Ukraine has been recognized as a rapidly developing IT hub for several years now. It has earned numerous awards as the best outsourcing destination in Eastern Europe and maintains a leader in this domain. The turbulent 2020 has surpassed any other year by the number of exported IT services – a staggering $5 billion, which even exceeds the export of transport and gas transit services.
Undoubtedly, the pandemic played its role in boosting the Ukrainian IT industry to such a height, yet it is not the only factor impacting its growth, rather an accelerator. Here, we discuss what makes the Ukrainian tech sector appealing to the foreign businesses in need of IT services, focusing on Kyiv as the major agglomerator of different tech ventures.
Today, we’d like to spotlight Zaporizhia, one more tech hub located in southeastern Ukraine. Why? Because this is where our story began: it’s Redwerk’s birthplace. In 2005, with a team of 3 techies from Zaporizhia, our Founder and CEO, Konstantin Klyagin, established a software development agency, now home to over 80 professionals.
While Zaporizhia cannot compete with the capital in terms of the number of ICT specialists and the diversity of IT communities, its unsaturated market and affordable living cost are the benefits international companies like Vimeo were quick to realize and reap.
In this article, we’ll cover:
The Current State of IT in Zaporizhia
Zaporizhia, also spelled as Zaporizhzhia, Zaporizhzhya, or Zaporozhye, is a city in the southeast of Ukraine. It is unique in that it combines a huge cultural heritage with impressive industrial capabilities. While Zaporizhia is the 4th largest industrial center in Ukraine, it is also known as the birthplace of Ukrainian nation-building.
Even if you are not a big history fan, you’ve probably heard of the Cossacks, who founded self-governing semi-military communities and played a crucial role in the European geopolitics of the 16-18th centuries.
One such Cossack state was established on the territory of the present-day Zaporizhia region. It was called Zaporizhian Sich, hence the city’s name. From the etymological standpoint, “Zaporizhian” implies the Cossack settlement was situated beyond the rapids of the Dnipro river; in Ukrainian, it’s “za porohamy”, while “Sich” derives from “sikty”, which means “to chop”.
Setting the historic legacy aside, we’d like to dive deeper into the reasons why Zaporizhia is a promising IT hub, stepping on the toes of large tech cities like Dnipro, Kharkiv, and Lviv.
Well-Educated Human Capital
Being an industrial city, Zaporizhia prepares specialists with highly technical degrees. However, it doesn’t mean that it nurtures only heavy industry graduates. Majors in Computer Science are vastly represented across all popular schools here.
Let’s have a look at the core higher education institutions fueling the tech expertise of the youth in Zaporizhia:
- National Technical University: BA/MA in Computer Engineering, System Analysis, Software Engineering, Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence Systems, Automation, Mechatronics, and Robotics, among many others
- Zaporizhia National University: BA/MA in Automation and Computer-Integrated Technologies, Software Systems, Software Engineering, Computer Mathematics, Computer Modeling, and several more
- Institute of Economics and Information Technologies: BA/MA in Software Engineering, Computer Engineering, Computer Science & IT
These institutions also offer pathways for employment in IT both to graduates and undergraduates.
Another way for Zaporizhia tech enthusiasts to become part of the flourishing industry is to upgrade their skill sets through numerous boot camps and IT courses offered by private academies. We’ll talk about them in a bit, so stay tuned!
Let’s be honest here. Zaporizhia is far from being a dream city in many ways: it has a high unemployment rate, suffers from environmental pollution, and the bulk of its foreign investment (as much as 65%) is directed mostly at the food industry, metal industry, mechanical engineering, and energy.
At the same time, we can observe a steady rise of the IT sector in the region. Back in 2014, only about 30 tech companies were represented on DOU, a Ukrainian listing for tech companies and ICT experts in search of job opportunities. Nowadays, this number is way bigger, as seen from our independent research, which means Zaporizhia’s tech landscape is expanding day by day.
