As the war in Ukraine approaches its first anniversary, the past 12 months have shown how the conflict has had many far-reaching consequences, one of them being its effects on IT professionals.
While Russian aggression has created an unstable and unpredictable environment in Ukraine, it has also made life difficult for the country’s and region’s technology experts. The constant fear of violence, loss of internet access, and lack of necessary resources combine to make their daily operations difficult – and all of this is just part of the challenges faced by IT talent.
However, the effects of the conflict in Ukraine are not limited to technology professionals within the country’s borders. IT professionals in neighboring Belarus and Russia are also feeling the pinch as the war impacts the entire region.
Globally, the IT community is incredibly cohesive, so such developments are also a testament to how the IT community on both sides of the conflict is adapting to war.
While Ukraine has more than 250,000 IT professionals, the number is significantly higher in neighboring Russia, which in 2022 was estimated to around 1.7 million. Belarus itself has more than 80,000 IT workers.
The reasons for wanting to flee the region vary: while for Ukrainian IT talents it is mainly due to their safety and necessary working conditions, for Russian and Belarusian professionals there are the consequences of living under authoritarian regimes, Western sanctions and subsequent appeals. for a partial mobilization like that in Russia.
Some of these IT professionals have resorted to the various relocation packages offered by IT companies since the start of the war, but there are also those who have benefited from what is known as the Blue cards for non-European talents. Others, on the other hand, have not yet found the right option and are pursuing their career elsewhere.
Russian IT talent looks elsewhere to escape the consequences of war
Among them are Russian computer scientists, who are increasingly seeking to flee the country.
While more than 1,000 companies While Russian companies have reduced their operations in Russia since the start of the war, the country has also seen a decline in the number of IT professionals.
According to data According to the Russian Ministry of Communications, about 10% of the IT workforce, or more than 100,000 people, left the country in 2022 and have not returned. And many others are seeking to do the same.
Ksenia Kurganova is one of them: as a former Google marketing manager, she talks about the difficulties faced by professionals in the sector.
“In 2022, the number of IT specialists who left Russia to settle abroad increased exponentially. Some of them have continued to work remotely for Russian companies, but in light of potential legislative changes, it is difficult to predict how long they will be able to maintain their positions there. Specialists who decided to completely reorient themselves to the Western market and find work in the EU or the USA face many difficulties, including the language and cultural barrier,” explains Kourganova.
Another big challenge is the bureaucracy and difficulties in obtaining a residence permit. Even if countries like Canada or the United Kingdom openly welcome Russian technology specialists and try to attract them with special types of visas or easier application procedures, some employers are still hesitant to invest additional budgets in this domain. moving employees and paperwork, she said.
“At the same time, from the employer’s point of view, Russian IT workers have a number of advantages. For example: marketing innovative technological products and services, a more creative approach to work, multitasking and the ability to work under pressure – skills they developed while working in the complex and dynamic Russian IT sector,” said Kurganova told The Recursive.
While most Russian IT workers prefer to go to countries that do not require a work visa, such as Armenia, Georgia, Turkey, Serbia and Kazakhstan, or have already emigrated to the United States, in Germany or the Netherlands, a investigation by The Bell shows.
Physical space is nothing, but people are everything
This is the ideology behind Imagorou, a startup hub originating from Belarus. Founded in Minsk in 2013, Imaguru helped create the country’s startup ecosystem and has worked to develop the landscape for the better part of a decade.
However, in 2021 and the subsequent political crisis, the hub has been close by Belarusian authorities as part of a widespread crackdown on democracy supporters across the country.
After that, Imaguru continued to develop a Belarusian community online and opened new hubs in European capitals, such as Madrid, Vilnius and Warsaw.
“It was the development of freedom of entrepreneurship, international communication and global thinking – these values turned out to be close to many people, especially young people, while the external environment remained hostile: the hierarchy , state affairs, proximity have always characterized Belarus.” Tania Marinich, founder and CEO of Imaguru, tells The Recursive.
Today, the Imaguru community numbers thousands across Europe and continues to grow, bringing together talent, opportunities, expertise and funds.
After the start of the war in Ukraine and Belarus’ involvement in it, Imaguru also sought to help entrepreneurs in the crisis region find opportunities and continue running their businesses.
“At first we saw it in Belarus, now we see it in Ukraine. The IT community is incredibly close-knit. People can be very busy with their businesses, but they still dedicate part of their time to working for charities and solidarity projects. Alongside all those fighting for freedom, dignity and human rights, we also launched the Solidarity Program, initially focused on Belarusian businesses in exile, and now also aimed at Ukrainian refugees. We organize hackathons, organize mentoring sessions, provide our premises for free, organize support programs for relocators, etc. Solidarity and support help to survive even in the most terrible times,” says Marinich.
The consequences of the conflict in Ukraine on IT talent are also linked to the sanctions imposed by the West on Russia and Belarus. Sanctions have made it more difficult for technology companies to do business in the region, as they limit access to critical technology, equipment and resources.
The IT sector in Belarus also has its advantages: in the first half of 2022, the sector grown up by more than 8 percent while other sectors of the economy stagnated or declined. However, as the war continues and Belarus’ role expandsthere are not many options left for IT professionals present in the country.
High demand for Ukrainian IT talent
Last year also showed a high demand for Ukrainian IT talent – and academies across the country are doing their best to enable students and young people across the country to acquire the necessary skills and break into the IT sector .
Over the past eight years, edtech startup Mate Academy has helped more than 2,000 Ukrainian students find work in the industry by offering courses in programming, quality assurance, UI/UX design, and recruiting.
The startup’s model is based on an income sharing agreement (ISA) model: a student does not pay tuition fees but is required to share 12% of the graduate’s monthly salary for three years after the students have found a job.
According to Mate academy, in 2022, the number of their graduates increased significantly, as they received a large number of offers from all over the world. In September 2022, the company also opened offices in Poland.
“The number of Mate Academy graduates abroad is increasing. Most often, our graduates receive offers from employers in Canada, the USA, the Baltic States, Poland and Germany. There are also cases where graduates are in a European country but work remotely for a US company, for example. In this case, Ukrainian IT specialists are voluntarily hired, because employers do not have to worry about power outages or war affecting work processes,” said Anna Apostol, COO and co-founder of the Mate academy, at The Recursive.
However, there are still some obstacles when recruiting Ukrainian IT talent – the biggest currently being the language barrier, adds Apostol.
“The main obstacle that deters people from hiring in a foreign or international company is the language barrier. I can’t say that there is a strict rule that employers prefer candidates from their own country over Ukrainians. But there are still a small number of companies (usually small local businesses) who prefer people who know the language of the country and not just English,” she concludes.