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From Poland with… code

If you compare the IT market to a kind of league, Polish programmers would be present in the most important of competitions. As in any sport, they’ve been drawing the attention of talent scouts from all over the world for many years. There are plenty of opportunities: there aren’t many prestigious competitions in the world where a Polish team or representative didn’t make the finals. There were even times when they took over the whole podium.

And the winner is…

European qualifications for the Academic World Programming Contest (CERC) are a formality for teams from Poland. It’s similar with a significant phase of the world class tournament final (ICPC). Silver and bronze medals won in recent years certainly are a callback to the great success from Beverly Hills in 2003. Then, to the surprise of the American competitors (and a large part of the media), a team from Warsaw University became the Academic World Champion in ‘The Programming Contest’ (the result was repeated in 2007). It was possibly the beginning of a team success – but certainly a continuation of great performances from the individuals, namely from the International Olympics in IT. In the latter case, between 1997-2007, Polish programmers won gold medals eight times.

You can add this to the victory in the classification of Capture the Flag in 2014 and the regular successes in the Microsoft Imagine Cup competition, Google Code Jam, Facebook Hacker Cup, ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest or the Top Coder of portal, which gathers developers from around the world. Polish programmers have indeed been present for years in the top five in rankings drawn up on the TopCoder.com site. The symbolic crowning of the tournament battle could certainly be the title of Coding World Champions, awarded during the Hello World Open in 2014 in Helsinki. The Poznan team, in the first-ever World Competition, defeated two and a half thousand teams from 90 countries.

The Place To Be

Such a large concentration of extraordinary talent and preferential conditions for investment could not remain unaffected by the decisions of the giants. Companies consisting primarily of very well-educated human capital are systematically building a Polish Silicon Valley. Therefore, it’s not surprising that research and development centres of companies such as Samsung, Intel, Google, Motorola, IBM, Cisco, Nokia Siemens Networks and Fujitsu began to crop up in Poland. Thanks to Google, Warsaw will soon be the place for the world’s fourth development centre (Google Campus) for start-ups.

Code Is Not Enough

Despite the favourable conditions in the country, a large group of developers are still open to developing their careers abroad. California’s headquarters of Google, Facebook and Microsoft, as well as numerous internships and apprenticeships in the US are still very attractive to Polish programmers. This constant demand for the services of experts allows developers to constantly improve their qualifications. Many of them develop mainly to follow one of three paths in the future. The first is a scientific career. They can not only look after the next young talent, but they also face the challenge of international R&D projects. A perfect example of the latter could be eScop (http://www.escop-project.eu/). The second path, perhaps the most classic (but still remarkable), could be working in one of the software houses. There, one can always face new challenges and develop competencies and teamwork skills. The third option – the biggest challenge – is to try and run your own company. Not surprisingly, the majority of start-ups are created by the initiative of people with years of experience in the IT industry. This meant following the American model, where winning the competition is no longer a priority. There is much more value creating a business with multimillion profits. The fate of the first Polish World Champions from the Collegiate Programming Contest in 2003 seems to confirm this. Their companies brought an income they could have only dreamt about while looking at Beverly Hills from the hotel room. Or maybe it’s still not enough? Should we be looking out for a success story as big as Facebook or Uber?

author: Błażej Jelonek

Blazej Jelonek