Clear Development Strategy
When public interests and needs align with local authorities’ efforts, it’s viewed as nothing else but a miracle. Speaking of Zaporizhia, we are happy to see that the city councilors understand its tech potential and intend to take actions to maintain and further develop the existing ecosystem.
According to the Zaporizhia Development Strategy 2028 devised by local authorities, Zaporizhia is going to transform into a City of Entrepreneurship and Creative Economy. This objective implies that the economy will be diversified by developing small and midsize entrepreneurship, balancing traditional branches with the newly emerged, and promoting the IT sector.
Another crucial change to be attained by 2028 is implementing a resource-efficient and cost-effective waste management system while keeping the local community aware of the progress in improving the environmental condition.
Locals have already made the first steps in this direction by regularly arranging different eco-initiatives to clean public parks and raise environmental awareness. Redwerkers do not lag: we officially went green in 2018, and here is why.
Affordable Living Cost
Apart from vast opportunities to receive quality technical education, Zaporizhia’s citizens enjoy the perk of affordable living cost. Zaporizhia is the 6th most affordable tech city in Ukraine, and it also scores relatively high (5th position) for the ease of transportation.
Let’s compare the cost of renting a flat in major tech hubs across Ukraine. We see that Zaporizhia is indeed winning, especially considering that the salaries of IT experts are more or less the same.
Most progressive IT companies, including Redwerk, offer the perk of remote work, which encourages ICT professionals to stay in their hometowns and develop the local IT community. More so, some techies, having lived in large and expensive conurbations like Kyiv, consider relocating to smaller cities where the infrastructure is not cracking from overpopulation.
While Zaporizhia is a large city, hosting about 720K inhabitants, it is four times smaller than Kyiv, which means the job market is not oversaturated and less competitive. This status quo is very favorable for employers as they can quickly hire the experts they need to ramp up a dedicated development team and start working on their clients’ projects in a matter of a week.
Looking back at the Kyiv market, some companies go as far as offering $4K sign-on bonuses for senior engineers, welcome gifts including PlayStation, or the latest iPhones for an excellent recommendation in a desperate attempt to lure the talent and close those burning vacancies.
On the contrary, Zaporizhia’s market is not that overheated, which means the competition among ICT experts is also lower. Here in Zaporizhia, it is easier for students with no commercial experience and career-switchers to enter the IT field and build their careers as tech or semi-tech experts.
With 50% of graduates unemployed, Zaporizhia is also an attractive destination for entrepreneurs and investors to access a large talent pool that can deliver the same value as experts from the capital. The latter implies the job opportunities will keep growing
Zaporizhia Tech Landscape
The tech ecosystem in Zaporizhia is pretty diverse, with companies specializing in various domains – from software development, UI/UX design, and game development to software testing, marketing & consulting, and IT education.
We’ve done our independent research to create a comprehensive overview of the Zaporizhia tech ecosystem and spotlight the companies contributing to the development of the local IT community.
Without further ado, let’s meet the innovation leaders shaping the future of Ukraine!
IT Services Veterans
The companies grouped under this category have been on the market for a long time, allowing them to expand their expertise and function as one-stop shops. These agencies can fully support their clients at every stage of the SDLC – from product ideation to market launch.
IT services agencies help businesses innovate faster by:
- taking on-premise solutions to the cloud
- developing modern and highly competitive products from scratch
- refactoring legacy systems
- taking over part of the frontend or backend backlog
- making killer website redesigns
- testing client software and eliminating bugs
- automating routine workflows
- among many other services
These companies are often referred to as “outsourcing agencies”; however, well-established companies have long outgrown this term, positioning themselves as long-term partners rather than mere service providers. We also support this approach and believe in value-based engagement models that benefit both parties.
While some of the listed agencies have grown in size, others prefer to stay smaller to offer a more personalized approach to each client. Smaller agencies are also viewed as more cozy for employees as everyone knows each other by face, skill sets, and interests, which makes cooperation a lot easier.
