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Ukraine’s devs swap DevOps for guns

Ukraine’s reputation as a vibrant hub for IT talent has, along with its democracy, been hit hard this week. Over 100 startups that have raised capital in the past year alone have offices for developer teams in Ukraine, PitchBook data shows. Almost all of them are technology companies. Other multinationals have well-established DevOps and IT support teams in the country — Ukraine’s IT services industry generates $6.8 billion in exports, according to a 2021 National Study from local tech association IT Ukraine, as reported by The Register.

One senior company official told The Stack today that their entire DevOps team were “putting down laptops and picking up guns” in the wake of the invasion — needless to say they did not want their company to be named for fear of reprisals against their team for resisting the invasion. Companies from GitLab to Grammarly, Lyft to Apple also have footprints in the country. Apple’s Tim Cook said he was “deeply concerned” by the “situation” in Ukraine and “we’re doing all we can for our teams there and will be supporting local humanitarian efforts.

The CEO of another large company told us that they had a team of developers based in the country: “[We have a large group of people in [location] close to the border. Folks report seeing Russian tanks from the window. They can’t leave the city as one of the bridges is destroyed, ]the] other one was mined to block traffic.”

Avishai Abrahami, CEO at Wix, said Friday: “Team members from Lithuania drove all the way to the border of Poland-Ukraine, and along with our Polish team helped the Ukrainian team and their families cross the border and bring them to safety. These people have never met before. I’m extremely moved and proud.”

Many are making belated efforts to help get contractors out of the company — something complicated by closed airspace and jammed, dangerous roads. Pari Natarajan, the CEO of India’s Zinnov, a global management consultancy, meanwhile urged companies to support teams there and not give up on the country.

He wrote: “The technology ecosystem in Ukraine is one of the finest in the world. Ukraine entrepreneurs and engineers have helped and continue to play a major role in building world class products and services. It is now the time for the global technology leaders to stay with the Ukraine tech ecosystem and not look for easy way to transition work out to other locations. What is happening in Ukraine can happen anywhere in the world. Ukraine tech ecosystem has proven their resilience and will continue to do so.”

The team behind a major modification for action role-playing game “New Vegas” — developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published by Bethesda Softworks — said on Twitter: “With the unfolding invasion of Ukraine, it’s become very clear to the development team that we won’t be able to get much done on the rework, as many of our developers live in the conflict zone. So we’ll be going on a partial hiatus for a bit until things resolve.”

“We’ll still be active in the background and on our social medias, but the health and wellbeing of our team always comes first, and it wouldn’t at all be fair to push our devs to keep working while dealing with a major crisis.”

Work for many, extraordinarily, continues. One consultant noted on Twitter: “The past year or so I’ve been working with a remote team of two devs based in the Ukraine. The daily stand-up this morning felt surreal. Both had heard explosions during the early hours. One had no power but connected via cell phone…”

“Some of our startups moved out to parts of western Ukraine, but I know a lot of people who stayed in Kyiv because we are not afraid of invasion,” Andriy Dovzhenko, a co-founder and managing partner of SMRK, a Ukrainian fund that specializes in IT startups, told market news and data site Pitchbook this week. “We will continue to provide support to our startups to help cool down emotions…”

With a large game developer footprint in the country, the gaming industry was among those making business continuity plans, with numerous game developers around Ukraine telling Polygon shortly before the invasion that they intended to move staff out of Ukraine. Following the attack, Ukrainian game studio GSC Game World put out a call for support among its global fanbase, while Polish game studio 11 bit studios (creator of “anti-war” game This War of Mine) said profits for next seven days would be donated to the Ukrainian Red Cross.”

At a more structural level for the technology industry, Ukraine is a major producer of neon gas used in the lasers critical to chipmaking and supplies more than 90% of US semiconductor-grade neon, according to estimates from research firm Techcet reported by Reuters, which may complicate already fraught chip supply chains.

Small arms fire continued throughout Ukraine’s capital as we published.

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