IT industry in Ukraine: rapid growth and highly skilled people
Many people in IT are aware that Ukraine boasts one of the largest and fastest-growing IT industries in Europe. Mid 2019 it is estimated that there are more than 170,000 IT professionals not including support staff according to the dou.ua. In 2018, software development services became the second largest export service industry for the country, accounting for almost 20% of all Ukrainian exports – and this is a market that still grows rapidly.
Most people do not understand the basis for this, and we are often asked about our engineering centre in Ukraine. One of the questions that we repeatedly get is why the Ukrainian IT experts are so young (and so good). The reason is, it’s not uncommon in Ukraine for a software engineer to have both complete a master’s degree and racked up over two-three years of work experience by age 25. It’s a far cry from the situation in Western Europe, where some governments are struggling to shorten the time it takes for students to graduate.
The secret to Ukraine’s IT success lies in a combination of structural factors and individual initiative.
A fast-track school system
The Ukrainian educational system is organized into five levels: preschool, primary, secondary, higher and postgraduate. Preschools are for children age 1 to 6. Compulsory (primary plus secondary) school starts at age 6 and ends 11 years later, at age 17. This mean that many students are ready for higher education already at 17.
After 4 years bachelor’s degree studies and another 2 for the master’s degree, 23-year-old Ukrainians are ready to hit the job market – after having worked part-time during their studies, of course. Higher education is not “free” for all students, but many receive scholarships linked to both performance and on-time completion of studies. No wonder, then, that few students take time off from studying along the way.
A focused mentality
Ukraine has strong educational traditions in the fields of mathematics and engineering. There’s a reason why the world’s largest cargo planes are built in Ukraine, and why the country produced engines and guidance systems for rockets and missile systems. In recent years, the country has established itself as one of the world’s leading providers of outsourced IT solutions.
Working in the field of IT means both prestige and relatively high pay in Ukraine. Combine this with a strong desire to get ahead in the world and a work ethic that involves putting in a full month more every year than in many Western European countries (1,800 hours vs. 1,670 hours), and you can start to understand the factors that energise these young IT wizards.
The IT culture of Ukraine
IT is developed with pride in Ukraine, where it’s looked upon as a genuine craft. In some countries, developers rush to prove themselves so they can become managers and stop growing. This is not common in Ukraine. In our experience, Ukrainians prefer to advance their careers more in the direction of solution architects or technical consultants than toward management. They seem to feel they can make a bigger positive impact in these roles.
“In Ukraine you generally get what you expect, when you expect to get it. Since Ukraine is only one hour ahead of Western Europe, the young Ukrainian IT professionals are used to working in real-time dialogue, often involving face-to-face discussions.”
– Christian Holst-Jensen, CEO at Global Mediator
The European culture of “make the plan and work the plan” is very common in Ukraine, which means you generally get what you expect, when you expect to get it. Since Ukraine is only one hour ahead of Western Europe, the young Ukrainian IT professionals are used to working in real-time dialogue, often involving face-to-face discussions. And you can be quite certain that nobody will start developing until they’ve understood what they need to do and, in many cases, have suggested improvements.
So next time you meet a 30-year-old Senior Software Developer from Ukraine and you think he’s too young to have this experience – think again.