The war in Ukraine has deeply impacted many of us on a personal level, but there are also significant professional implications for those of us in tech. There are over 300,000 tech professionals in Ukraine that fuel thousands of companies and products. Over 200,000 trained developers, and a workforce of 18,000 outsourced freelancers. As the Ukraine-Russian war wages on, the stability of those professionals has been decimated. Ukranians cannot program from bomb shelters, and company offices in Kyiv cannot reopen if they are seiged and destroyed. As a native Ukrainian, I and my peers at Testlio are deeply concerned.
Heading into 2022, the demand for tech professionals has reached an all-time high, while skilled workers are hard to find, train, and keep. This growing gap between supply and demand that sees companies struggling to meet launch times and retain happy workforces will only be exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. War does not just disrupt supply chains and consumer experiences. It directly impacts professionals, teams, companies, and the future of our industry.
While some tech companies have issued individual statements and offered aid, it’s time for our entire industry to recognize how deeply pivotal Ukraine is to a global tech community – and take steps to protect it. Here are some of the reasons why the preservation of Ukraine and its tech talent is crucial to enable global workforces and companies to continue to prosper in the coming years.
12 tech unicorns with Ukrainian roots
Unicorns are still a statistical rarity — just over 1,200 individual companies have passed the benchmark. However, since the term’s inception in 2013, the rate of growth has far surpassed initial predictions. A concept that once seemed as unlikely as the mythical creature is now a reachable goal for many innovative companies.
Ukraine is no stranger to unicorns; 12 tech unicorns have Ukrainian roots, were founded or in Ukraine by Ukrainian immigrants, or registered in Ukraine. For a small country with a home-grown tech industry, the numbers are impressive. These also illustrate the importance of Ukrainians to the tech community: our people, businesses, support systems, and education opportunities are creating the next generation of tech entrepreneurs.
Not only are these companies changing and fueling the global tech industry, they also employ millions of IT professionals and serve countless customers worldwide.
300k young IT professionals and growing
According to the Ukraine IT report of 2021, Ukraine has nearly 300,000 tech professionals and has doubled the number of tech workers since 2016. Ukrainian universities are steadily focusing on training new IT professionals, graduating about 17,000 students per year with tech degrees. Many Ukrainian IT companies offer training programs for professionals with and without traditional computer education, and employees are making the switch.
I am proud to be part of this group. At the age of 17, I moved to Kyiv to study Computer Science at the National Aviation University. While studying in Kyiv, I began exploring an IT career in my spare time: first at a company selling web-widgets for US businesses, then at a company making video surveillance software for global markets. Since then, I have worked in IT for over 15 years, with roles ranging from Senior QA Manager to Software Development Engineer in Test Lead at Microsoft to my current role as Networked Testing Strategist at Testlio.
Over 3.5% of Ukraine’s GDP is in computer services exports, with nearly 7 million dollars in exported IT services, tripling domestic output since 2016. With over 5,000 registered tech companies and thousands of DevOps, QA, UI/UX professionals, the global tech community would encounter a talent shortage without Ukrainians.
Perhaps most important to reconsider is Ukraine’s rapid growth in IT: the sector increases 20-30% annually. Fifty-four percent of Ukrainian high school students want to work in IT, and majors such as “computer science” and “software engineering” attract more than 80 thousand applications from prospective students in Ukrainian universities each year.
The rapid commitment to the industry shows that not only are Ukrainian tech professionals innovative and up-to-date on technology, but they’re also young. Ukrainian tech professionals have full and bright careers ahead of them, with limitless possibilities to offer the tech community.
Ukraine is a hub for offshore talent
Top business leaders have turned to the large, young Ukrainian tech talent pool to strengthen their global teams. Like many my age, one of my first entry points into professional IT was working for an outsourcing company. Between a few major employers like Softserve and Globalogic, outsourcing firms currently employ 21,000 Ukrainian specialists that keep countless companies QA, testing, development, projects, and maintenance afloat. The United States alone accounts for 40% of Ukrainian computer service exports. With over 200,000 software devs in Ukraine and a global shortage of tech talent, Ukraine is pivotal to the continued maintenance and development of IT worldwide.
For companies like Testlio, Ukrainian people provide mission-critical support for localization testing, device testing, platform development, and entire client management systems.
Beyond traditional outsourcing, significant companies currently operate research and development (R&D) centers in Ukraine. For companies like Samsung and Siemens, the Ukrainian talent pool is more than just a group of specialists, but entire teams and offices that are deeply rooted in their organizations.
A global workforce means taking firm stands at the office
Tech companies are rapidly adopting a global workforce, and our greatest employees hail from all around the world, including Ukraine. If companies wish to embrace a truly equitable, global workforce, we need to assert that global politics are work politics.
Historically, companies have tried to keep geopolitics out of work, and there are good reasons for this. However, we at Testlio do not feel this is one of those times. Tech companies are famous for breaking the mold: countless female founders. Hiring diverse workforces. Breaking barriers of communication for teamwork across time zones.
Tech companies now need to lead out in donating, raising awareness, and providing aid for Ukraine while taking a stance on global violence that directly harms our industry and contradicts the values of human dignity we all share. I’m proud to work at a place that is taking meaningful action by providing:
- Relocation Assistance. For full-time Testlio contractors, we have quietly helped people and families leave Ukraine over the last several weeks using a combination of money and resources.
- Crisis Aid. For active Testlio freelancers who wish to leave high-crisis cities around the world, including places in Ukraine, we are offering a cash grant, payable generally within 24 hours via a short questionnaire.
- Financial donations. We contribute to organizations including International Red Cross, Amnesty International, Unicef, and Doctors Without Borders that provide help on the frontlines of crisis zones.
We hope you will join us in doing the same, and invite you to explore the humanity of a few Ukrainian tech workers as we share their stories on social media in the coming days.