You are more dependent on Ukrainians than you think. Anytime you use a rideshare app, order food with your phone, or even just send an email, chances are you’ve used software designed or maintained by someone in the country. In fact, reading these words, you depend on the work of Kyiv coders.
Indeed, over the last 10 years, Ukraine has become one of the main sources of talent and outsourcing in the field of IT and software development. On the eve of Russia’s invasion, there were nearly 300,000 IT workers in the country, according to a local IT association.
And Dutch outsourcing giant DAXX says a fifth of Fortune 500 countries have development teams there. Last year, Ukraine exported nearly $7 billion worth of IT services, which is one-tenth of all the goods and services it sold to the rest of the world. The country’s proximity to the rest of Europe, competitive salaries and a strong Soviet-era tradition of engineering and science education have all sparked international interest, says Andrea Breanna, CEO of RebelMouse, which provides website design and client management services to a number of companies, including GZERO Media.
Today, even with Russian rockets and artillery raining down on Ukrainian cities, many of these professionals are still hard at work. One of them is Alina Kravchenko, a RebelMouse developer living in Myrhorod, a once-bustling resort town in central Ukraine. She says that even though many of her fellow developers left for Poland, she stayed because her husband, who is of fighting age, would not have been allowed to go with her.
Working nights to stay on New York time, Alina, like others in Myrhorod, papered her windows to keep her lights from attracting the attention of Russian fighters, drones or reconnaissance.
Still, she considers herself “one of the lucky ones,” she says. “I chose this profession and I work for a foreign company. If you have internet and if you have electricity, you are able to work and you will receive your income. Other Ukrainian tech leaders actually returned to the country at the start of the war.
Oleksandr Kosovan, is the CEO of Macpaw, which creates a variety of applications for Mac users. Amid rumors of war in January, he took his family to safety overseas. But then, he says, he returned to kyiv just before the Russian assault began. While nearly half of its 400 employees have since left the country, it has stayed.
“I decided it would be really difficult to explain to my children, to look them in the eye and to explain why we lost our home, why we lost our country,” he says. “I think it was one of the bravest decisions of my life.”
He says his company has prepared emergency kits for employees, put in place plans to automate their operations in the event of a power outage and secured databases of customer information that could be captured by troops. Russians.
For now, as long as the electricity is on, tech professionals like Kosovo and Kravchenko keep working. And they are optimistic that when the war is over, the industry could be even stronger as Ukraine seeks to rebuild.
“The easiest way to revive the economy will be through businesses that are easy to scale and recover,” Kosovan says. “So I still think it will be a major industry for Ukraine, and even more so in the future.”