Silicon Valley Skills Crisis: Poland Emerging As A Top Source of Engineers
Silicon Valley's booming business cycle has driven up competition for engineers. Last week, Ann Winblad, of the Hummer Winblad venture capital firm complained about VMware trying to hire all the engineers in the valley.
Recently, I moderated an interesting panel held at Stanford university at the Hoover Insititution, on the subject of Poland's growing role in the global tech community. Over the past few years Dell, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, IBM, Motorola, Siemens, and others have opened engineering offices in Poland.
GOOG's three development centers
Lydia Mazzie, Google's Head of Central and Eastern European Operations, said:"In our coding competitions we have more Polish winners than any other nationality. That's why we now have three offices in Poland, that's a lot for us, in any country."
Deborah Magid, from IBM said that the US computer giant has a very successful development center in Poland and is expanding its operations. Seweryn Krajewski, a director at Siemens, said his company has had a lot of success with its large development center in Poland.
Poland's highly educated workforce is the draw for the tech giants. Plus it has a very strong math tradition which helped Poland crack the German military's Enigma code machines.
Low staff turnover
Another important draw, is the low staff turnover. George Slawek, president of San Francisco based Market Street Associates, which helps US companies work with Polish engineering teams, says that staff turnover rates are in the 4 to 5 percent range.
In India, staff turnover has reached ridiculous levels. I recently had dinner with Bob Tait, from Silicon and Software Systems (S3), an Irish based tech design firm. He said S3 has abut a hundred engineers in Poland. But some of S3's design partners have engineering operations in India, and he has heard of engineering teams being completely refreshed after six months. With such high turnover rates of 200 percent it must be nearly impossible to finish any project on time.
Common cultural ties
Polish engineers are also very familiar with Western culture. Common cultural understanding is very important for any company. Poland is now part of the European Union, which gives US firms great access to huge markets, and rapidly developing markets in Poland and in Eastern Europe.
Quality not price
Mr Slawek pointed out that Polish engineers are not chosen because they are cheaper, companies choose them because of the quality of their work. And Polish teams are very good at thinking on their feet, as is shown by their numerous accomplishments in programming competitions, which are won by quickly finding solutions to complex problems.
Poland is graduating about 40,000 people per year in Information and Communications Technologies, about the same as Russia, said Steve Mezak, CEO of Accelerance, which helps US companies with Polish outsourcing projects.
Poland is in the top ten most attractive countries for foreign investment in the world according to the recent Ernst&Young “European Attractiveness Survey 2007”.
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[On my recent visit to the Hoover Institution I amused myself with a fantasy motto for this venerable think-tank: "Nature abhors a vacuum." And if the institution were founded by the Hover vacuum cleaner compay, instead of US president Herbert Hoover, the motto might be "Nature abhors a Dyson.":-)]
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