Michal Piatkowski CEO MOTIFE

Krakow IT job market trends with Michal Piatkowski, founder and CEO at MOTIFE

By MOTIFE Insights, 20 October 2021

Salaries, global IT market, Fintech, advices to IT candidates – In this interview, Rafał Romanowski (Re:view) and Michał Piątkowski (Founder & CEO at MOTIFE) explore the trends of the Krakow IT market. Learn more by watching the video or reading the English transcript below.

Check out also: Krakow IT Market Report 2023

Is it the best time for IT employees in Krakow?

Rafał Romanowski (RE:VIEW): Today I’m meeting with Michał Piątkowski, CEO of the consulting firm MOTIFE. They’ve been involved in bringing new investors to the market for many years. As well as all those who want to invest their money here. Let’s start with this question: people say that now is a very good time for Krakow. The city is growing in all rankings, achieving top positions and excellent scores. But a city is not just buildings or monuments, it’s also people. And it’s those people who should be able to live well here. I’ve been hearing that now is a great time for people working in IT in Krakow. Let’s say something about that.

Michał Piątkowski (MOTIFE): Yes, this is the best time for people who work in the IT industry in Krakow. There are several reasons for this. First of all, the variety of employment opportunities. There are so many companies that operate here and offer such diverse jobs. There have never been so many opportunities. The second reason is a bit more complex and is connected with the evolution of the Krakow tech landscape. At the very beginning, when companies came to Krakow, they located here mainly teams that created software. But it was someone completely different, somewhere else, at the head office of the company, who decided what should be in that software. Currently, more and more companies decide to give full responsibility for programming to Krakow. The same positions as those at the headquarters are placed here, e.g., product owner or product manager. So there are more people who make decisions here. And the responsibility is growing. The third factor that makes this a good time for Krakow are the wages. They’ve never been so high.

Krakow IT Salary ranges driven up by the global IT market

Rafał Romanowski: It sounds like a real El Dorado for employees. This is said to be their time. Even though there’s been a pandemic and it could’ve damaged this market in a matter of months. Speaking of money, you mentioned that this is a good market for those who’d like to earn really well. Tell me, what are the parameters, what are the salary ranges? What kind of money can someone who actually wants to make a start in this IT industry hope for?

Michał Piątkowski: Like I said, salaries are the factor that makes this a good time. Of course, wages for people who have both hard, technical skills and other qualifications necessary in this industry. On average, a programmer in Krakow earns about 15 000 zlotys gross per month. And this is what we see. People who are just starting in the IT industry as programmers can expect to earn about 8 000 to 10 000 zlotys gross. But there are also roles for people with a lot of experience, especially in niche areas, where the sums go up to as much as 30 000 zlotys gross per month.

Rafał Romanowski: And there are also positions in which you can earn even more. Though these are probably cases that are less common. What makes all those global companies that invest in Krakow pay people so much money? After all, these are parameters unexpected for many people who work in other industries. But the IT sector seems to be the richest among them. What makes those companies want to pay so well?

Michał Piątkowski: Your question already contains the answer. Those are global companies, and the Krakow labor market is part of the global labour market. And this globalization of the labor market means that for companies from, say, London or San Francisco it doesn’t matter where they find a good specialist. What’s important is that they have the right skills. And that they are hired as quickly and easily as possible. Globalization and the share of foreign companies in the Krakow market cause the salaries to go up significantly.

Krakow IT ecosystem and changes over the last years

Rafał Romanowski: So it doesn’t matter too much where that specialist is. Especially in the age of remote working. And the pandemic has only accelerated these trends. What might’ve been or turned out to be some kind of threat to Krakow is quite the opposite – it elevates it even higher. These phenomena have accelerated the development of the industry in many aspects. And it’s not just Krakow, we’re talking the global market. Because the whole global IT is evolving too. And it’s not at all what we used to see in the big world even 20 years ago. How would you say, from the perspective of Krakow or globally, how has this market changed? After all, IT is currently the sector that’s changing the most rapidly and that has the hardest time finding employees.

