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.

Happy Thanksgiving!!



It’s Thanksgiving time in the United States and, while reflecting on what I should be thankful for, it occurred to me that a corporation is much like a family.  It’s very obvious in the picture who the chairman is, the CEO is obviously to his right. If you look closely you can also spot the CFO, COO, Chief Counsel, Chief Administrative Officer, CTO, VPs of Product Development & Strategy…. but where’s the CIO????  Shouldn’t the CIO have a seat at the ‘big corporate table’?

Oh no…

Sitting at the ‘kids table’, with the VP of Marketing who obvious blames YOU for her problems (they’re always very angry) and the VP of HR, who just wants everyone to get along.

So, I guess I’m supposed to write something pithy and thought-provoking but, all I can say is, if you’re not at the big-table either you’re not providing value or you’re not being recognized for the value you provide.

OK, pass the pumpkin pie!



Ten reasons why a mobile-startup is like a garage-band

Not THE Garage Band by Apple but all the garage-bands I played in the 70′s.  

During my ‘missing years’ I played in a lot of rock-bands.  We all talked about what life would be like when we ‘made it’, meaning signing a BIG record contract.   If you measure success by how many friends I had, I did pretty good.  If you measure success by how much money I made, well…

Pretty much the same goes today for technical start-ups, minus the fame.  A lot of people LOVE to be in a start-up, and many even think that getting VC-money means that they ‘made it’.  Well, the roles may have changed, but it’s the same-old, same-old.  Let me try to explain:

  1. The Lead Guitarist – Self-trained and plays by ear.  This is your designer, the person who thinks they’re the rock-star and doesn’t need anyone else.  Are they in for a surprise!
  2. The Drummer – This is your cloud architect.  Brilliant technologist, plays all the riffs but can’t keep a steady beat!  More interested in practicing his thirteen-minute drum solo.  Drum solo?  This isn’t 1972, dude!
  3. The Rhythm Guitarist – Trained by listening to Allman Brothers.  Great backend systems programmer who knows how to create a fast-performing server/database implementation.  Solid, but not very creative.
  4. The Keyboardist – ‘Classically-trained’, solid performing programmer who tries to hold everything together.  Gets distracted easily but can be counted on to deliver.
  5. The Lead Singer – He/She is your marketing person.  Overly optimistic with a big ego, but is willing to push everyone else to success.  Or else!
  6. The Brass Section – No one knows what they do or how they do it, but they’re fun to have around and they’re awesome at delivering key integration services.
  7. The Bass-Player – How do you get a bass-player off your porch?  Pay him for the pizza!  ’nuff said.  Every start-up has a bass-player!
  8. The Manager – This is your angel-investor person who tells you that you’re going to be rich, you just need to work harder.  If that’s the case, why is he driving the BMW and you the VW?
  9. The Recording Technician – QA and Operations.  They hate you!  But they’re necessary to make sure that your performance is superb.
  10. The Songs – ahhh, finally, these are the Apps!  They are the inspiration, the result of every muse you have ever mused.  No matter how many people, no matter how much the stress, the apps are what you strive for.  These creations will make you happy, no matter how much off the top the app-stores take from you.   Because whether you’re writing songs or apps, the app-stores always takes their share.  Sigh.

Enough silliness.  Whether you’re in a rock-band or a technology start-up, it all comes down to RELATIONSHIPS.  You better understand how it is to lead a team of developers or musicians, because they’re all really the same.

When we at C-PoWeR evaluate start-up companies, those relationships are at the top of our priority list to evaluate.  Because there are very few solo-singer-songwriters out there.  And if there are, they don’t need VC help.

… and my joke about bass-players?   Here’s one more:

A rock-band is playing a concert.  As they’re playing the lead singer is thinking “Wow, I’m a rock-star, all the girls out there want to be with me, I’m going to meet a beautiful girl and get married”.  The lead-guitarist is thinking “This is the greatest thing in the world!  I’m going to buy my parents a big house to thank them for their support”.  The drummer is thinking “Fantastic, I’m going to use my fame to promote peace around the world”.  The keyboard-player is thinking “I can’t wait to use my celebrity to write my own musical that everyone will sing for years to come”.  The bass-playing is thinking “one-two-three-four, one-two-three-four”…

Rock on!

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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.