One for the entrance, the other for the exit: how the war changed the IT industry in Ukraine and Russia

The IT industry was well known even before the war. In Ukraine, it was called one of the main sources of foreign exchange inflow into the economy. The IRS was looking for new ways to milk “these programmers.” Someone envied high salaries, someone dreamed of “entering IT” … Before the war, there were not so many fundamental differences between Ukrainian IT and Russian IT. The war changed everything.


With the outbreak of hostilities, there were fewer job offers, and it became almost impossible to get your first job in IT. We have to compete with more experienced specialists who have lost their jobs. This also applies to product companies that develop their own service or program, and outsourcers (organizations that sell programmers to international companies). Almost everywhere there have been more or less noticeable reductions and the hiring of new people has been suspended. However, there is hope for a speedy recovery…

Boris Sarkisov, consultant in project management and business automation, program manager at Amazon:

Something happened that could not even be imagined in peacetime: the employee market in IT turned into an employer market. The number of vacancies has decreased, and the number of resumes on the market has decreased. International companies consider the entire region risky, it is easier for them to hire a person in a peaceful country and not delve into his problems and conditions. Alternatively, Ukrainians and Russians are offered relocation to a safe country (if they manage to leave). At the same time, some companies looked for programmers in Poland, talked to local personnel and started recruiting Ukrainians again—hiring a team with us remains fast, unlike in Europe.

So it’s not all that bad.

I also note that, in general, wages in the market were practically not cut. That is, everyone understands that war is war, and high-quality specialists, seniors and middles, are still worth their weight in gold.

But now it’s difficult for juniors: novice specialists are not needed yet. But this situation is not forever: the international labor market still needs high-quality specialists who have fallen out or are falling out of international chains. So there will be work for everyone who is ready to study and work.

It is more difficult for Ukrainian product companies, that is, businesses that develop their own applications and services. They found themselves between two days: due to the war, the Ukrainian market sank heavily along with income and, in addition, the “brain drain” to foreign companies intensified.

Olga Strelnik, head of PR at the Ukrainian auto parts marketplace

Ukrainian products are suffering as specialists go into outsourcing, where salaries are higher and do not depend on military operations. Therefore, we need to try to integrate our products into the European Union – the EU has a huge market and great opportunities. Ukrainian food companies are competitive. We work no worse, but more often and better than European IT specialists! This is evidenced, for example, by the fact that before the war there were more unicorn companies in Ukraine than in other European countries. We are sure that now is the best time for Ukrainian companies to gain a foothold in Europe. Here, Ukraine does not leave the news, and this is a big bonus for conservative European countries where personal contact and attitude are valued. itself brings several products to the Spanish market at once (including even the Spanish-language Youtube), while continuing to support the Ukrainian branch, as well as helping Ukrainians find spare parts and repair their cars.

If we consider the transition to the IT industry as our personal long-term goal, great opportunities are now open for Ukrainians. Yes, you will most likely not be able to get a job “today” without experience and a good resume. But six months or a year will pass, and the demand for personnel will recover. If you start preparing for this right now, then you can just have time to prepare a solid knowledge base. Here you can see a list of free courses for Ukrainians in IT specialties. And in six months, just master one or two courses.
On the other side of the front

The IT sector in Russia is going through hard times, this has affected both product companies and automakers working for foreign customers. The former faced a decline in the popularity of their products abroad. After the war began, many began to refuse Russian services, such as, for example, Tilda. The Russian market is experiencing serious problems due to sanctions. This is why Russian food companies are making less money and are losing international market share.

As for outsourcing and freelancers, a serious blow for Russians and Belarusians was their exclusion from the most popular platform for receiving orders Upwork (as well as from Fiverr, Shortlist and a few smaller ones). Of course, there are less squeamish platforms, and Russian freelancers even successfully registered on them, but the customers stayed on Upwork and feel great there, hiring Ukrainian specialists. Ukrainians take advantage of this: they indicate their nationality in their profile, hang flags on their avatar.

Boris Sarkisov, consultant in project management and business automation, program manager at Amazon:

Direct outsourcing in Russia is curtailing and moving, as the owners are afraid of squeezing out business under the pretext of “nationalization”. Russian products remain working, for whom an office in Russia is important. Adequate and experienced Russians are offered to move to other countries. All Russians who can be easily replaced are replaced by specialists from other countries.