Michał Piątkowski: Krakow 20 years ago was mainly composed of Polish companies. Of course, there was Comarch. When talking about the labor market in Krakow it’d be hard not to mention it. But there were also a few other foreign companies here, such as Motorola, which has been here since the mid-90s. But the last 20 years have seen gigantic development, which is evident when looking at the numbers. 20 years ago, there were fewer than 10 000 IT specialists in the city. Now there are more than 45 000 of them. There are also over 500 companies in the software industry. These figures show just how much this market has developed. It’s not just about where we are now. It’s about where the trends are. And it’s about the fact that soon we’re going to have even more companies because, year on year, this area is growing. More organizations are coming…

Rafał Romanowski:…the market is still growing a dozen or more percent a year…

Michał Piątkowski: Of course. And Polish companies are being founded every year too. It feels great to know that. It makes us happy. Those are companies that are trying to develop, and that create software not necessarily using any foreign investment.

Check out also: Krakow IT Market Report 2023

Fintech companies in Krakow

Rafał Romanowski: Tell me, these changes that are happening, are they mainly about who makes how much money? And how many innovative companies come here? Or the companies’ requirements for specialization and skills. There is more and more searching in various areas. If we were to draw a map of which sectors are growing now. Krakow’s fintech sector is said to be growing very strongly. Do you have any examples of companies that have recently invested in the Polish or Krakow market? I mean mainly fintech companies.

Michał Piątkowski: Development of fintech can be seen very clearly. A good example is StoneX (formerly Gain Capital). A company from the United States, which made the decision to move to Krakow less than 3 years ago. Now it already employs over 300 people in Krakow. Most of these people are engineers. Looking at how in such a short period of time such a large branch was built, which is now crucial from the standpoint of building the platform that StoneX uses, it’s a remarkable achievement. Another example is OANDA, a company from Canada that came to Krakow in early 2020. Of course, the time at the dawn of the pandemic was not the best one to invest, but OANDA managed to build a large team here regardless. Before the year 2021 ends, they want to employ more than 100 people. And these are some of the fintech companies. I could also mention others such as Backbase, which has over 100 people, or Bitpanda, which is just entering Krakow. And smaller companies of which there are quite many too. This is also very interesting, because what builds the value of Krakow as a place are not just software skills but also industry-specific competence. This is the additional value. When there are more and more people who have experience in specific industries such as fintech.

Opportunities offered by IT companies to candidates

Rafał Romanowski: And how does that translate into what employees of such a company can expect here? What do these companies need? What are they looking for? What do they offer?

Michał Piątkowski: There are plenty of opportunities here for people both less and more experienced. I can tell you a good story from a few years ago. I was talking with a friend telling me that he had just joined a company that had decided to open its R&D center in Krakow, a company from Dubai called Kitopi. He was responsible for building that center in Krakow. Now, a few years later, this company already has about 50 engineers in Krakow. And it recently received funding of almost half a billion dollars. A very interesting example of a career when, by joining a newly opened branch, you can become part of something really big. Currently Kitopi is one of Krakow’s few candidates for the so-called ‘unicorn’ worth over $1 billion. One that has its main R&D center in Krakow.

Rafał Romanowski: But Michał, what you’re talking about has been happening over a relatively short period of time. You’re using the phrase “a few years”, companies are growing so fantastically. Not only is the whole market growing, but there continue to be new investors. And companies that truly cast anchor here. We could list many examples, show how they’re growing and gaining independence. And this is very important, maybe even crucial: these are not just branches that do what the head office tells them to do, but they’re already very independent. If you were to draw a panoramic picture of the job market – who is sought after, what type of people are in demand – who would you mention? Who does this industry want?

