Ukrainian “Work From Anywhere” Saga For An Auto Software Company

Just like in other industries, the automotive employers’ cliché that emerged from the pandemic was “you can work anywhere” with arguably the best variant being Mary Barra’s version that GM employees shall “work appropriately.” The practical translation of this for the average, white-collar worker has been fewer commuting hours, fewer showers per week and greater complaints regarding socialization, co-creativity, and the inability of “hotel cubes” to store prototypes or defective parts.

Spoiler alert: they ain’t seen nothin’.

Nearly five thousand miles away in Ukraine, war continues to ravage its land and people while defending a nation from its aggressive neighbor, Russia. On the evening before the interview for this article, 35 drones were shot down while attempting to harm its capital, Kyiv. Despite what many would call a successful ending, those fallen destruction-bots created collateral damage and gaping holes in a few office buildings. “We heard a lot of loud crashes,” stated Vladyslava Hedz, a 20-year old developer at Fordewind, an Internet of Things (IoT) engineering and development company headquartered in Kyiv.

Such war-torn hybrid working should mentally push the imagination’s boundaries for many readers: to not just develop cloud-content for vehicles while living under the literal cloud of attacks, but to simultaneously run successful businesses feeding displaced families. An unfathomable battle in and of itself.

And yet, it almost seems to be taken in stride.

“The war definitely impacts sales and marketing … but due to more than one year of this, we got used to the situation very well,” per an executive for Fordewind, Vladimir Broyde. “Yes, it interrupted our operations for a few weeks at the beginning of the war, but that’s it.”

Assuredly, just securing business remotely must be very tough.

“We have been on the market for nearly ten years. We are very narrowly specialized in IoT and automotive. [In some cases] they find us on some categorical list of companies for doing development, and we have a lot of references of companies that have worked with us before. Actually, the automotive industry is a very small [world] … many times, I already know somebody that knows a [new customer].”

The crazy part: coronavirus actually helped these companies, in some regards. “The pandemic was a training for everyone on how to work remotely; to work in a new environment and new processes,” Broyde explained. “And, of course, traveling was [also] an issue during the pandemic.” When asked if that will be the way of working for the foreseeable future, “Now, most of the people are coming to the office and working in one place. You know, what is interesting, [during the pandemic] everybody started working from home, but towards the end it became very boring for everybody and people wanted to come back to the office. Then war started, and then again everybody was spread around Ukraine, and part of the team fled to Europe. So, yes, the situation goes back and forth.”

 So what does “working appropriately” mean?

That’s a really good question when, like Hedz, your entire adult, working life has been the pandemic followed by war. “War changed everything in my life, but it also gave me a great opportunity to work in this company because I [was forced away] from my previous work and ‘sphere’. A lot of people in Ukraine also had to change their sphere since they had to move to another city and [a new line of work]. It’s a big challenge for everyone, but we adapted and Ukrainian companies continue to work in these strange and hard conditions.”

OK, so maybe the rest of us should stop complaining about our socialization issues.

Author’s Note

I’ve noticed the potential convergence of two trends: the nearly-ubiquitous desire to support the Ukrainian people remotely (e.g., thousands renting AirBnB’s in Ukraine without the intent to visit) and the exponential, global need for software development.

Maybe these Ukrainian companies create the highest quality code on the planet. Maybe they hit every delivery on-time, on-content and on-experience. I really don’t know since I didn’t assess them, seek references or trial their app’s.

But what I do know: they don’t run from challenges.

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