It was early Saturday morning when I entered the main lecture room at the Institute of Computer Science at the University of Wroclaw. Some of the 100 young people at the audience were still dozing, some pumping their veins with coffee, others immersed in their laptops. The oldest ones were in their thirties, some of them as young as 16 and 17. They were all about to take part in PIZZA – an annual programming competition hosted by the students of the Institute.

It’s always a big challenge to be one of the dumbest persons in the room, not to mention giving a presentation there, and that’s what I was about to do. To make things worse, my talk was a part of a sponsor package, and the audience’s attention was far from granted. I still don’t know what was the bigger challenge for them – taking part in the competition, or listening to me. I appreciate they didn’t boo me out and even politely clapped when I was done talking.

After I was done Robert, my CEO, and I decided to grab a coffee and discuss the enthusiasm young programmers have and how it helped build a booming software industry in Poland. We couldn’t help noticing that the coding culture is rife and the ethos of competition is as potent as cooperation.

It probably all started in the early 20th century in the cities of Warsaw, Cracow and Lviv which were homes to distinct mathematical societies. Their ideas drew extensively from the 19th century positivism and their approach was marked by non-conformism, rivalry and collegiality making them one of the more advanced mathematical movements of their time. Their culture trickled down the academic world and was naturally embraced by computer sciences when they first emerged at Technical Universities.

PIZZA is one of a few contests hosted by universities and companies in Poland. And if you look at top international contests, you will find that Polish teams have been trailing giants like the USA, Russia and China in the past 20 years (see International Olympiad in Informatics, ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest). It’s a kind of a phenomenon that has a significant impact not only on the IT industry, but also whole communities. In cities like Cracow and Wroclaw, large parts of the working population are employed directly or indirectly in software companies which are the force behind the agglomerations’ rapid growth.

FINGO will definitely get involved in PIZZA next year and we’d love to see the level as high as it was this year.

PS. Many thanks to Mateusz Markiewicz, a Software Developer at FINGO, a student at the Institute of Computer Science and the organizer of this year’s PIZZA for his effort.