Global tech companies line up to hire Ukraine’s world-renowned coders
Male and female software developers work at their desks at the offices of Luxoft Holding Inc. in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, October 31, 2017.
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Companies are lining up trying to hire coders who got caught up in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
More than 2 million Ukrainian citizens have been displaced in recent weeks, some of them with sought-after technical skills.
Dozens of companies have posted more than 500 job vacancies for technical positions on a website called Remote Ukraine which was set up to help companies around the world hire Ukrainians. The companies come mainly from Europe, but some also come from the United States and Canada.
Firms such as Modular Automation and WarDucks in Ireland, Sportradar in Switzerland and Drive System Design in England, are among the technology companies that have shared job vacancies on the site, with roles offered ranging from a Web3 developer to a senior 3D artist.
Martin Armstrong, founder of Somerton, a UK-based tech platform that aims to match athletes with coaches, told CNBC he made five verbal offers to engineers, content writers and salespeople of technology. The problem is that he can’t get a visa for them.
“There’s no process if you don’t have connections here,” Armstrong said. “(UK Home Secretary) Priti Patel says she’s changing it. Here’s to hope.”
He made a formal offer to another Ukrainian who is moving to Warsaw to work remotely for him.
Elsewhere, London-based enterprise software company Cutover has set up a separate “fast-track” engineering role specifically for displaced Ukrainian engineers.
Oscar White, CEO of Beyonk, a venture capital-backed travel technology platform, told CNBC that he is currently monitoring applicants from Ukraine.
“They’re supposed to be some of the best developers in the world,” he said.
A technological powerhouse
A surprisingly large amount of technology that enables our daily lives is built by engineers and software developers in Ukraine.
WhatsApp, Grammarly, Gitlab and Solana were all founded or co-founded by Ukrainians, while Google and Samsung all have research and development centers in the country.
Christian Reber, CEO of presentation app Pitch, told CNBC he has three engineers based remotely in Ukraine and the company is doing everything possible to support them.
“We have offered to cover travel and accommodation costs for all affected Pitch employees and their families, and have granted them indefinite leave, no questions asked,” he said.
Like other companies, Pitch also offered to pay salaries up to three months in advance and provided support to help open bank accounts outside Ukraine.
Denys Zhadanov, a Ukrainian entrepreneur, told CNBC he has 230 employees in the country.
“The majority are in Odessa, which is safe for now,” he said.
Elsewhere, CleverFiles, an American company that aims to help people recover deleted computer files, has more than 20 people working full-time in cities including kyiv, Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia.
“At this point, every employee is trying to find a safe place for their family,” senior online marketing manager Alina Mulova told CNBC on Monday. “Some people have been able to move to western Ukraine, while others cannot leave their towns and are hiding in shelters.”
Mulova said Ukrainian CleverFiles employees are kept on the payroll even though many of them are unable to work.
Misha Karpenko, co-founder and senior software engineer at Pitch, told CNBC that several factors make Ukraine a great market for highly skilled tech talent.
“Ukraine has several great technical universities and a strong culture of encouraging young people to pursue higher education, as I was myself,” he said. “Ukrainian society regards technical studies as generally more valuable than the humanities.”
He added: “More generally, when the Soviet Union collapsed, many Ukrainians enjoyed newfound freedom and a connection to the West, but still lived poorly and could not afford to live. ‘having a PC at home. This led to a resurgence of interest in computers and software among children and teenagers who grew up in the 90s-2000s, like me.’
There are more than 10 universities in Kyiv alone and there is a strong focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in the country.
Josh Feldberg, digital manager for a climate change nonprofit in Barcelona, told CNBC that Ukrainians have a “really good reputation” when it comes to coding.
Feldberg said all of the Ukrainian coders he has worked with have been fully trained with formal training. “They didn’t just teach from home,” he said.
“A lot of them have studied computer science,” Feldberg said, adding that many take the time to fully understand Java, one of the most important computer languages.
As for who he worked with, Feldberg said he worked with Ukrainian designers, data scientists, and front-end and back-end developers.
As in other countries, the vast majority of tech workers in Ukraine are men. However, men between the ages of 18 and 60 are currently not allowed to leave the country as the government wants them to stay and fight.
As a result, many Ukrainian software developers are still in the country and working under Russian bombardment.
On Monday, Tatyana Perebiynis, who was an accountant for the publisher of mobile applications and games Gismart, was reportedly killed in the town of Irpen near kyiv with her two children and her pet dogs. They were shot down by Russian mortar fire.
Other Ukrainian tech workers have been transferred to neighboring countries by their employers. Israeli social media app Tango is helping its 90 research and development workers relocate to Poland, where it has just opened a new office.
Meanwhile, British start-up Localyze is offering free relocation services to Ukrainian employees.
But Ukrainian coders can’t get where they want in the blink of an eye.
Britain, for example, only lets people in if they have immediate or extended family in the country. The family member must have British nationality, an indefinite residence permit, established status or proof of permanent residence.
Many Ukrainians trying to take refuge in the UK are blocked by bureaucracy or turned away outright, according to reports.
Around 760 visas have been granted through the Ukraine Family Scheme, a government minister said on Wednesday, adding that 22,000 applications are “being processed”.
Priti Patel, UK Home Secretary said Thursday that the entry process is still being streamlined, adding that applications are being moved online and that Ukrainians will no longer need to physically visit visa centers before entering the UK provided that they have a passport.