Interview about Ukraine conflict with Vitaly Sedler

Among other things, Vitaly discusses the current living situation and the development of the IT sector in Ukraine. He also reports on the evacuation of a total of 1,400 employees, which was very emotional and a logistically big challenge.

Interview über Ukraine-Konflikt mit Vitaly Sedler und Bernd Wandt

An interview between Vitaly Sedler and Bernd Wandt

Bernd Wandt

Hi Vitaly, normally it’s a standard opening but these days it’s main interest for me. How are you and your family doing? How did you and your family experience the last month? And how is it to live in Ukraine right now?

Vitaly Sedler

Hi Bernd. Great to see you. As you know, it has been almost three months since the war with Russia began.

Indeed, the times have changed. For us it is a time of enormous change, both for the company and our business. And, for me personally, of course, because it is something I could have never imagined could happen in the 21st century. But unfortunately, the reality is different.

For me, the war essentially started with a phone call. Our admin director called me at 5:00 AM and told me that there were missile strikes and explosions in multiple cities of Ukraine. Now I was awake immediately and then just briefly, about two minutes, I was checking the news. I understood that what we believed could not take place, actually occurred.

Putin started his war with the Russian army against Ukraine, and we had to act. We had to operate in these new conditions. The following two weeks, as you know, were intense and full of decisions that were determined remarkably quickly, and many of those decisions were very new decisions for me. So, that’s how it was. As for my family, I insisted that my wife, my child and two of our grandmas leave the country. Because it was a stressful situation, and at that time, we didn’t know what would happen, I asked them to go to Poland, where Intellias has its offices, specifically in Krakow. And that is where they stay until today. My wife came back shortly afterwards. Basically, I remain with my wife while my child and two of our grandmothers are safe in Poland.

Bernd Wandt

Great, good to hear. And I think also that having at least the wife with you, it’s a very good sign and a good way forward (to have your wife with you). 

Since 2009, we are already delivery partners and serving successfully common customers in the area of software development. A strong focus for all of us/ for both of us, I must say is on the selected and engaging engineers – your employees. And how they are doing and feeling? Can you tell me what Intellias does to ensure their employees and their families can live as safely as possible, and where are the employees currently working?

Vitaly Sedler

Yes, Intellias had a considerable part of its employees in Ukraine, although we’re not operating only in Ukraine, but also in other countries. Ukraine is, of course, the largest market for us. We had around 2400 people throughout the country at that point in time. We had offices in Lviv, where our Ukrainian headquarters is, in Kyiv, Odesa, and Kharkiv. We also opened offices in Dnipro and Ivano Frankivsk. Fundamentally our employees were present in many cities of Ukraine. When the war started, from the first hour, not even the first day, we started our evacuation process to relocate people from eastern, central, and southern parts of the country into western regions of Ukraine, and those who could cross the border – outside of the country. Primarily to Poland, but then from Poland, some people left to other countries. 

So overall we relocated close to 1400 people which were employees and their family members. Four hundred of these people went outside of Ukraine. Mostly these were women and kids, while the men stayed in the country. It was a massive logistical operation. If we are looking at the safety aspect, I believe that western regions of Ukraine are relatively safe. Certainly, we have had some missile strikes that you can hear about from time to time on the news. However, everything that has happened during these three months, did not affect our operations in the west of Ukraine. And the large majority of people in unsafe regions were relocated to more secure areas. Therefore, they can continue working without major disruptions. Big part of relocation processes took about four days. We began on Thursday and finished on Sunday. And then, by Monday, we had 80 – 85% of operational ability of the company. And then within one and a half weeks it was at 97 – 98%. Essentially, the company can operate normally even under these conditions. We continue to serve our clients from safe locations. No single client left Intellias except for one who was a Ukrainian business. All our clients support Intellias. They understand, and they are forbearing. They continue working with us and we are very grateful for their patience and trust. Intellias can continue partnership with our clients.

Bernd Wandt

Ok, yes. By the way, I can confirm that. All our customers are very happy that the projects are going on normally. There was nearly no interruption and that was for everyone really amazing, and it was really a fast action you did in the first days, we are very happy and all the customers tell us the same.

Vitaly Sedler

Yes, I would like to add one comment here. From one of our top clients, we heard something that I liked a lot, and I quote:” You, Intellias, you again exceeded our expectations”. As a business we love to be better and surpass the expectations of our clients. Despite the circumstances where maybe they were somewhat uncertain in their understanding of how this may work out, we managed to do our best. 

We relocated a lot of people. Our delivery process was sustainable. We continue serving our clients, and with that, we exceeded the expectations of how Intellias could act in these kinds of conditions. It is undoubtedly a positive sign for our clients.

Bernd Wandt

Again, thank you very much for that, because it’s really amazing what happens there. There are also some impacts to the market, maybe. The Russian invasion may change a lot to the overall IT industry and you as the chairman and President of IT Ukraine Association have a good overview about the market. How do you see the future of the IT sector in Ukraine? And could you tell us a little bit about the consequences for Intellias and how your vision is of the global delivery strategy for Intellias?

