Ukraine’s 285,000 IT specialists power applications and software around the world, and many are still working from Ukraine as war rages around them

Maxim Ivanov left the northeastern city of Kharkiv when Russian airstrikes began on February 24.

He and his wife packed their seven-year-old twins and their cat into a car and headed west. The family eventually reunited in the city of Uman in central Ukraine. More than a month later, part of Ivanov’s life has become regular as he continues to work at Aimprosoft, the software development company he co-founded in 2005.

Uman is in a safe zone, Ivanov told Insider, but “it can still be a stressful situation because there is always the possibility of airstrikes.” He plans to send his children abroad to keep them away from war, but he will stay in Ukraine, where he serves clients from as far away as the United States, European Union, United Arab Emirates and Israel. . Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 and 60 are currently prohibited from leaving the country, as they can be conscripted.

As the war in Ukraine enters its seventh week, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian IT specialists like Ivanov have continued to work in the country, keeping applications and services running around the world. While many work from Ukrainian cities that are currently considered safe areas, others are still in dangerous locations.

Ukraine is an IT outsourcing powerhouse

Ukraine is an IT outsourcing powerhouse, exporting $6.8 billion worth of services annually, or around 4% of the country’s GDP, according to the IT Ukraine Association. There were around 285,000 IT professionals in Ukraine in 2021, serving customers around the world, according to the industry association.

It also has a prominent tech startup scene. Online Writing Assistant Grammar and code repository GitLab were both founded in Ukraine, though both have been based in the United States for several years. Other tech companies, like Estonian startup Bolt and neo-bank Revolut, have had staff based outside the country. The two offered relocation assistance to employees based in the country after Russia invaded Ukraine, Insider previously reported.

In Umam, which is not currently in a war zone, Ivanov said the internet connection and banking services were relatively stable and allowed him to maintain Aimprosoft’s operations.

Ivanov now works in a hotel room in Umam.

The company has tracked 50 to 70 projects, he said. A project was briefly suspended due to security issues which were eventually resolved.

“There were about three days of chaos at the start of the war, but we try to support everyone,” he said. The COVID-19 pandemic also helped employees adjust to remote work before the war, he added.

According to a survey by IT Ukraine, more than 70% of IT professionals work from safe regions of Ukraine. According to the survey published on March 23, 16%, mostly women, left because of the war and work abroad. The survey covered 30 IT companies in Ukraine that employ a total of 34,000 IT professionals.

And the survey shows that 77% of companies have retained almost all customers and contracts.

Some IT staff work in cities where several air raid sirens can go off in a day, so they have to hide to work in bomb shelters, said Mikki Kobvel, CEO of Kobvel Software Consulting, a Ukrainian company. who has staff. based around the world.

Konstantin Vasyuk, the executive director of the IT Ukraine Association, was speaking to reporters virtually from an undisclosed location with air raid sirens in the background, Computerworld reported last week.

“My employees sometimes work in bomb shelters,” Kobvel told Insider of his Ukraine-based staff. “Even if you stay in the safe zone, which is western Ukraine, you hear air raid sirens at least twice a day, so it’s routine to go there once or twice a day. They go inside, stay there for an hour, then So some people don’t come out, they just stay inside and they just work from there.

When Russian troops began gathering on the Ukrainian border late last year, some Ukrainian companies drew up contingency plans to move developers from risky areas. Aimprosoft, for example, opened an office in the western city of Ivano-Frankivsk just before the start of the war. Most of Ivanov’s 350 employees now work there.

And Kobvel said he was renting a safe house in Spain to house staff and other Ukrainians who need help leaving the country.

At Aimprosoft, programmers continued to deliver their work after a transition period, one of the company’s clients told Insider.

“Obviously they put in the time to make sure they were safe and their families were safe, but I can only describe it as mental strength and courage to keep working,” said Jordan Ellington, founder and CEO of the American company SessionGuardian. , who has been working with Aimprosoft for about a decade.

Triggering of business contingency plans

Ultimately, however, amid the uncertainties of war, some Ukrainian IT companies are losing business, Kobvel told Insider.

“Due to business risks, many companies have simply reduced their relocations to Ukraine or reduced their staff,” said Kobvel, based in Singapore. He leads a team of about 35 people, 25 of whom are currently still in Ukraine.

According to DOU.ua, a Ukrainian platform for IT professionals, vacancies at various levels dropped by 40-80% in the three weeks after the outbreak of the war.

While Ellington said it intended to support its Ukrainian contractors, it also said it foresees any risk to business continuity.

Ellington said he has resources in other geographies and is considering a near relocation to Latin America, Canada or the United States. “From a risk management perspective, I don’t want to have all my eggs in one basket,” he said.

Rosemary C. Kearney