What it's like to work in tech in Ukraine right now
Photos: Daria Aleksieieva and Danylo Fedirko

What it's like to work in tech in Ukraine right now

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Good morning! Tech workers in Ukraine are clinging to normalcy as a war rages around them. I’m Allison Levitsky, and one day, I hope to visit my dad’s hometown of Kyiv.

Working while at war

More than 2.8 million refugees have left Ukraine since Russia invaded the country last month. I spoke with two young tech marketers who are still there.

For Daria Aleksieieva, glass bottles are weapons now. The Kyiv-based tech marketer started collecting them last month to help make Molotov cocktails. She also added “🇺🇦 Freedom Fighter” to her LinkedIn headline — right after “Marketer at Popup” — and left her apartment with her headphones, cosmetics, a book and a small selection of clothes. (Her two dogs’ beds, toys and food took up the rest of her luggage, she told me.)

  • “Right now, I think, ‘What the hell? Why did you actually, Daria, took this?’” she said, laughing at what she packed. “It was a stressful situation.”
  • Aleksieieva is now staying with her family outside the city — a five-hour drive that she said used to take 20 minutes. She has friends who haven’t left: “For them, the answer is ‘It’s our home,’” she said. Others fled to western Ukraine.
  • If her parents weren’t close by, Aleksieieva said she probably would have stayed in Kyiv. But she wanted to be with them in case they needed to flee, she said.

Friends, family and colleagues are stepping up to fight. About half of Aleksieieva’s close contacts are preparing to fight or otherwise volunteer for the Ukrainian resistance — more men than women, she said.

  • Danylo Fedirko, the head of marketing at the Lviv-based outsourcing company Relevant Software, is safe in western Ukraine. But his father is training with Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces because he felt, Fedirko said, that it was easier than “sitting home and do nothing.”
  • A web designer at Relevant with experience as a drone pilot is still on the payroll while he trains other soldiers, Fedirko said. For a few days, Fedirko himself weighed going to Kyiv to fight.
  • “That was the mood for a lot of people, and especially male,” Fedirko said. A much larger invasion could even pose a staffing problem for tech outsourcing companies like Relevant as they serve non-Ukrainian clients, Fedirko said, since so many of their engineers are men.

In a surreal situation, Aleksieieva and Fedirko are working to maintain normalcy. Fedirko called me from Relevant’s office in Lviv, where he’s still working. Aleksieieva is still responsible for three projects at Popup, the no-code ecommerce platform provider where she’s the only Ukraine-based employee.

  • It’s been easier to keep working through the war, Aleksieieva said, because Popup operates asynchronously, without set work schedules.
  • Aleksieieva is still on work calls whenever she has internet access, which she said has been difficult both at her parents’ house and when using mobile internet. “We just tried to adjust to a new normal, for me and for us. Luckily it’s not a problem for me,” Aleksieieva said. “I’m flexible enough to do it when I can.”
  • Fedirko said Relevant’s team is working “more than ever.” As long as Russia isn’t bombing western and central Ukraine, Fedirko feels that those residents’ primary responsibility is to “work to support the economy of our country.”
  • Similarly, Aleksieieva said she’s been looking for ways to feel normal and support the local economy, along the lines of getting a manicure. “We still live our lives, and we need to do some small things that can make us happier,” Aleksieieva said. “But also because this will help this person find some money, be able to pay bills.”

— Allison Levitsky (email | twitter)

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Making moves

Knock is no longer going public and is laying off almost half of its staff.

Michele Korver is joining a16z as head of Regulatory. She most recently worked as chief digital currency adviser in the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

Spotify bought the naming rights to Barcelona FC's stadium. Daniel Ek has repeatedly tried to buy Arsenal, but will apparently take "Spotify Camp Nou" as a consolation prize.

Annie Palisi will lead federal affairs at Gopuff. Palisi most recently represented clients at consulting firm Invariant.

Brian Crowle joined Tompkins Solutions as VP of Sales. He last served as director of Storage and Automation for Toyota Material Handling Solutions.

Guy Zipori is Melio’s new VP of Research and Development. He co-founded and was CEO of Skyline AI.

Mandela Schumacher-Hodge Dixon is the new CEO of All Raise. She most recently led Founder Gym.

The Apple Car project team has reportedly been dissolved. (Again?) Apple has never announced the project, and yet it's already one of its most problematic teams.

In other news

Intel is spending big on its European manufacturing sites. The company is investing over $87 billion on new factories and research and development facilities across the continent.

Foxconn is spinning back up in Shenzhen. After a days-long shutdown thanks to COVID lockdowns, the manufacturer is using a "closed loop" system to get back to work.

The bans on Russian propaganda are working. Sort of. Traffic to RT and Sputnik content have dropped precipitously on YouTube, the Washington Post found, but some related Facebook pages are still growing fast.

Is Walmart tech? Walmart thinks so: It’s embarking on a hiring spree of cybersecurity professionals, developers, software engineers and more.

Vimeo told top Patreon creators to pay thousands or leave. Some creators were told to upgrade to a new custom plan costing several thousand dollars to continue hosting content on Vimeo.

Google workers are increasingly dissatisfied with their pay, according to an annual survey of company employees. But most workers said they’re happy with Google’s ability to carry out its mission.

Uber’s going to have a hard time getting most drivers in electric cars. The average Uber driver likely can’t pay for an EV, but Uber more broadly needs help from policymakers.

Airbnb is cracking down on fake listings. The company suspended “a handful” of hosts’ accounts after people started a push to support Ukrainians through Airbnb bookings.

Lots of people downloaded the Starlink mobile app in Ukraine after Elon Musk sent satellite internet terminals there. It was recently Ukraine’s most downloaded app on the App Store.

The workplace tool you didn’t know you needed

When your Spotify playlist, Chrome browser, Slack and Outlook are all crammed together on your desktop, moving from one task to the next can be annoying. Raycast is trying to make switching tasks less frustrating.

Think of Raycast as a remote control for everything happening on your desktop. You can set up hotkeys and keyboard shortcuts for the applications you use the most, like creating tasks in Asana or joining a Zoom meeting. Raycast hopes that by mapping everything to your keyboard, you’ll never have to reach for that mouse again. And if it’s doing its job right, you won’t even know that Raycast is there.

A MESSAGE FROM AURA

From fraudsters to hackers, the web has its share of bad actors. Aura’s all-in-one digital protection keeps them at bay, so you can do what you love to do online—safely. Sign up for your free trial to experience how our powerful security fits seamlessly into your life.

Learn more

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