Michał Piątkowski: In this industry everyone is recruiting. Foreign companies, Polish companies, smaller companies, bigger companies, they’re all recruiting. Startups are recruiting too. These opportunities on the job market are very numerous. Practically every quarter in Krakow there are even 5 000 job offers available. Of course, not everything can be closed in a given quarter, but those are not only technical roles of programmers or testers, but also the roles of business analysts, product owners, product managers, scrum masters, or DevOps specialists associated with designing user interfaces. The spectrum of people that are sought after in the IT industry is now very wide.

Tips for IT Specialists lookin for a job

Rafał Romanowski: What should all the people looking for opportunities in this “IT ecosystem” (as you call this area in your publications) keep in mind now? What’s your advice for those who are just starting out? What should they pay attention to when looking for a job?

Michał Piątkowski: A very interesting question. And, right away, I must warn you that every person would probably have a different opinion on this. On the one hand this is universal advice, but on the other it’s advice based on experience. What’s very important is that working in the IT industry is not only about technology but also about understanding the clients’ needs. Understanding why a given technology is being produced. What user problem it solves. So people who have such an attitude – to understand this non-technical aspect – are the ones who’ll be particularly successful. Of course, communication in the team and speaking good English are very important. That’s rather obvious.

Rafał Romanowski: …but also understanding multiculturalism…

Michał Piątkowski: Yes. Working at a technology company now means working with people from other countries, other time zones, other cultures. You have to take those cultural differences into account. And be able to be a part of an environment that may be different from you. Different from what you know in everyday life. And the last thing I would mention is that… it’s not all just about the money. We talked about how much you can make in the IT industry. But someone who joins the IT industry with their mind set on making a lot of money probably isn’t going to be successful. Someone else is destined for success, someone for whom IT is a passion, who wants to get to know it better, understand it, explore the issues of a given specialization in greater depth. Therefore, to people who are just starting their adventure with IT, I would recommend focusing on what opportunity for development the given job provides. How much contact with clients it enables. Whether it allows to work with cool people. And not necessarily on what kind of salary it offers.

Working in a large IT company vs. small company

Rafał Romanowski: You mentioned multiculturalism. Indeed, Krakow is a multicultural ecosystem that speaks various languages. Once I asked a Brazilian friend who worked for one of the large corporations why he had swapped sunny Brazil abundant in beaches for Krakow that is veiled in smog in winter. His response was quite banal really. He said that sometimes a liter of orange juice in Poland costs less than in his homeland, Brazil, which is also famous for its oranges. That was another surprise for me. I didn’t expect how many factors can determine whether a city is attractive for candidates. Tell me, how does working now for those new companies currently entering the market differ from the old ones that have been here for a long time already? Are they two completely different worlds, or do they interconnect?

Michał Piątkowski: It’s always going to be the case that working for a big company and a small one are not the same thing. Also, working for one or the other won’t always be for the same person. A large company has clearly defined roles, responsibilities. An organization that is already in place remains relatively unchanged over the years.

Rafał Romanowski: A bit of a bore?

Michał Piątkowski: Maybe. But many people may like this stability. It’s something that they prefer and is very important to them. For others, a better choice would be something more dynamic. A place where roles and responsibilities are less precisely defined. Where they can have more influence on what the organization will look like, who’ll be in the team, and what the final product will look like. There they’ll feel and self-actualize better. Accepting that, in such a company, there are more unknowns. And also more risks, because you have to learn to move in a space that’s less defined.

Rafał Romanowski: So, in this ecosystem, everyone will find a place for themselves. And if someone is tired of the stability or boredom of a big player, they can move to a smaller one, a younger organization.

Michał Piątkowski: If someone wants to develop in the IT industry, it’s worth trying both. Being in one place for too long can slow down your development.

Changes in the reason why foreign IT companies invest in Krakow

Rafał Romanowski: Michał, tell us we’re right. Tell us this growth will continue. And those companies will keep coming here.

