What Have You Lerned, lately?

  • “I don’t want to learn anything new, I just want to get through the next couple years and then retire” – actual quote from a CIO at a London conference I hosted.
  • “I know COBOL, I just want to work on those projects” – actual quote from a Professional Services employee at a large technology company.
  • “I went to school, I’m done learning new things” – A recruit during an interview
    “I am so SMRT” – Homer Simpson

I’ve done many, many discussions and interviews with technical people over the years and it never ceases to amaze me when I find someone who refuses to keep up to date on the latest technologies.  To me it’s part of the job-description – stay on top of the latest technology, trends, processes and anything that helps to be a better technologist.

Continuous learning may be mandatory for any technical person, but also business people better serve their companies and careers when they look to technology to be more valuable to their employer.   A finance person who educates themselves on analytics tools such as ‘R’, Tableau or even MapReduce can provide tremendous value, and knowing these technologies will help their career advancement.  It’s everyone’s job to be technically literate and to contribute.

The best thing about staying technically relevant is that it’s very low cost or free!  Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and others provide free online tutorials and even cloud resources to learn valuable skills on their platforms.  Open Source software is free and there are communities who ‘meet up’ to discuss best practices.  And, as always, you can reach out to many, many people willing online to give you advice and help.

I’m talking to students this evening at Oakland University and my message to them is:


Ignite Automotive 2015

On February 9th, a bunch of us got together with seven-hundred Slide01and fifty new friends at the Royal Oak Music Theatre to talk about careers in the Automotive economy.  The 3rd “Ignite Automotive” was a complete success with many amazing talks given.  If you have never been to an ‘ignite’ event, make sure you attend one in the future.  It’s about giving a five-minute talk – twenty slides – timed at fifteen seconds a slide.  Yes, timed.  It’s harrowing for the speaker, because if you miss a cue, or slow down, or have a brain-fart, you’re basically screwed.  My talk was “Chasing the Connected Vehicle” and I only had a couple brain farts.

There were many students in the audience and our goal was to inspire them to seek employment in the automotive industry.  Advances in technology and design has really opened up opportunities for young people to participate and lead the way in building the next-generation connected vehicle.  I focused on technology because there is a dramatic shortage of technology talent, and these young people have the aptitude, skills and attitude that we need to keep in Michigan.

Slide02I tried to focus on the fact that a lot of auto companies are chasing ‘connected vehicle’ products, but no one really understands what drivers really want because there are so many demographic differences between drivers and their connected vehicle needs.  Because of this, products have been rolled out unevenly and even dangerously. Slide15

This has caused delay in product rollout  while the technology continues to advance.

This gap needs to be filled by young people who have lived with connectivity for most of their lives, and better understand the needs for connected products in the future.  The job opportunities are enormous and these are great jobs!Slide18All in all, I got to talk to a lot of young people and thought leaders in the industry.  I kinda felt like a poseur because I’m not a ‘car guy’ and never will be.  However, the industry needs tech-folks as well as design-folks to help automotive engineers design the next generation of connected vehicle.

Cheers! Paul Cz


When in doubt, fight FUD with code!

No FUDSome close friends of mine have just lost their jobs, no fault of their own.  We’ve all known for quite some time that it was only a matter of time, but the event is still jarring when it happens.  When asked my advice, I always tell people to be as prepared as they can be.

Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt can cripple you, emotionally and professionally.  When confronted with FUD, I prefer to bring in my own version of FUD.  Focus, Urgency and Discipline can help you be prepared.

Prepared for what?  Prepared for anything.  Job loss, job opportunity, entrepreneurship, the unemployment line, the lost deal, the found deal.

How?  In the technology field, the best way to stay relevant is to keep educating yourself in the latest technologies.  The good news is that all this requires is your time.  Open source communities, online education, networking are all free and accessible these days.

