Vlad Kytainyk, founder of KITRUM: “For the whole world, Ukraine became the synonym for heroism and courage”

Vlad Kytainyk, CEO and CTO of software development company KITRUM, lives half-time in Florida and half in Ukraine. His company has offices in the US and Ukraine.

A full-scale invasion in Ukraine is a time for crisis management – a real one. Vlad explains how he deals with the company in the middle of the war – crisis management during challenging times.

TechUkraine: Prior to the war, you were in Florida, where one of the KITRUM’s offices is located. What did the local IT community say about the events in Ukraine? Did they believe in the possibility of the war?

Vlad Kytainyk: About 70% of our clients come from the US. I’ve been there for six months and had around 30 meetings with potential partners, as well as just meeting locals.

All of them had an association with Ukraine as an engineering nation.

No one ever expected it to be possible in the 21st century; when we set off cars into space and use artificial intelligence on a daily basis, and the world seems to be at one of the highest points of its development and prosperity. Globalization and sharing the experience between countries seemed to be one of the ways to bring us all to a better future. Instead, we see the world collapsing.

I’ve experienced the importance of sharing knowledge on my own: I visited one of the biggest hospitals in the USA and discussed potential cooperation. They showed me all of their wards. The way their medical system works is hard to describe, and it’s something that we should learn from them. I visited the school with a presentation on entrepreneurship and was a judge at the entrepreneurship contest. The spirit and entrepreneurship culture are also at a high level there. Children from an early age learn to pitch their ideas and collaborate. It is another aspect of cultural exchange I would like to depict from the USA.

They know how to build and optimize their businesses – almost 75% of US tech companies outsource. And through the years, they got to know the value of Ukrainian IT. After the war started, some of the people I worked with were blaming putin for ruining the free world, democracy, and entrepreneurship. Now they want to help Ukrainians not just because we are fighting, but because Ukraine proved to be a strong country with a great future; we showed an example to the whole world. The American tech community supports the Ukrainian IT cluster with its aspiration for freedom and unity with European countries.

TechUkraine: What did you personally think about what happened?

Vlad Kytainyk: I had a pretty extensive stay in the US this time, from October until March. We sorted out most things by mid-February, and I decided that it was time to return to my people. My family warned me that I shouldn’t be in a hurry because of the recent events in January and the beginning of February 2022. However, that was not even an issue to discuss. Even though I felt the increasing tension, I changed tickets from March 3rd to February 13th and returned to Ukraine. With this move, I also wanted to show support and confidence to all the KITRUM people staying in Ukraine.

I decided to spend some time in Kyiv to visit the office there. Until the moment I woke up from the bombing on February 24th, I didn’t believe that was possible.

TechUkraine: When did you realize that it is necessary to draft an action plan in case of war? Was it a hard decision, or did you make it with a cold head?

Vlad Kytainyk: The action plan is like project documentation or a house plan specification. You have one, but… have you ever seen perfect project documentation or a house built on time and within the budget?

We started to discuss an action plan in November. Of course, it’s impossible to predict everything, and we had to manage some processes simultaneously while the situation was evolving. Still, the main priority for us was to stay humane and accommodate the needs of our team. It wasn’t the plan alone that helped. Many people in the company devoted their time to finding necessary contacts, housing, transport, counting budgets to provide urgent financial help, etc. They were doing it in the shelters during bombardings and under huge pressure of anxiety and uncertainty.

Those who could help put a lot of time and effort into doing it for those who needed it the most.

TechUkraine: What were the plan’s priorities at that time for you as a CTO of KITRUM?

Vlad Kytainyk: My main task was to make sure that the business was sustainable. And I’m talking not only about the financial side but also about our people being safe, as well as getting back to their duties when it’s possible. I also had to take care of our clients as an HR and keep them on track of events, sending the letters with the updates on the situation, our team, and how things were going. I had toto make sure clients were aware of the situation and things we do to mitigate risks.

My other priority was to communicate with our people. I wanted them to know that they can reach out to the company, and we will literally do whatever we can to help them, no matter what the contingency plan says.

During the first weeks of the war, we actively communicated in Slack and via emails so people would not feel being left alone with their struggles. As a company, we wanted to support and help, so I felt that constant communication was the least I could do to show our position.

