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Looking to work with Ukrainian developers? Here’s what one wants you to know first

Despite the Russian invasion's impact, Ukraine still has a robust tech workforce supporting companies worldwide. In this op-ed, the CEO of a company with a Ukrainian worker-focused platform explains what to expect about working with his fellow denizens.

The crowd at a protest for solidarity with Ukraine in London. (Photo by Flickr user Alisdare Hickson, used via a Creative Commons license)
This is a guest post by Dmitry Kiryukhin, the CEO and founder of CleverFleet. His company operates a payroll platform aimed at working with and retaining Ukrainian specialists, as well as the #ActivateUkrainians initiative to support and hire Ukrainian talent affected by the war with Russia.
Back in 2015, when I had just launched my software agency, one client was transparent enough to describe why we were parting ways.

“Hey, we don’t know if you’re, like, a bunch of cowboys shooting all around. I don’t want to get any of those risks.”

Now, with explosions all around Ukraine, I still feel he was entirely wrong. There are a lot of positives to working with us. Here are just a few:

  • Tech skills: In Ukraine, IT is one of the few options available to become a normal middle-class citizen. But that requires a lot of work, learning and improvement. So, in a phenomenon not related to higher education, most Ukrainian specialists are highly skilled professionals that consistently put real effort into their work.
  • Mentality: I’ve traveled around the world and experienced many different cultures. I’m still convinced that the Ukrainian mentality, at its core, is very similar to the American one: We work hard to get things done.
  • Trust: Because of the current help from the US (and even well before the war started), many Ukrainians have a deep respect and trust for the country. Remote work is getting more popular, and trust is critical for developing business relationships.
  • Price: Salaries have been skyrocketing in the IT industry over the last couple of years. Despite that, you can find skilled developers with acceptable English levels for about $48,000 if you hire them directly. I firmly believe that Ukraine is top-tier in terms of price-to-quality ratio.
  • Remote experience: I’m navigating the war with dozens of employees and people are doing a fantastic job. Many temporarily moved elsewhere, set up new workspaces and never missed a beat while working in a high-pressure environment.
CleverFleet team

Members of the CleverFleet team celebrating the company’s first anniversary in 2021. (Courtesy photo)

After working together for seven years, I met another client for the first time. We were hiking in Canada, discussing politics and other topics, and he mentioned: “Your English is so much better now than the first time we met. I’m happy we can now easily chat on different topics.”

Despite our ability to overcome the language barrier, he hit on one of the following issues that you should note before working with us:

  • English: While the average English speaker in Ukraine is more proficient than their non-native-speaking peers in other countries, most people are learning it on the go and are still too shy to communicate effectively. It’s essential to remember that you don’t need English fluency for most work, and communicating via text is an excellent way to track your expectations while allowing the person to polish their response.
  • Scarcity mindset: Ukraine managed to escape the USSR only 31 years ago. The average Ukrainian IT specialist is just 28 years old, meaning he spent his youth in the 90s and early 2000s when most of the country was poor. The IT industry allows him to join the middle class, but regularly changing workplaces to get higher pay is tempting. Unfortunately, local outsourcing companies fuel this tendency by promising bigger salaries to get people on board. [Editor’s note: For more on the implications of outsourcing, read’s series on the topic.] So, retention could be an issue if working with an outsourcing partner or paying less than average.
  • Lack of soft skills: Remember the average age, as well as that most of us are self-taught with limited English skills. To Americans, we may sometimes sound rude or abrasive, but we can quickly learn to manage any cultural differences.

Beyond the pros and cons, here are some other mindset differences to note:

  • “How are you?” is perceived entirely differently in Ukraine. In our culture, we say “Hello” when we don’t expect a reply, but “How are you?” will require a thoughtful answer. Don’t freak out if the person starts telling you about how they really are, including all of the good and bad.
  • Provide transparent and honest feedback. People will value it a lot. Repeatedly hearing “It’s awesome” about average results won’t give the person an opportunity to learn and improve. Be direct and transparent without being rude, and don’t expect Ukrainians to always be excited about every task or mission.
  • Work perception. In the US, working on something you’re a fan of is considered good. However, in Ukraine, many people will work solely for money without caring about missions. It’s not that we don’t care about global warming or defeating cancer. We just have other important internal issues to solve.

If you’re all right with all of this, we used our knowledge to build a platform that allows you to directly hire Ukrainian nationals, acquiring great talent for a fair price. Think of a professional employer organization, where all that you have to do is directly hire a person, and we will take care of the rest. Help us to #ActivateUkrainians, so we can live a better life!


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