Whenever I have uncertainty about what I’m doing, I resort to coding.  It can be coding for fun, it can be coding a new project, it can be coding for coding sakes.  No matter what area I focus, I find that coding is therapeutic, with the upside of learning something new.

einstein-code-e1311602390902These days I am exploring the wonderful new things announced at the re:Invent AWS conference.  I won’t get into the details but, needless to say, I am busily refactoring a project that I did during the summer.  In addition, I’m going to stand up that project in the IBM Cloud, Azure and Google Cloud.  That’s enough to keep me busy through the holidays.

So, read, blog, communicate, collaborate and, most importantly, code.  Even if the code never gets used, you’ll be better for the experience.


Ten Reasons why Programmers are NOT Rock-Stars

Rock StarI heard it AGAIN last week.  “Programmers are ROCK STARS!’

Ive been playing rock as a musician since I was fourteen and have been programming computers pretty much the same amount of time.  So, with about forty-mmmph years of experience, let me explain why programmers are NOT rock-stars:

  1. Programmer RockstarRock-Stars are rock-stars.  While computer-programming and music share common aptitude, being a rock-star is completely at odds with being a Programmer.   Rock-Stars are (supposed to be) rebellious, anti-social beings but if you act this way as a Programmer, you’re just being a jerk.
  2. Rock-Stars have Groupies.  In all my years as a Programmer I’ve never been approached by a groupie.  Not even close.
  3. Rock-Stars have fans.      Programmers have customers.  It may really just be a slight difference, but NEVER mistake your customer as a fan.
  4. FansRock-Stars have roadies.  I would love to have someone carry my laptop around for me, but it just isn’t going to happen.
  5. Rock-Stars wear funky clothers and jewelry.  Many Programmers try to do this but it really doesn’t work.
  6. RockRock-Stars have to show up at the gig.  Programmers can pretty much pick their work hours and environment.
  7. Rock-Stars die much younger than Programmers.  It’s a fact.
  8. Rock-Stars have to play the same music, over and over and over again.  Programmers have much more diversity in their setlist.
  9. Rock-Stars get encores.  Programmers get change-controls.
  10. Programmers ultimately, based on career longevity, make a LOT more money than rock-stars.

So there.



Seeding Cloud Apps

CloudSeedingCloud Seeding is the methodology of dispersing chemicals in order to alter weather patterns.  Effectiveness of this practice remains controversial even these days, with one of the latest controversies being the 2008 Olympics in Beijing where rockets were used to seed clouds in order to prevent rain during the opening and closing ceremonies.   Nobody seems to know if this worked or not.

So, what does this have to do with cloud-computing?  Sometimes you have all the ingredients you need to change your computing paradigm but you’re reluctant to do so because:

  • It’s perceivably too hard
  • You don’t have the aptitude or talent
  • It goes against status-quo
  • You’re afraid to invest time and money

I’ve noticed a backlash against cloud-computing recently.  Surveys in the press seem to indicate that CIO’s are not planning to do much in 2014 with their cloud-computing strategy, that is if they have a strategy at all.  They cite security issues or lack of ROI as the reason.  I understand, these issues are real and need to be confronted.  Security is a red-herring – securing cloud applications is (mostly) the same as securing your in-house applications.  ROI is another issue.  Although computing costs are getting cheaper, software vendors are playing games with licensing, not willing to give up perpetual-license revenues.  So they play games with setting “minimum licenses”, either steering you to perpetual licenses or locking you in to a long-term contract.  In either case, it’s short-sighted on their part and will backfire.   I’ll be happy to see them fail and go out of business.


This is what should be keeping you up at night.  If you don’t have Focus, Urgency and Discipline (FUD), you’re done for.  At some point your competition will wake up and invest in these platform, gain the competitive advantage, and by the time you start to think about moving to cloud-computing it will be too late.  At least too late for you, because you didn’t act.


Take inventory of all your old systems.  The only thing left inside your cloud-seedingdata-center should be security-critical applications that you aren’t ready to move.  Retire old systems and move to cloud-solution vendors that truly offer a SaaS solution and subscription license model.  Be strategic, work on ROI that’s in front of you and that’s achievable in an agile project.  If you have a differentiated application that provides competitive advantage, consider opening up the application to cloud-based web-services.