IT Services Giants
IT services giants have multiple offices across Ukraine and, in some cases, R&D centers abroad, with Zaporizhia’s workforce representing only a tiny subset of their large infrastructures.
These agencies have been operating on the market for a long time, which allowed them to accumulate vast resources. Exponential growth and global market expansion must have been their primary business goals, which they successfully achieved. Meet the giants:
IT Services Scaleups
These companies have less experience as the ones above; however, they have shown steady growth and have managed to maintain their market share. Most of them provide frontend and backend engineering services for web and mobile, as well as UI/UX design, QA, or tech consulting.
IT Services Startups
These companies testify to Zaporizhia’s booming IT community, which is growing at a breakneck speed. Over the last couple of years, more IT services companies have emerged to meet the ever-increasing global demand for outsourcing various IT functions – be it MVP development, migrating to the cloud, or automating enterprise workflows.
While IT services agencies make up the bulk of the Zaporizhia tech landscape, the city also houses international and local product companies.
Let’s have a closer look at what niches have been filled and what markets remain open for future entrepreneurs and investors.
Design, quality assurance, SEO audit, marketing, business consulting, and team extension – all these are often provided by mature software development agencies that have gained expertise in these domains while catering to the diverse needs of their clients.
At the same time, some companies choose to narrow down their services only to a single niche to keep their focus and skill sets laser-sharp.
Marketing & SMM
HR & Staffing
With IT being one of the most sought-after industries among millennials and Gen Zs, well, because it’s high-paying, innovative, and fun, the demand for quality tech education is only increasing.
While higher education establishments provide a solid technical foundation for your specialists, they lack commercial experience and may not be as fast in keeping up with the latest trends and practices.
Here is where IT academies and various engineering boot camps come to the fore: not only do they teach modern frameworks and agile methodologies but allow career switchers to master the skills to be hired as juniors or interns.
The beauty of the current IT boom is that you can gain relevant skills even if you can’t afford or simply don’t want to pay for courses. More and more IT companies in Zaporizhia and other tech hubs are now investing in in-house academies as a pipeline for acquiring top tech talents. Most of these schools are free of charge, offer remote education, and provide programs for various roles – from developers and QAs to project managers and copywriters.
Here are some of the most popular IT academies in Zaporizhia:
The idea of coworking is relatively new in Zaporizhia, unlike Kyiv, where coworking spaces have outgrown themselves to innovation parks like UNIT.City. Nevertheless, those companies whose offices are not spacious enough for arranging tech gatherings and meetups and those willing to try out something new for a change or some networking can turn to the following facilities:
It is also worth noting that the cohabitation model is common in Zaporizhia among small companies. Some startups with less than ten employees can choose to rent the same space with a larger company. At our Zaporizhia office, we have welcomed the product company EqMan to share our working space.
Redwerk Office in Zaporizhia
Before we go any further, let’s just pause for a moment and appreciate the magnificent view from the terrace in our Zaporizhia office. Here, you can see how two extremes meet – a beautiful Khortytsia Island with its immense cultural heritage on one side and the 1930th-built heavy industry on the other.
Yep, that’s right. This is what Redwerkers can see every day should they feel like working from the office. Our home and creative hub is situated on the 13th floor (the lucky one) of the modern building in the heart of the city. However, we’re not the only techies who fancy the convenient location and picturesque landscapes.
Meet our neighbors!
- Face IT – Software development
- CHI Software – AI & ML developmentt
- Metrotek IT – Telecommunications & IT
- Natife – Mobile development
- Computools – Software development
- Mettevo – Web design & Marketing
- Infocom – Cybersecurity & Telecommunications
- Main Academy – IT school
- Unisphere – Network, server, computer equipment
We also like to partner up with other tech agencies to throw educational or entertainment events for our employees and the local community.
