A Plethora of Programmers

“Well, you told me I have a plethora. And I just would like to know if you know what a plethora is. I would not like to think that a person would tell someone he has a plethora, and then find out that that person has no idea what it means to have a plethora.”

Thank you, El Guapo, for setting me up on my mission for 2012.

But I’m talking about programmers, not piñatas.  And right now, there is NOT a plethora of programmers, in fact it’s just the opposite – there is a ‘dearth of developers’.

I’ve talked about this in the past but now it’s all very clear.  WE have an awesome opportunity to create an educated, no, a  trained workforce that  can address the technical challenges faced by Detroit, Michigan, the USA and the world.

On Monday, December 19th, the MEDC hosted their information night for their Ann-Arbor “Shifting Code” initiative.  I was concerned about the classes selected and became very concerned when over seven-hundred people signed up for the information night.  My concerns escalated when I saw for myself the demand for the few slots available BUT I was won over when I saw the passion that everyone brought to the event.  The passion to “teach” and the passion”to be taught”.  The numbers only underline the opportunity and if we don’t figure out how to train thousands of folks to join the technical communities in Michigan, then SHAME ON US!

OK, off my soapbox. 

I’ve absorbed so much during the last month and it’s all very clear to me.  I thought I was ‘so smrt’ but I discovered that everyone saw the same thing.  We urgently need technical people in Michigan and we need them quick!  Government, business and education leaders have all stepped up.  There is a ton of FREE material available for those who are motivated to educate themselves but what also is needed is trainers, mentors and communities to teach, guide and encourage our fellow Michiganders on their journey.  In the early weeks of January, there are already meetings on my calendar to address these very issues.

There will not be one, easy answer, but there will be a lot of brainpower figuring this out in a collaborative, non-competitive, selfless-serving way.  I can clearly remember a conversation I had with my colleague Linglong He from Quicken: “Let’s not compete for technical talent; if we solve the shortage, we’ll all win”.   OK, the conversation probably wasn’t exactly like that, but that spirit of cooperation now exists with organizations such as the US and Michigan governments, Compuware, Quicken Loans, Detroit Labs, GalaxE Solutions, BizdomU, MEDC, PureMichigan, AnnArbor Spark, MTAM, WCC, W3C,  OCC, WSU, UM,  Compuware Ventures, Detroit Ventures, and the list goes on and on.  If we can figure out how to do this under one umbrella, that would be fine, but the reality is that we all are running fast at different cadences.  If the end result is a skilled workforce, WHO CARES?  Right?  Jobs, in Michigan, in Detroit, in Copper-Harbor and AuGres, everywhere.


My formula above proves that you don’t need math skills to be successful in technology skills.  Hear that, educators!?!  Stop discouraging young people with your “math-demands”.

APTITUDE & ATTITUDE.  I know that somewhere in Detroit there is a youngster who has the intelligence, passion and desire to be a programmer, but not the means.  It BREAKS MY HEART if we don’t find this person.  I know this for a fact because in 1976 I WAS THAT young person.  I got lucky, I backed into my career and don’t take anything for granted.

At the information meeting, I invited everyone to send me an e-mail and tell me their “story”.  Understanding this will help us to make sure that we’re serving everyone who wants to learn.  As Bill Wagner of SRT Solutions said “it’s a great job and a rewarding career”.  Or something like that, I really need to write these things down!

A “Plethora of Programmers”?  A very Happy New Year!!!  


“Well, we really don’t have a plan B. We didn’t expect for the first plan to work. Sometimes you can overplan these things.”

If you don’t recognize my quotes, SHAME ON YOU!

 About Paul Czarnik

Paul the former CTO of Compuware, a venture-technologist and programmer. His hands-on experience and technical diligence model help with M&A activities and incubator/startups. Contact him at @PaulCzrnk to chat about IT Transformation (even though he hates that word), agile delivery, lean startup methodologies or music.

Paul serves on the boards of, iRule, the Motown Museum and the Admission/Retention Committee for Wayne State University.