Study the Blockchain, namely breaking out into groups for exercises during class, was a very effective way to learn. We would team code smart contracts and apps for real-world blockchain situations with instructor guidance, and instructors would provide working code, examples, and tutelage to us after we completed the exercises.

One of the most valuable aspects of participating in Study the Blockchain was how the environment facilitated knowledge exchange between students of different industry backgrounds. The students attending Study the Blockchain come from engineering backgrounds, finance backgrounds, development backgrounds, business backgrounds, and so on, so getting exposed to and mixing these different perspectives on blockchain tech was an incredibly enriching experience.

Where are you working now? What is your day-to-day role like?

I work at the University of Hong Kong as a systems engineer. My days currently are comprised of writing enterprise system modules, designing system architecture, and guiding/training junior developers.

Tell us about your job search process. How did you land a role at TELI?

I had this job prior to beginning Study the Blockchain, and have been working as a software engineer for some years now.

How do you use the skills learned at Study the Blockchain as a software engineer?

I am now able to build decentralized applications, and I have a proof of concept for a blockchain-based start-up that I am currently seeking pre-seed funding for (Credential.ID, PoC demo currently available upon request). Study the Blockchain has also given me a greater ability to explain blockchain to colleagues, and I am now contributing to a blockchain MOOC project.

What are your goals and plans for the next 5 years?

To build useful software that improves our world! ...and to successfully launch a start-up company.

What advice do you have for people who are interested in attending an online bootcamp?

Do it! Make room in your life for it, in both time dedicated to attending classes and time dedicated to studying. Work hard and the code will take you where you need to go!


Nick West is a Systems Engineer who has been building web, native, and enterprise apps for over six years in the US and Hong Kong. Nick has contributed open-source code to the Ethereum Solidity compiler, the XVG C++ core, Strava's API docs, CoreUI, and to the Elixir & ReactJS communities. The revival organizer of Elixir Hong Kong, Nick is a new tech evangelist who enjoys mentoring junior developers and writing coding guides.

Nick on Github: github.com/njwest

Nick on Medium: medium.com/@njwest

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