Most of our team members relocated and, after some time, got used to the conditions. The peak of communication was behind us and now we communicate just like usual. We managed to restore the business processes crucial for business to stay stable. Our HRs helped to accommodate people in other cities and provide them with all the necessary information and stuff so everybody could feel like living a normal life again, at least a little bit.

TechUkraine: Can you share whether necessary measures for relocating and helping the team affected the company’s financial stability?

Vlad Kytainyk: Through my entrepreneurship experience, I’ve learned that if you want to have extra-happy people in your company, not just motivated but really excited about life and the job they do, you need to put time and resources into it. Yes, their happiness affects financial KPIs, but I enjoy making people happy, not only creating job opportunities. 

You are around those people 8+ hours a day, and you want to see smiles on their faces. You want to feel their spirit and good energy.

So the short answer is: it did affect the company financially. But every cent was worth it. We were doing it consciously and with the tremendous desire to be really helpful.

TechUkraine: What processes were affected by the war the most?

Vlad Kytainyk: The HR processes were the first to waver. Of course, we are open to remote work, but in peaceful times, we had a lot of gatherings and company parties with our Kyiv and Kharkiv offices. We are people’s first company; we like interacting.

Now we have to learn how to keep the connection between people who found themselves in very different conditions, and some are not even in Ukraine anymore.

In any case, I know that situation will change, and if we cannot get our team together in Kyiv or Kharkiv, we will definitely go to Ibiza together. We will bring our people there and manage all the transfers (sorry guys, but +1 is on you), but we will make a huge party to celebrate that we are together! And then we’ll have another party in Ukraine once we win.

TechUkraine: Do you feel the changes in the company’s work now, after the war started? What are they?

Vlad Kytainyk: We adapted quickly. We have a digital ecosystem that sort of always allows us to stay interconnected: we have meetings, chats – nothing stopped. Our results improve every month and get back to the “before the war” state. But of course, team chats with jokes are almost non-active now.

TechUkraine: Has the clients’ attitude toward the company and employees changed? Did you hear any concerns from their side?

Vlad Kytainyk: We adapted quickly. We have a digital ecosystem that sort of always allows us to stay interconnected: we have meetings, chats – nothing stopped. Our results improve every month and get back to the “before the war” state. But of course, team chats with jokes are almost non-active now.

Most of the clients confirmed their long-term plans to work with KITRUM. According to the quaternary services we provide our clients, 98% of them are optimistic about the work we accomplish. 

The clients always valued us a lot. They know us as responsible partners with strong management. Now they respect us even more and admire the courage of our employees after the stories of how our teams work from bombarding shelters, though no one demanded this. Everyone understood the situation, and for every partner, the safety of people was in the first place. But the work of our employees under such circumstances only showed how devoted they are and this deserves the highest respect. 

TechUkraine: Did the number of potential clients in the company grow or decrease? Do you consider working and looking for more or fewer potential partners at this period?

Vlad Kytainyk: We continue to gain more clients as we understand that revenue is our weapon. Not only do we want to create more workplaces, but we also want the money to support our economy. We won’t stop collaborating with new partners and hiring new employees no matter what. We know that we will come out as winners from this situation, and we need a happy nation for this. 

TechUkraine: Do you support the decision of some employees to devote more time to volunteering, or do you consider them more valuable as working units to benefit the country’s economy?

Vlad Kytainyk: Yes, we encourage this. As I said previously, we are a people-oriented company. We set goals and plan them just like any other KPI. We aim to provide more help to individuals and organizations. Now we are in the process of restructuring our operations to become more socially responsible.

TechUkraine: What do you think about the future of the Ukrainian IT industry due to current events?

Vlad Kytainyk: I’m sure that not only IT will stand, but Ukraine as a country will become stronger. I don’t doubt for even a second that we will win. Unfortunately, the price is high, and it will take some time to rebuild the country.

Even among our clients, there are those who are ready to become investors and patrons. For the world, Ukraine became the synonym for heroism and courage. The whole world admires the people and shows empathy and support. Ukraine is a brand, and helping Ukraine is a matter of honor. Standing with Ukraine means supporting humane values and standing against violence, propaganda, and sick ideas of imperialism. Ukraine now means freedom and unity.

And the main thing is that we are not just united against the enemy. We are united WITH love for our country and culture. And that’s why we will win.

Post details