Michał Piątkowski: Yes, Krakow is still a very attractive place for investors, but for different reasons than before. In the past, companies came to Krakow mainly because it was attractive in terms of costs. So in order to have lower software development costs, companies came to this city. Now the reasons have changed completely. It’s what we’ve already talked about. Companies are coming here because they can build their teams faster and cheaper. And in a time of global competition between IT companies that produce software or SAS platforms, the speed of turning money into code gives them an advantage. Coming to Krakow allows them to hire programmers faster and easier to convert that money into code even more swiftly. I can give you an example of one company that came to Krakow in 2019. Karhoo is a company from the UK. A startup that decided to come here precisely because it wanted to be able to create a platform for itself as quickly as possible. Instead of searching and hiring in London, they built a team of 30 people here in Krakow to create their software.

Rafał Romanowski: But this also demonstrates other, very interesting things. It’s been said that there are almost no candidate offers in Krakow any more. That the hunger for new people is so great that the employee market is cleared of specialists. But you once told me that it’s not just that there are fewer of those specialists, or fewer of them than there could be. But that there are even fewer of them elsewhere…

Michał Piątkowski: That’s exactly right. It happens because the demand for specialists has increased everywhere, especially over the last 12 months. Everywhere, in every location. North America, Europe, Asia, even South America. And that’s why it’s key how fast and how relatively easy it is to hire employees. And to get that advantage. To answer your earlier question, we don’t see this trend stopping any time soon. Because the source of this trend is the overall growth of the IT industry, the digital industry. All aspects of the digital industry. And that’s what’s driving the growth of the job market.

About Krakow IT Market Report 2021 and MOTIFE solutions

Rafał Romanowski: I think that by observing your operations and looking at the Krakow tech landscape through your eyes, one can learn a lot of interesting information. I have a ‘cheat sheet’ here. It’s a report by MOTIFE entitled “Krakow IT Market Report 2021”. All in all, a new thing. Everything we said in this interview today is also included in this report. Tell us something about this publication. Why did you choose the form of a report to share this knowledge and educate people who contact you? Also, tell us how to find this report? Though we’ve been talking about good money, as far as I know this report is free. And it is available on your website.

Michał Piątkowski: Yes, we’ve been preparing these reports for a few years now. You can download this one from our website. We create them so that there is a single place where you can find key information about the Krakow tech landscape and the companies that operate here. Also about new companies, salaries, etc. The report is dedicated to both organizations considering setting up a branch in Poland and those building a team in Krakow. But also to those who are already in Krakow and want to be up to date with what’s going on. To both directors/managers of companies, and employees. Also those who are thinking about changing their job and want to know what’s happening on the Krakow market. They can all be more up-to-date.

Rafał Romanowski: So in order to find out more about Krakow’s IT market, one should either read this report (which I strongly encourage) or follow your social media channels / your website. You share your knowledge on this subject there too. Folks can also watch our interview live on Re:view. Michał, to properly end this interview so that we can part ways on a good feeling, tell us something about MOTIFE. We are at your company today, and you know a lot about employment in IT. What is it that you actually do? What’s the core of your business, your daily work with investors? What does your typical day at work look like?

Michał Piątkowski: On a daily basis we work with investors who are thinking about building teams here. Of course, we also work with candidates because we build those teams. We work with candidates who are interested in becoming employees of fascinating new companies. It’s for them that we have very interesting opportunities at motife.com/jobs. But we also offer a lot to people who don’t work in IT. Those are welcome too because they can recommend a friend. And get a bonus from us for that recommendation.

Rafał Romanowski: If I ever want to start an IT company in Krakow, I’m definitely paying you a visit. Let’s end the interview on that note. Our guest was Michał Piątkowski, CEO of MOTIFE. Watch the next #intREview. Here you’ll find a lot of interesting information from the IT job market in Krakow and beyond. And we will certainly be happy to meet with MOTIFE again to have a look at this market in the years ahead.

If you are looking for information about setting up your presence in Poland, download our Krakow IT Market Report 2023.

If you are interested in alternatives to outsourcing, contact us at MOTIFE to learn more.

If you are looking for interesting job opportunities in tech companies in Krakow and remote, check out open roles at motife.com/jobs.

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