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Ukraine’s tech sector 100 days in

Friday marks 100 days since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. 

Although conflict and tensions have raged between the two nations since 2014 when Russia invaded Crimea and Russian-back separatists seized part of Donbas in south-eastern Ukraine, it was Putin’s full-blown military operation in February that brought international scorn, sanctions and a pressure on fuel and food prices across the globe. 

During the early weeks of the invasion, TheTicketingBusiness spoke to Softjourn chief executive Emmy Gengler. 

Softjourn, a global technology service provider with a focus on ticketing, is headquartered in the US but has offices in Ukraine. 

Gengler told us of how Softjourn was supporting its staff and how continuing to work would mean not letting the “aggressor” win. 

After more than three months of conflict, we spoke to Gengler once more for an update on Ukraine’s tech sector. 

TheTicketingBusiness: How has Softjourn been able to keep employees safe since the war started in Ukraine? 

Emmy Gengler: “Softjourn has had carefully crafted contingency plans in place since Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014 to ensure safe, stable, and secure operations even through the uncertainty of war.

“We have and continue to support our employees in Ukraine with flexibility, empathy, and financial support, whether they are able to keep working or not. We work with our team members to consider the best plan for them and their families, whether it be relocating to one of our offices in western Ukraine or Wroclaw, Poland, working remotely abroad or in Ukraine, or serving in the army.

“We booked apartments in advance for our relocating workers, near our Ukrainian and Polish offices. We also established a company-wide ‘Emergency Chat’ for quick collaboration and providing immediate help to employees in need. We often check in on our workers and make sure they are safe and comfortable, and we do everything in our power to help them through tough situations.”

TTB: How has the tech sector rallied to keep going despite the circumstances? 

EG: “The technology industry is one of the few industries that has been able to continue working with little to no interruption, depending on where the company’s offices or employees were located. 

“Most tech companies had contingency plans based on where they were located in Ukraine, and in many instances, had plans in place to move employees and their families further west. 

“For those companies already in safe zones, or once relocation to a safe zone was realised, most companies were up and running. Due to the rise in remote working since the pandemic, most clients didn’t see any changes in the quality of work and services their partners in Ukraine were providing.

“Sergiy Fitsak, managing director of Softjourn, found that through continuing to work, many tech workers feel they are fighting on the ‘second front’ – by supporting Ukraine’s economy, military, and infrastructure.

“The resiliency of the tech industry in Ukraine has been demonstrated to clients and to the tech community around the world. It is more than just the companies which continue to provide software exports and tech services and help keep the economy afloat;  the internal tech sector should be heralded for keeping the financial services sector going, transport running, packages moving, goods coming in and out of the country, and the e-government working in Ukraine.”

TTB: Do you have training on how to manage certain situations, please can you give some more information on that? 

EG: “Although we wouldn’t rule out crisis management training, the last eight years since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, have prepared us for managing a crisis. Now that we have experienced the impacts of the first 100 days of the war, we see that our contingency plans have worked and that our leadership team was able to take the necessary steps to support our team members with relocation and staying safe.

“With Russia continuing widespread assaults, we will keep adjusting our plans as needed and have a flexible approach when it comes to helping our employees.”

TTB: How do you feel about the other companies that have had to evacuate from war-torn areas? 

EG: “Our hearts go out to the communities who have had to evacuate from war-torn areas. Some of our fellow tech companies have continued working from apartments or hotels after their offices have been destroyed, while others have had to relocate a number of their staff to western Ukraine or abroad.

“We wish for the safety of all in Ukraine, and hope that communities and companies can move safely home sometime soon.”

TTB: How does staying and continuing to work and innovate help Ukraine?

EG: “Softjourn, with the help of other Ukrainian tech companies, has promoted a campaign to galvanize the global tech community to #SupportUkraineTech. This has included undertaking interviews with the international press, writing articles on how to support Ukraine Tech, and collaborating with Bhaskar Chakravorti from Digital Planet, to tell the story of Ukraine’s Digital Economy. 

“On Chakravorti’s podcast, members of Softjourn, other tech companies, and even one of our clients shared their perspectives about the strength of the tech sector in Ukraine. The series of podcasts included discussions about the effects of the war and how the tech community is moving forward. It also touched on areas of innovation in Ukraine, such as the e-government, which is currently advancing faster and more innovatively  than in many other countries. 

“We at Softjourn are proud of our team members who have remained incredibly professional and hard-working, and grateful to our old and new clients alike, who continue to believe in us and in Ukraine’s future as a tech leader. 

“Softjourn continues to support Ukraine and Ukrainians, and since the war started our Ukrainian workforce has grown by 10%. We will continue to support the country while simultaneously ideating solutions for our clients’ toughest tech issues.

“The entire tech sector is poised to help Ukraine not only by stimulating Ukraine’s economy, but also by supporting Ukraine with rebuilding efforts and tech solutions that will help Ukraine emerge stronger than ever. Together, we continue to spread awareness that Ukraine’s technology sector is determined, resilient, and defiant, and this war will not destroy what’s taken years to build.”

TTB: How can other members of the sector support Ukraine? 

EG: “One of the best ways to support Ukraine’s tech community is to stand with your Ukrainian business partners, continue to license or purchase products and services, and explore new business and consulting opportunities in Ukraine to solve industry challenges. 

“Ukraine’s tech sector remains open for business and is continuing to work with contingency plans put in place before the conflict started. Russia’s invasion will not stop the progress and achievements of Ukraine’s tech community.”

Image: Yehor Milohrodskyi on Unsplash