Ukrainian tech leaders appeal amid brain drain fears

Ukraine’s IT sector had some of the highest salaries in the country, long before the Russian invasion, with around 200,000 workers providing essential services to tech giants and other major industries around the world.

As the country enters its seventh week of war, some of its top tech executives are making direct appeals to those same international companies to stick with them, even as fears of a brain drain grip the domestic market. .

” We show [the world] that we can continue to work in all conditions, said Sergiy Fitsak, managing and technical director of Softjourn, a technology consulting and software development company. “[Our message] it’s just believing in us. Keep doing business with us. »

Nearly 4.5 million Ukrainians have fled the country since fighting began in February, according to the United Nations. This decline in population was slightly more pronounced in the technology sector, with 16% of the workforce, largely women, having moved outside the country, according to the IT Ukraine Association, a trade group representing the sector.

Migration was most visible in the eastern part of the country in cities that suffered the heaviest damage. But even workers who once considered staying in western Ukraine are leaving, in part due to massive recruitment by companies from other parts of Europe, seeking to tap into the country’s tech talent, with promises higher wages.

“[We are] fight for brains with other neighbors and countries because when the war started I saw a lot of advertisements and companies aimed at the Ukrainian people,” said Konstantin Vasyuk, executive director of the IT Ukraine association . “There is a huge lack of [tech] specialists. In Europe they have [a skills deficit] of one million people until 2025.

Demonstrators maintain their protest in downtown kyiv. A general view of Maidan (Independence Square), January 26, 2014. (Photo by Luca Piergiovanni/NurPhoto) (Photo by NurPhoto/Corbis via Getty Images)

Lessons from 2014

Despite the displacement of workers, Vasyuk said the domestic IT sector remains stable for the time being, in part due to workers continuing to support customers around the world from safer regions. With a majority of employees now operating in western Ukraine, companies have so far managed to retain 77% of their international customers.

Fitsak attributes this in large part to the contingency plans implemented in response to the events of 2014. A nationwide uprising that led to the ousting of then-President Viktor Yanukovych and the Russian annexation of Crimea that led to follow-up highlighted the critical need for a backup plan, he said.

Softjourn installed backup generators in their offices in anticipation of power outages, deployed laptops for all 250 employees, allowing them to continue working outside the office. The company moved all of its databases to the cloud and installed additional layers of security on every company device to protect against cyberattacks.

“This is not our first invasion,” Fitsak said.

Vasyuk said two years of working remotely during the covid-19 pandemic has only strengthened companies’ resolve and allowed for a largely uninterrupted workflow.

In the first line

Yet the last war imposed an additional burden – that of colleagues fighting on the front lines. 7% of tech workers have enlisted in the military or joined government cyber forces since the Russian attacks began in February. Those left behind rushed to deploy their own skills where needed.

Software company N-iX, one of Ukraine’s biggest tech companies, has raised nearly half a million dollars to help the Ukrainian military in its fight against Russia. In just over a month, the company has purchased more than a dozen vehicles to use for humanitarian needs, donated ammunition and tactical clothing to the military, and purchased body armor for colleagues, according to CEO Andrew Pavliv.

As images of civilians killed at the hands of Russian soldiers emerged, N-iX employees banded together to develop a website to collect information on Russia’s war crimes.

LVIV, UKRAINE - 08/04/2022: A laptop with the portrait of Vladimir Putin, pieces of office equipment and household appliances symbolizing those stolen by Russian soldiers from occupied Ukrainian territories, splattered with red paint on the consulate of the Russian Federation during a demonstration

LVIV, UKRAINE – 08/04/2022: A laptop with the portrait of Vladimir Putin, pieces of office equipment and household appliances symbolizing those stolen by Russian soldiers from occupied Ukrainian territories, splattered with red paint on the Consulate of the Russian Federation during a demonstration ‘The Russian army – is a mob of murderers, rapists and looters’. (Photo by Mykola Tys/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Others have become more creative.

Vasyuk said some competing companies have pulled their resources to develop chatbots that allow users of the Telegram messaging app to report the location of Russian troops. Geographic coordinates embedded in the images were extracted and shared, to warn Ukrainians of impending military activity.

“Something new is being born”

For Western countries, Ukraine remains a valuable lifeline as businesses undergo a rapid transition to digital. Ukrainian code can be found in everything from Lyft cards that connect drivers and platform users to apps for JP Morgan Chase (JPM) and Citigroup (C).

This has contributed to the 40-50% growth the industry has experienced during the pandemic. Pavliv halted previous plans to expand his footprint to four Ukrainian cities this year, but he and Fitsak remain optimistic about the prospects for the domestic tech sector, in part because some employees who initially moved outside Ukraine have slowly started to return, even as the fighting drags on.

Fitsak said he was looking beyond the war, towards the country’s recovery. He is convinced that it will be driven by the technology sector.

“Something new is being born right now,” he said. “It’s not just national pride to help rebuild the country. We want to do it for the rest of the world.

Akiko Fujita is a presenter and reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @AkikoFujita

Read the latest financial and business news from Yahoo Finance

About Ren Valdez

Check Also

Croatia Airlines presents its winter network with two new routes

Croatia Airlines has finalized its network for the 2022/2023 winter season which starts on October …