Ping Pong Contest between Redwerk and CHI Software employees
Life at Redwerk
Since the day Redwerk was born, 2005, we have always stood out with our internal and external policies as well as consummate professionalism. We have earned reputation as:
Diverse & Inclusive
Redwerk strives to maintain its hiring process transparent and completely unbiased. We care about your high expertise, your radiant personality, and your motivation to work with us. Your race, gender, age, nationality, sexual orientation, or marital status do not define who you are as a professional and therefore do not matter.
While we hire only seasoned experts for technical positions and clients’ projects, we are more open-minded for semi- and non-technical roles for our internal projects, welcoming juniors and trainees who possess the zeal, resilience, and determination to succeed.
We are also proud to have 40% of women in our Redwerk family without any pay gap. We believe corporate culture should be built for engagement and devoid of any stereotypical thinking. Our talent management strategy greatly benefits the solutions we deliver as they are developed with a holistic approach in mind.
We are strong proponents of the no-nonsense culture, meaning we don’t invent policy for policy’s sake. Our structure is horizontal because we want our communication to be transparent and effective, and we want each team member to be heard and promptly recognized for their contribution.
Yes, we do have project managers overseeing the success of our projects, but their function is not of a micromanager bossing around – quite the opposite. Project managers at Redwerk ensure each delivery team member has a consistent workload, all the required resources to get the job done, and gets along well with the rest of the stakeholders.
We also make sure Redwerkers do not suffer from Zoom fatigue. We try to keep our meetings list short not to drain the creative energy from our employees.
Progressive & Sustainable
Progressive ethos is hard-coded in everything we do – from supporting environmental initiatives and charity events to being remote-first and educating the local tech community.
Yes, Redwekers had worked remotely long before the pandemic created a spike in working from home. Now we also look beyond our R&D offices to attract the best talent and balance the job market.
We are also firm supporters of life-long education and learning, which is why we never stand still and actively engage with techies across Ukraine at our Dev Meetups.
We are against knowledge barriers between our top leadership and the rest of the team, which is why Redwerkers have access to world-known C-level business courses. Besides, every employee is encouraged to build a personal self-development plan to future-proof their careers and become even more valuable, with 50% reimbursement for all the educational activities.
Work-Life Balance Champions
We know what you think. There is hardly any company that hasn’t listed work-life balance as part of their company culture, even though their employees may not share the same opinion.
However, when we say we’re work-life balance champions, we mean it. We’re against overtimes, we believe in working smart rather than hard, and we know for a fact a well-rested teammate is worth ten over-caffeinated workaholics.
Still have doubts? Join our team and see for yourself!
Whenever we start collaborating with a new client, we expect to build a long-standing partnership based on mutual trust. In our history of collaboration with companies from the US, Netherlands, Germany, Canada, and the UK, 60% of our engagements have grown into long-term partnerships.
This approach to doing business is also beneficial to our employees as they can enjoy the stability, see the results of their hard work over time, and continuously master their skills instead of idling on the bench.
Having Growth Mindset
We’ve maintained our position as a market leader for some impressive 16 years, and the cornerstone of this success is having a growth mindset.
We wouldn’t achieve what we have now if we had relaxed and stopped developing, keeping up with the trends, probing untapped niches, and adapting to the changing business needs of our target audience.
While we’ve aggregated a vast knowledge base in different IT services, be it product development, legacy code modernization, and data science, we’ve clearly defined our major specialization – SaaS development – and vectors for future growth.
Actually, this is how our sister company, QAwerk, came into existence. Delivering a quality software product is impossible without systemized software testing. So over the years of shipping software solutions across verticals, we’ve become QA gurus and made it distinct through a separate agency.
Zaporizhia’s immense tech potential has transformed a historically industrial city into a booming tech hub raising the interest of large international companies. The Zaporizhia tech landscape is mature, diverse, and welcoming new entrants – attributes that guarantee its future growth. On our end, we’ll keep contributing to the development of the local community and spread the word about Zaporizhia as a cultural and tech gem in the southeast of Ukraine.
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