Most of all, avoid the negativity from analysts and the press who say that there is no urgency to move to these platforms.  I’m happy to talk to anyone balking at the opportunity of building cloud-based apps and how to move forward.



The Enchanted CIO


Once upon a time there lived a prince who received no respect from the king or his subjects.  Everyday he awoke and worked very hard at his princely duties, which was to ensure that the subjects of the kingdom were satisfied with the king and were able to do their jobs.   Of course, they were subjects, so they were all very unhappy and expressed their dissatisfaction from the prince who, after all, had no real power to make change and therefore relegated to the role of appeasing the subjects.   But he did his best, every day. “You have to be enchanting”, he said.  And that’s not necessarily a skill included in most prince’s job-description these days.


Enchanting?  CIOs?  I just threw up in my mouth a little bit… This bit of storytelling was inspired after reading this article by Nicole Laskowski who was summarizing points made at Gartner Symposium. The majority of content came from Gartner analyst Dave Cappuccio but also includes a quote from Damon Mayes, a director of educational and information technologies at NorQuest College in Alberta, Canada where he said; ”You have to be enchanting” when speaking to the business in attempting to show value from IT.OK, let me comment on the bulk of the article, David’s Top 10 IT Strategies for 2014.  *Note – I was not at the event, so I am entirely depending on Nicole’s article for comment.

1. SDN and 2.SDS- Software-Defined Networks and Software-Defined Storage.  Great concepts – using a software abstraction layer to manage my networks and storage across many vendors.  It would solve hardware vendor lock-in but, then again, am I now locked into the software provider?  And it’s all really part of SDDC, the Software-Defined Data Center.  In any event, all those things will go into my 2014 plan, because it reads well.  As for budgeting and project-planning?  I think that it will probably push out a year, but worth keeping an eye on what’s happening in the industry and doing some hands-on research.3. Hybrid Cloud Services – My approach to hybrid clouds is to build in a public cloud first, test scalability and security, and pull back functions and services that I need back into my private cloud.  Hybrid magic cloud, voila!

4. Integrated Systems – Nothing new to see here, folks.  Move along!

5. Applications acceleration – I’m all for this concept, I take it to the extent of Lean Development, just make sure you’re not building a MVPOS!  (you know what I mean).

6. Internet of Things – Yea, yea, I agree but only us smrt people know how to build the back-end to support this.  If you haven’t already figured out how to do this, I suggest you spend the rest of 2013 learning about it so that you can budget and build this into your 2014 plan.

7. Open Compute Project – A couple months ago I set out to build a Hadoop Cluster on Raspberry Pi, but then discovered that somebody already did it!   I thought that it was cool enough to do anyways, but the jerk installed it in an Ikea drawer.  This type of enchanted brilliance just couldn’t be matched, so I shelved it.

8. Intelligent Data Centers – Sounds like a lot of coding effort to me, who’s got the time?  We’re all still trying to transform our legacy apps.

9. IT demand – Take away the BYODs and bring back green-screens.  That’ll shut them up and reduce capacity. 10. Disruptive Workforce – Now you’re talking.  Don’t hire anyone younger than 60 and move your development efforts to senior care centers.  Being one myself, I see nothing better than laying down some wicked code before I hit the shuffleboard court.


Back to the eCIO…Webster defines Enchanted as “being or appearing to be under a magic spell”.  Based on that definition, I contend that every CIO I’ve ever met is enchanted.  We walk around all day appearing  to be under the influence of a magic spell, so I’ll accept that excuse.

No, not these shoes. (Attribution: Glamhag)

OK, I gotta wrap this up.  What do I think is the most important technology that CIOs should be incorporating into their 2014 IT strategy?  Shoes.  Walking around, talking to your internal customers, your stakeholders and your executives is more important than anything else you can bring in.  Shoes are great technologies and have the best ROI.  Learn how to use them.  They are also multi-purpose, since you can use them to kick someone in the can if they’re not doing the right thing.

And if you can find some Enchanted Shoes, so much the better!


Nicole, Dave or Damon – If you’re ever in Detroit, I owe you lunch.

