IT-patriotism. How to keep the developers from moving abroad
3
November
2017

Vladimir Kryvko, managing partner of Chernovetskyi Investment Group

The success scenario of most Ukrainian IT professionals seems to be something like that: finding a job in a large company, achieving a good salary and eventually moving abroad. Or creating his own product, finding a foreign investor and, again, leaving the country. In any case, many IT specialists do not want to stay in Ukraine after obtaining success. After all, they can work anywhere and so they choose the place where they feel more comfortable and easier. But I believe that this is a short sighted view. Our company invests in projects around the world from the US to India. And I can assure you that Ukraine has every chance to become a new world development center - one of the centers of innovations. We have everything for this - scientists, high-quality specialists, and talented entrepreneurs who create successful projects.

Of course, entering the international market is a logical development of a successful project. But it is very important that the project basis remains in Ukraine, the company develops the IT ecosystem, pays taxes, creates jobs, and Ukraine has its own innovative economy.

Between ourselves we use the term "IT-patriotism." It came up during the discussion of Israel's experience in creating of an innovative ecosystem. Today, it covers all the links in the chain of innovation: from education, development, patent registration, launch of commercial projects, attraction of investments to the creation of a powerful R&D infrastructure. And all this in a country that is in a state of armed conflict.

The crucial role here is played by people: IT specialists, entrepreneurs, investors, scientists, creating added value in the IT market. It is on this field that Ukraine is losing today. A Ukrainian student of a technical college while receiving, basically, a free education, starts working in an IT company at the time of his studies, and is already gaining experience. Then he creates his own project and moves abroad with it - just at the moment when his knowledge and experience begin to bear fruits. And these fruits are used by other countries. Countries that have built their own system of innovations.

I would really want our specialists to stay in Ukraine, to create and develop projects here. In order to create dozens, hundreds of new successful developments, and that these developments become the basis of our own innovative economy. How can it be achieved? I would start with reasonable arguments in favor of creating an IT project in Ukraine.

1. In Ukraine you can be among your "kind". There, abroad, we will always be strangers. I have lived abroad, and I can say with confidence that, despite the level of education and prosperity, we will be strangers everywhere. Perhaps, with the exception of the United States - the country that was built by emigrants. But even there integration into local culture and context will require considerable effort.

2. Here with an average income an IT specialist gets much more than "there". You must agree that the salary of $3 thousand in Ukraine and in the United States is evaluated in different ways. While here we can live for this money not bad at all, taking into account the price of food, real estate and rental prices, then for a developed country it is a very modest income.

3. Clear working conditions, even if it's not the best in the world. In Ukraine there are rules operating, including unwritten, yet understandable to the Ukrainian. Here there are established acquaintances and connections - everything that you will have to build abroad for a long time "from the ground up".

4. There are many talents that can be attracted to your company for a reasonable cost. You can find colleagues and quickly form a team, and not "for all the money in the world". In the USA you will have to invest a lot more money in specialists of this level.

5. In Ukraine there is a large new market. In particular, IT in medicine, drones, foodtech and fintech. As far as the eye can see - the "blue ocean". There are clear conditions for launching a start-up, and then you can scale the project to the whole world.

Of course, just arguments will not be enough. State support is needed. For example, Israel manages not only to retain its specialists, but also to attract developers from all over the world. The state has played a very important role. Not only it has created the conditions for the appearance of new projects, but also has acted as a venture investor, by investing money in start-ups along with private companies.

It is necessary to start from the first link – the education. It is at this stage that the idea of the profession is formed, the choice of perspective directions is being made, your own personal development plan and an understanding of what success means for you personally are determined. Therefore, it is very important to show the prospects of work in Ukraine at the stage of training in the university, to give an example of successful projects that have been founded and are developing here. At this stage a success scenario can be formed, that will not include a hasty exit from the country at the earliest opportunity.

Today there are several programs in Kyiv that provide support for student projects. But most of them are aimed at a completely pragmatic task - to educate the cadres for themselves. It seems to me that the task should be broadened: it is necessary to educate a generation of patriotic IT professionals and entrepreneurs. Those who stay in the country, even when they achieve success.

I'm absolutely positive that open, wide training platforms will allow laying the foundation for an innovative ecosystem of the future here in Ukraine. And over time to stop the outflow of the talents abroad.

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