In addition to problems with obtaining orders, Russian outsourcing is faced with the fact that they cannot receive money for work. Western Union, PayPal, Wise, Payoneer no longer work in Russia. Paysend (a transfer system with Russian roots) is still trying to work somehow, but in a strategic perspective, it will also be crushed.

Visa and Mastercard left the Russian market, Swift was disabled for some Russian banks. For Russian IT specialists, this means that it is difficult to get money and in a month or two it will be even more difficult. There are still all sorts of confusing ways like unstable cryptocurrencies or unreliable loopholes with Chinese UnionPay cards, but there is one nuance with them. The customer of the work should be so interested in the Russian specialist as to bother with these means of payment. After all, software development is not design, not copywriting – projects drag on for months and years, and replacing a specialist with them is always associated with missed deadlines and loss of money. From Russian IT specialists, international employers need stability and predictability – not a single resident of Russia has either one or the other. In most cases, it is easier to hire a Ukrainian team for the same money than to delve into the intricate financial difficulties of the Russians, which become more complicated with every month of the war.

Therefore, the Russians are now “voting with their feet”, leaving wherever they are still allowed – the most popular routes have become Armenia, Georgia, Turkey. Or … they buy a tour to Uzbekistan, where Visa / Mastercard cards are still opened for them in local banks. It’s ironic enough: Moscow hipsters go to bow to the despised Uzbeks in order to beg for a piece of plastic “for assassination.”

Naturally, international employers of Russian IT specialists look at what is happening with a sour face. It is obvious that sooner or later the Uzbek cards will be closed, and the Chinese loopholes will be closed. The cryptocurrency market is not in the best condition, and cannot yet be a reliable means of payment. That is why the Russians are looking for a replacement, or they are offered to move.

Although where should the citizens of a terrorist country move, which has ruined relations with all its neighbors and brought the world to the brink of a world war? Where Russian – there are problems. This may even be an unfair opinion (there are many adequate specialists in Russia, and not everyone supports the war), but companies need to earn and insure risks. And this inevitably leads to simplifications not in favor of the holders of red passports.

There is still a domestic market with a salary in rubles, a vacation in Krasnodar and an “anti-crisis” Lada Granta without ABS and airbags for 600,000 rubles. As they say, “to whom the bride is a mare” – some IT specialists in Russia will be employed in any case. Let’s rejoice for them.

In general, the situation in Russian IT is very clear: there is less work, there is less money in rubles. Here they fought. Param-param-pam. Phew!

What will happen next

In the end, everything will be determined by the war. After the large-scale Russian offensive dwindled to suicidal attacks on UAF strongholds in several areas, the Ukrainian market began to recover. If the situation at the front is plus or minus the same, Ukrainian companies will be able to work and develop. Outsourcing also adapted, moving from dangerous cities closer to the western border. People are accustomed to the current emotional stress and are returning to work. Everything is fine as long as the sky of the Ukrainian world rests on the soldiers’ shoulders.

In Russia, everything also depends on the war: while Russia threatens the world, the Russian IT business remains locked in the domestic market, losing money and specialists. You can stretch for a month, two or five in this state. But at the end of the journey, the inevitable phase of degeneration into neo-Soviet sharashkas, a salary of 120 rubles (now, at best, it will be an iron altyn or an extra-ruble) and heart-to-heart conversations with the curator from the FSB will come.

Globally, the IT sector will continue to grow. The bloody Russian-Ukrainian war remains a sad but peripheral event. The world continues to produce more and more software products that require specialists to develop. Operating systems, microelectronics, mobile applications, virtual and augmented reality, space, autopilots, modern weapons, communications – Humanity will not give up on development, and the shortage of personnel in IT is only increasing. In addition, new directions are emerging in IT.

Boris Sarkisov, consultant in project management and business automation, program manager at Amazon:

I see this as the second wave of digitalization. In the first wave, business mastered computer systems, and now there is a data revolution. A lot of information can be collected from open sources, processed and gained an advantage over competitors (you can even win the US elections – ed.). This is no longer just a story that programmers and testers are needed somewhere: EVERYONE is needed. Marketers, project managers, data scientists and analysts – all these vacancies are perfectly filled by Ukrainians who know English very well and have a mentality similar to the West. And Indian outsourcing will rivet sites in the future.

Therefore, Ukrainians should learn new professions today. Thankfully it’s free now.

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