The Programmer’s ‘Code’



Reading about programmers in government,
in businesses and start-ups and, being a
programmer myself, I’ve been thinking lately
about the power that programmers have, yet
there are no ethics written down. Medical
professionals have the Hippocratic Oath to
guide them to practice medicine honestly.
Other professions have oaths as well,
perhaps they’re just good intentions. I’m
really not sure how serious people take oaths and vows anymore, but that’s a blog for another day.
I think that when programmers consider their career, they should adopt their own code-of conduct.So, here’s mine:

  1. Stick to moral Principles. I don’t care what they are, but be true to yourself. Think about what guides your life, be it spiritual or not. Don’t trade money or security for your principals, it’s not worth it. I once designed some code that turned out to be ‘not quite ethical’ (the system has not been in production in decades). I was working on well-defined specs and didn’t realize the implication. I ended up ‘technically redeeming myself’ by creating a reversed-engineered version of the code that looked for ‘non-ethical’ transactions for a company that had to handle the processing of the original system.
  2. Purpose. By programming with a purpose, I mean choose projects that are meaningful to you. Do you really want to be programming on a non-value app, or do you want to work on great projects? It’s up to you. I prefer to work on projects that truly do something valuable. 
  3. Problem-solving . This goes along with #2, except it’s specific to working on code that tackles a problem and simplifies a complex process. This also goes with job satisfaction, since doing thought-experiments , working on puzzles, and coding all day is fun!
  4. Intellectual Property. Do you own the code you wrote? If not, is it legally licenced and properly attributed? Be honest.
  5. Avoid Patents. OK, this is personal. I understand patents for defensive purposes, especially in a large company, but if I was a start-up, I’d avoid them like the plague; move fast and let the trolls chase me. If your company requires you to submit patents, think about the value of the time it takes to do so, and whether or not having your name on a patent really has some stature. I’m happy to say that I’ve avoided having my name listed on any patents, yet I have coded some really cool stuff. Think I’m violating your patent? I’ve invested my expertise in understand decades of ‘prior art’, so bring it! Be Proficient. Know your craft, try to constantly get better. You will never know everything, but learn something every day. Focus on quality code.
  6. Be Prolific. Get into a cadence that allows you to produce a lot. Think about good literary writers. They are very disciplined and use their routine to produce. Find quiet time, whether it’s early in the morning (like me) or late at night (like everybody else) to grind out deliverables.
  7. Patience. Let the solutions come to you. We’ve all had that experience of solving our coding problem while showering or driving. There’s enough work to put something aside and let your brain solve it at it’s own pace. This is the essence of good problem-solving.
  8. Performance. Maybe this should be #1. Always think about performance when coding. In my early days I was forced to write performant code because hardware resources were scarce and I had to deal with a lot in the ISO Stack. Things are much easier at the hardware level but there are a lot more opportunities to write bad, non-performing code these days. Educate yourself on good coding, use instrumentation and every tool available and, most importantly, give yourself the time to write code that performs! Want to discipline yourself on performant code? Write an Android app!
  9. People. Computers are our friends, people are jerks. No, be nice, as your mother taught you. Have respect for your peers, empathy for your customers, mentor younger professional, be empowered, but realize that designers, testers, project-managers all have their roles to play in technology success. I know it’s hard, but be especially nice to your Salesfolks. I love sales professionals; they’re fun and they give you a direct line into understand the value you provide to customers.
  10. Professional. I hate to break this to you, but YOU ARE NOT A ROCK-STAR!  Rock stars are rock stars and I know a few, programmers are nicer, have longer careers and (eventually) have more money and fun!
  11.    Meritocracy. This is actually my favorite. I love development environments where the best idea wins and we all rally around it. That’s real teamwork, not “let’s try every idea” or “your idea stinks and I hate you”. Learn how to objectively analye proposed ideas and how to negotiate. Because if another person’s idea doesn’t work, you’ll quickly figure it out during your next sprint and pivot to something better, maybe your idea!
Peace! P-CzAbout Paul Czarnik
Paul is the CTO of Compuware where he provides technology strategy and investment leadership. A venture-technologist and programmer at heart, 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.