Vitaly Sedler

Yes, if we are talking about Ukraine, I believe all will be good for the Ukrainian IT industry for several reasons. 

Firstly, the country and our government will keep supporting the industry. IT is one of the few industries which sustained its business during the war and continues to operate normally. It keeps bringing money into the country. We are paying exceptionally well to our engineers. Therefore, they can spend this money and support the economy. 

Secondly, the importance of the IT industry in Ukraine is even higher due to the 300.000 talented engineers in the country. All our clients know how talented Ukrainian engineers are. The global shortage of IT talent is enormous. And our engineers will continue to provide services to clients. As long as it is possible to stay in the country and live more or less normally, this business will continue. That is why I think everything will be fine for the Ukrainian IT industry. 

Also, many engineers are very patriotic, and they regularly donate money and support Ukraine. It proves that they want to stay in the country. Perhaps we will not see as much growth as we did grow in the in the past years. But overall, I am confident that consequently the industry will continue to grow. As for Intellias and its global delivery strategy, we worked on it for two years before the war. We always wanted to grow the company as a global business. That is why we started opening offices in Poland in 2019. Consequently, what is happening now is that our global delivery strategy, which we planned to execute for two years, we now need to do it in about six to nine months. Overall, it is a good challenge to have. Intellias is always happy to take on new challenges. That is how we grow. I am confident that one year from now we will be a very different company compared to today.

We already opened offices in several European countries, two new offices in the West of Europe, specifically Portugal and in Spain. There is also a good pool of engineering talent in these locations. Also, Intellias has significantly scaled up its operation in Poland. In the past we only had the Krakow office. We already have added offices in Gdansk and Warsaw. Our new office in Wroclaw is coming in two weeks from now. We are going to have four offices in Poland. Moreover, in Poland nationwide hiring is similar to Ukraine. By end of the year, we will have around 400 to 500 people in Poland. We also opened offices in Croatia and Bulgaria. These are not massive markets. However, there is still a good demand for software engineering talent. And we are venturing outside of Europe.  We have started an operation in India already. We already hired a country head there. In India we will be able to accept kind of projects that we did not take in our Eastern European operations in the past. And we are moving into LATAM in the next couple of months. The country of choice is Colombia. Some preparation and work is getting done now. Altogether this is global delivery strategy for Intellias. Our company will become very diversified compared to what we were in the past. Essentially, these are difficult times, but a good opportunity for change and transformation. And we happily take this challenge.

Bernd Wandt

I think that’s a little bit of forced challenge but anyhow if I understood it was on your schedule and on your agenda already earlier. So, at the moment is the only difference to speed up, to go faster and accelerate the process.

Vitaly Sedler

Yes. It is.

Bernd Wandt

Thank you very much for this outlook. Last but important for our listeners, what is the best way to support our partners in Ukraine and what can the readers of this blog do to best support the people in Ukraine? What is your suggestion for that?

Vitaly Sedler

Thank you for this question. If you are appealing to businesses and businessmen in Europe, the United States or globally, we always say that we need to support not only military but also economical aspect. If you can start relations or continue and grow business with Ukrainian companies, please do this because it helps our economy. It allows for money to come into the country, salaries to be paid and the development of the economy. Kindly be a little bit more patient than in comparison to an ordinary time. This patience is support for Ukrainian businessmen and employees, and Ukrainian people in general.

If we are talking about what would be best to do right now. When speaking to German people, I am very much thankful to people of Germany and many other countries who support Ukrainians in their fight for freedom and values. We can see this a lot. But sometimes German government takes a somewhat conservative approach with providing aid to our country. It is changing, but not very rapidly. Sometimes it still takes weeks and months for the support to come into Ukraine. That is why the people of Germany can encourage the government to be braver and faster in their decisions. It would be help Ukraine, as obviously we need the support of the world. There is not the smartest but a big military machine coming from Russia. We need to fight against it, and we need backing from our partners and friends. We still need more support, both military and political, for Ukraine because we are fighting for not just our freedom but also for the values of a free world. You cannot just start a war in the 21st century because you have political ambitions. It is not possible. We need to stop Putin. Also, Bernd, I think a significant part of what is happening in the country is due to support of the volunteers, both in humanitarian and military directions.

Intellias alone bought thirty cars to support the army. So, they can fight with these cars on the front lines. And we commit to buying more cars. Altogether around 80 cars. We are gathering money and making quick decisions. I will share some of the links to volunteering funds that I trust. And maybe your readers can donate money to those funds. With donations we will be able to provide humanitarian support. Some of the funds will go to military. Essentially, anything you want to support, it will be possible.

Bernd Wandt

Ok. Thank you very much for this. I think it’s good for the listeners to hear and do that. Thanks a lot for your time, Vitaly and for this interview. All the best for you, your family and everyone in the Ukraine a safe way to the future. Thank you very much.

Vitaly Sedler

Thank you, Bernd and take care.