From Commodore to SpaceX: Understanding the Polish tech diaspora

An ongoing study wants to understand what it will take to bring the Polish tech diaspora closer to Polish businesses.

Polish emigrants have long had a key impact on the development of technology across the world, going all the way back to Jacek Tramiel, the Łódź-born businessman and Holocaust survivor best known for founding Commodore International and creating the best-selling personal computer of all time, the Commodore 64.

Today, a new generation of Polish thirty-somethings is shaping fields such as the future of artificial intelligence, like Wojciech Zaremba at OpenAI, and space exploration, where Tomasz Czajka and Wojciech Zaremba are working hand-in-hand with Elon Musk at SpaceX.

The scale of the impact that these innovative, entrepreneurial minds have had, and continue to have, on the development of technology was last year confirmed by a major report, E-Migration: Polish Technological Diaspora, a research study conducted by the PLUGin Polish Innovation Diaspora Foundation and the Emigration Museum in Gdynia.

Poland’s tech diaspora

The study was the first comprehensive look at Poles (and people with Polish roots, such as YouTube’s Susan Wojcicki and Apple’s Steve Wozniak) who operate abroad in broadly understood modern sectors of the economy.

The idea was to collect basic data on their lives and professional careers, in order to find general characteristics of the studied group. The areas covered included the socio-demographic dimension, professional and family situation, migration experiences, social and professional relations on emigration, sense of identity and ties with the country, the prospect of returning to Poland and cooperation with institutions, organisations and individuals from Poland.

“The study used both quantitative and qualitative research methods and threw up some interesting facts about the personal and professional standing of some of the most highly-qualified Polish emigrants,” says Tobiasz Mazan from the PLUGin Foundation.

“We learnt a lot about their attitudes towards returning one day to Poland. Almost 83 per cent of respondents declared their stay abroad as ‘permanent’, while fewer than half – 49 per cent – ever think about a possible return to Poland. Just eight per cent have specific plans in this regard.”

Second edition

Dr Mazan says that the study reconstructs the trends in the lifestyle and professional strategies found amongst Poland’s tech migrants.

“The data clearly portray an image of people strongly oriented towards professional development, ambitious, constantly setting themselves challenges and consistently striving to implement them,” he says. “At the same time, they are open-minded, curious about the world and quite easily establish social contacts. About 43 per cent of these ‘e-migrants’ studied STEM disciplines and 41 per cent are professionally related to the IT industry; 90 per cent are ready to cooperate with Polish companies, while 70 per cent list technology transfer as their key potential contribution. These numbers clearly indicate the great impact the Polish innovation diaspora could have on Poland’s domestic economy as well the image of the Polish nation globally.”

So great was the interest in the research from the media and relevant industry sectors – as well as from those who took part – that the PLUGin Foundation and the Emigration Museum will continue the project over the next couple of years, and have launched a new call for Poles who have ever worked abroad in the tech sector to participate. You can do so here.

“A second edition of the study will help us deepen our understanding of trends and obtain comparative data, as well as to provide a tangible value proposition to Polish companies. It will also allow us to gain an even more nuanced view and facilitate cooperation between the Polish diaspora and Polish businesses,” Dr Mazan concludes.

Unlike many news and information platforms, Emerging Europe is free to read, and always will be. There is no paywall here. We are independent, not affiliated with nor representing any political party or business organisation. We want the very best for emerging Europe, nothing more, nothing less. Your support will help us continue to spread the word about this amazing region.

You can contribute here. Thank you.

emerging europe support independent journalism