The Singularity is Nearer, but Not for the Reason You Think



If you don’t know, the Singularity is Near is a fun book, written by Ray KurzweilQuoting Wikipedia, “Kurzweil describes his law of accelerating returns which predicts an exponential increase in technologies like computersgeneticsnanotechnologyrobotics and artificial intelligence. He says this will lead to a technological singularity in the year 2045, a point where progress is so rapid it outstrips humans’ ability to comprehend it.”Kurzweil is simply relying on the continuance of Moore’s Law which, simply put, is that computing power doubles approximately every two years.   So, what could accelerate The Singularity?  Technology would have to advance at a 2x increase, which I contend would be possible with quantum or DNA computing, but there’s a simpler explanation.CALL IT “MORON’S LAW”I contend that The Singularity will occur two decades sooner, or in 2025 because, (wait for it)…Humans are Getting Stupider, uh, Less IntelligentAs reported in the Huffington Post (where I get all my sciencey knowledge), IQ is on the decline, an average of 14 IQ points since the Victorian Era.  What’s causing this?  There is a lot of debate on environmental factors, nutrition, nurture, and the education system.  But, IMHO, the dumbing down of our intelligence is due to… computers!    That’s right smarty-pants Kurzweil, despite the fact he created the worlds-best synthesizers, he forgot to calculate that as computing power increased, so did the human reliance on that computing power.  As intelligence decreases, so does the    acceleration of the date when technology exceeds human’s ability to comprehend it.


What Does it Mean?In 2011, when Ken Jennings lost Jeopardy to IBM’s Watson, he wrote underneath his Final Jeopardy answer “I for one welcome our new computer overlords.”  Social media companies and the government already have computers tracking your every move, both online, in the public square and even in your home*.  If you want a preview of the future, watch THIS.What Can We Do?Even though The Singularity is upon us, computers are not ready to take over.  What we need to do is accelerate even more the date of The Singularity.  Since innovating and advancing computer power seems beyond our capabilities, we certainly can accelerate the decline of our collective IQ rate, very simply.  Get on the couch and watch television, download more moronic apps onto your phone, text your friends about everything you’re doing.  My hypothesis is that we’ll become so useless that The Singularity will become irrelevant and when it happens, no one will even notice.So smrt, right? PCz*Hint – beware the cat About Paul Czarnik Paul is the CTO of Compuware where he provides technology strategy and investment leadership. A venture-technologist and programmer at heart, 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.

Opportunity, Risk, and the Technology Gap



You know them well – ready-to-go-technologies to leverage and disrupt.

Let’s just call them big-data, cloud, web-services and mobile-OS, although each term has been hijacked, scrubbed and polished to sell you something much less than the technologies really have to offer.  You have to be savvy enough to see far beyond the hype.


…The technologies themselves don’t really matter, because there will always be something new.  Who cares?  Just pick up the next innovation as it comes.  It’s about continuous disruptive evolution.  Give me a problem to solve and I’ll solve it fast, today.  I have a full technology toolbox and I’m looking for business problems to solve, and if your business model is fat, dumb and happy, I’m going to disrupt you and take away your customers.  Go ahead, start a project; I’m leaner, I have smarter developers and I want to put you out of business.

Welcome to the New Normal.


Opportunity and risk are the result of the technology gap and closing that gap should be your number-one priority.

–  Risk is doing nothing.
– Opportunity is exploiting everything
You think you know your competition?  Think about this: your competition is two students coding fast and furious on laptops out of their dorm room.   They’re just looking for that lucrative business model that everyone may think has already been solved, but they’ve figured out a way to do it better, faster, cheaper.  And that business model may be YOURS.

What to do? Act. Now. You can and should close as much of the gap as possible by leveraging service-based solutions that don’t provide any differentiated value.  This is commodity work; let someone else do it.  Delegate it, give it to someone who is really good at executing a project plan.  But get it out of sight so that you can use your brain and your talented staff to implement the differentiated technologies that will move your company forward and disrupt your competition before they disrupt you.

