Ukrainian software developers deal with power outages

IT services providers use a mix of diesel generators, portable power stations, Starlink and creative work scheduling to press on when the power is off.

Ukrainian IT services companies are using diesel generators and creative time management to overcome power outages due to Russian missile attacks on energy infrastructure, the most recent of which was underway today.

Planned shutdowns and emergency restrictions on electricity continue in parts of Ukraine as repairs are made on the power grid. Ukrainian energy company DTEK last week informed its customers in Kyiv that it would aim to provide electricity for two to three hours, twice a day.

Such disruptions have damaged the nation's economy. Last month, Yuliia Svyrydenko, Ukraine's minister of economy, said in a statement on the government's portal that Russia's strikes on critical infrastructure "exacerbated the decline" in GDP: The year-over-year drop was 39% in October compared with 35% in September.

Ukrainian software developers, however, have been working through the outages, supporting customers and hiring employees.

Work strategies

Softjourn, a consulting and custom software development company based in California with offices in Ukraine, purchased a diesel generator for its Ivano-Frankivsk office before the war. The western Ukraine city had escaped the brunt of the disruptions, but has seen scheduled outages.

As a result, more remote workers now come into the office to take advantage of the power supply, said Emmy Gengler, CEO at Softjourn. The company also purchased a generator for its Lviv office and is working to equip remote workers with portable power stations and backup internet connections.

The outages thus far haven't affected customers or curtailed Softjourn's operations. The company continues to hire in Ukraine, with employment levels as of November up 12% compared with last year, Gengler said. Hiring is up 22% overall as the company takes on employees in Poland and staffs an office it's setting up in Brazil.

Keeping to a schedule

Companies in Ukraine have become adept at building workflow around power availability.

We joke that no time management course helped organize work as effectively as a power outage did.
Maksym PetrukFounder and CEO, WeSoftYou

At WeSoftYou, an IT services provider with headquarters in Kyiv, many employees have been working remotely since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the company's employees have relocated to other countries to work since the war began, while others remain in Ukraine. Those that have stayed in-country have adjusted to life with intermittent electricity.

"Our employees learned the power outage schedule by heart, always have a power bank, and know the addresses of all the nearest coworking spaces and cafes with electricity," said Maksym Petruk, founder and CEO of WeSoftYou. "We joke that no time management course helped organize work as effectively as a power outage did."

In addition to shared workspaces and cafes, employees can also work in the company's Kyiv office, Petruk noted.

Avenga, an IT services company based in Germany with operations in Ukraine, has taken steps to make its offices independent from local electricity and internet providers. The company's 11 Ukrainian offices have diesel generators and Starlink terminals; Starlink is a satellite-based internet service that SpaceX operates. Offices are also equipped with two or more independent internet provider connections, according to the company.

Starlink at a glance graphic.
Starlink has become a backup internet service for Ukrainian IT services companies employing many remote workers.

UA IT Hub takes a similar approach. The IT services provider distributes projects to an entirely remote workforce of Ukrainian developers, some in-country and some who have relocated abroad. The company has continued to hire during the war.

"Some of our specialists in Ukraine work from coworkings that have power generators and Starlink," said Ivan Kosyuk, CEO of UA IT Hub.

Home-based workers, meanwhile, use power generators or portable power stations such as a 1,000-watt Bluetti unit. UA IT Hub's HR department, which is based in Germany, has delivered portable power stations and Starlink hardware to employees upon request, Kosyuk said.

Power sources

Ukrainian IT services companies use a range of alternative power supplies to work around emergency and scheduled outages.

Generators. These can range from devices that power homes to enterprise-class generators that support data centers. Generators typically run on diesel, natural gas or both, in the case of a bi-fuel generator. High-end generators offer days of power.

Portable power stations. These devices offer several hours of power from a rechargeable battery. The units recharge in an AC outlet, with some manufacturers offering solar panels.

Power banks. Offering less capacity than a portable power station, rechargeable power bricks offer the benefits of lower cost and lighter weight.

UI IT Hub has also devised practices since the beginning of the invasion to deal with power disruptions. Those include recording online meetings for those unable to connect, redistributing tasks in case of outages and restructuring tasks so that specialists can complete some of them offline. Flexible work schedules also contribute to resiliency.

"Each specialist tries to adapt the working day to the power outage schedules," Kosyuk said.

Softjourn's employees also adjust to the changing timetables, noting they might work later or on weekends to catch up.

"This is very flexible work," Gengler said.

Other approaches

Other models for dealing with power outages are in the works. WeSoftYou, for example, is considering basements equipped with Starlink and generators, as well as safe houses in the Carpathian Mountains. Before the war began, WeSoftYou began reserving those living spaces so that it could relocate employees en masse.

While that move proved unnecessary, WeSoftYou is now "reviewing the opportunity to use the same homes in the mountains," Petruk said.

And WeSoftYou continues hiring in Ukraine. "People join us monthly -- developers, project managers, recruiters and designers," he said.

Avenga also offers employees the ability to relocate to safer areas. The consulting, managed services and software development firm provides pre-booked hotels in the western parts of Ukraine, according to the company.

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