When Artur Hibner graduates from college this year, he won't have to worry about getting well-paid work in his field right here in Krakow, Poland's thriving former royal seat.
For years, Western technology firms have come to Eastern Europe to lure away talented computer-science graduates like Mr. Hibner, who attends AGH University of Science and Technology. But now, the region's universities are producing so many top programmers that many firms are changing tack – and setting up shop at the source.
IBM, Motorola, and Google have all opened research labs here in Krakow in recent years, while Deutsche Telecom, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, and other giants have come to Budapest, Prague, Bratislava, and other cities where universities churn out skilled coders.
"They are looking for all kinds of people, from hardware developers to programmers," says Marek Zaionc, head of the computer-science department at Krakow's Jagiellonian University. "We have a lot of good young people in these fields, and we're still a lot less expensive than other parts of Europe."
Eastern Europeans have dominated international programming competitions in recent years, attracting the attention of tech firms. Last year's TopCoder Collegiate Challenge drew 21,000 registrants from around the world, but half of the 48 finalists were from former Soviet bloc nations, including the winner, Petr Mitrichev of Russia, who also won last year's Global Code Jam, a Google-sponsored competition.
Tomasz Czajka, a 2004 graduate of Warsaw University, became a national celebrity in Poland after winning three TopCoder competitions in 2004-2005, racking up winnings of more than $100,000.