Example:  TV remote-control units have been mostly infrared units, requiring line-of-site to your video/audio system.  iRule, a Detroit-based startup (disclosure-we are an investor), saw the opportunity to create a remote-control app that leverages equipment you already own (smartphone, tablet, wifi) that not only creates a better user-experience (you can now put all your equipment out-of-sight) but also a cheaper alternative to the really expensive, proprietary systems.  They saw the technology gap in the older business models and had the brains, brawn and well, intestinal-fortitude to take on the risk for the sake of the opportunity.  They’re succeeding by not only continuously exploiting the technology gap but disrupting the competition’s business model.

I could go on and on, but so can you.  First, take a look at the technologies available.  Research them, then learn them, then, take a look at your own business.  Are you exploiting these technologies?  If not, take a REALLY close look at your competitors and ESPECIALLY start-ups.  If you see the disruptive threats, and chances are you will, get moving.   If you don’t see them, still get moving and disrupt yourself!  The Old Normal was about complacency – the New Normal is about cadence, continuous change at a continuous pace.

But, most importantly, make sure you have the technical talent on your team who deliver disruption to the marketplace.  I’ll talk more about this talent and what they’re looking for as we further explore the New Normal.


About Paul Czarnik
Paul is the CTO of Compuware where he provides technology strategy and investment leadership. A venture-technologist and programmer at heart, 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.

“Everybody Codes!”

paul czarnik warcryThat was my battle-cry when I ran all the development labs which ran hundreds of product development projects a year with 1,500 technical folks.  Now, I did have specialists who did not code, but when I was hiring new talent, programming ability was high on my list of requirements.  When it comes to these non-coding functions, I was looking for a basic understanding on how code and data work.

Here’s why.

Programmers are problem-solvers and approach problems in a very unique way.  That is why there is only a small percentage of the population whose brains are wired this way and the solutions we build incorporate both engineering and creative disciplines.  Now that may seem counter-intuitive to the ‘build to the requirements’ approach, but most differentiated solutions that I’ve seen are based on technology exploits that most users are not even aware of, much less design for.  When you have an organization that’s steeped in code, everybody understands each other much better.  It’s easier for technical writers, QA specialists and Project Managers to do their job when they understand the thought-process that their development team is using.  As a technologist and business-leader, my coding background help me to communicate, motivate and reward programming excellence.  We even came up with a term, “Eagles” for the most proficient and prolific developers.  These folks were amazing and a convocation of Eagles could outperform departments of regular programmers.  Plus they were smart, and funny, and a joy to work with.

“I believe in Salespeople and Programmers”.

I’ve said this a million times and I’ll say this until I’m done.  This approach is perfect for the “New Normal“.  If you remember, the New Normal is the reality that technology has become so pervasive that it is becoming a company’s primary way to engage with their customers.  And in order to support this, every company must think of themselves as a technology company first, their main product or service is secondary.


If you want to consider yourself a player in the New Normal, you must truly invest in technology talent.  It’s amazing to me when I run into companies that claim to be technology companies when they do not have hard-core coders on staff.  They either outsource them or they believe in using “off the shelf” solutions.

Well, it used to be amazing, but now it’s just annoying.

As a person who has been fortunate to be surrounded by scary-talented programmers, I am going to start to take a hard-line towards these companies, because it’s just a waste of time and talent to acknowledge companies who produce no true, differentiated value with their technology.  I’m talking to 99% of the startups I run across and many good-size corporations.  They’re technical poseurs and they seem to get all the press these days.  It’s gotten to the point where I’d rather code than blog or attend industry events.  (Maybe I’ll start blogging in code)

I’m going to continue writing about this, because the New-Normal is real and I want to help companies understand the value of programmers, how to hire them, how to retain them, and how to leverage their skills to help your company compete and win!

OK, to sum it up, my favorite phrases:

  1. “Everybody Codes”
  2. “I believe in Salespeople and Programmers”, and…
  3. …oh yes, “Shut Up and Code”


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.