As a founder with a developer background, I was frequently asked for recommendations of outsourced tech teams. A long time ago I co-founded a Ukrainian software house, before handing business to my partner in 2016.
When outsourcing IT was on the peak of its popularity I decided to start matching companies with tech talent at Trustshoring. For this, I had to start growing my network and vetting developers for work with tech startups remotely.
As I was mainly focused on developers in Eastern Europe, particularly Poland and Ukraine, I had to learn a lot on finding developers, pre-vetting them, and working on projects with outsourced teams.
Working with developers from Ukraine feels so different if you come from the States of Western Europe! Being German myself, I had to learn this from the ground up as well.
In this article, I want to share with you my key learnings so that you can avoid many pitfalls of hiring Ukrainian developers for your startup.
Finding hidden talent
When choosing to work with Ukrainian developers one can turn to online marketplaces such as Toptal or Upwork. I have learnt that some developers – both freelancers and agencies – that do a top-quality job are usually not on talent marketplaces and have no time to create proposals for potential clients.
Take into account how big the outsourcing business is – only in the U.S. the market is predicted to grow by 7,7% each year within the period of 2020-2027.
Source: Grandview Research
Tech agencies offering outsourcing services inject big budgets into growing their marketing trying to increase the sales.
Unfortunately, outsourcing companies you will find in top results on Google won’t necessarily do the best job with product development.
On the contrary, I have noticed local communities harbour tech talent that always has plenty of clients and launch successful projects, also they prefer to stay small and keep great relationships with clients (often managed by a founder). This leaves no time for growth marketing.
Companies whose main focus is to be prominent and scale, often don’t deliver well.
Lesson learnt – the best tech talent is hidden in local communities.
Though reserved in the beginning, Ukrainian developers tend to keep excellent remote communication in English using online communication and webinar software. I believe that top tech teams should be well-versed with necessary project management tools or modern communication stack, like Zoom, Slack, Telegram, or others.
Ukrainian tech teams usually suggest a framework for communication they have tested with clients from other continents – daily standups, demo days, catch up calls, and share project files and folders etc. Don’t worry – you will not be left alone setting up such a communication framework!
I have also talked to companies that have had unsuccessful outsourcing experiments. To my surprise developers suddenly disappearing for weeks seem to be quite a challenge for many!
That is why I count excellent communication, accountability, and project management as especially important when working with Ukrainian developers. They deal with it quite well.
They don’t accept everything at face value
Unlike some nationalities whose culture forces agreeing with everything (this is the case for Indian developers), Ukrainian developers often have their own opinion. They will also question your approaches if they can offer better alternatives. This approach helps you avoid many costly mistakes, but might be challenging to accept at first. Don’t worry about countering their argument.
Passion about their work
According to the DOU survey, 82% of Ukrainian developers went for an IT career because they showed a genuine interest in technology. When having a call with potential tech partners, look for the most passionate developers. If they pay a lot of interest in your project and ask additional questions during the first contact with you, this is a good sign!
Great tech skills
With a tech talent pool of over 100,000 developers in Ukraine a local education market caters perfectly to a growing demand for tech professionals. The biggest group of developers – 30% have 3-5 years of experience, while 23% – up to 10 years in the field. No wonder as over 400 Ukrainian universities fuel a tech talent pool with over 36,000 graduates every year.
Here are top three cultural differences I have noticed when working with developers from Ukraine:
Don’t admit failure
When something goes wrong, developers won’t mention an issue, often trying to solve it on their own without your engagement in the process. You can deal with it by asking them to talk about problems openly. Show that you appreciate them reporting any issues asap.
They can be blunt
They are very straightforward with their opinion. If they disagree with you or find your solution faulty they will tell you about it. You should always try to discuss any disagreements in strategy – there is always a way to find a compromise
Shy at first
It takes time for an Eastern European developer to establish a friendly contact with a stranger. That is why try to visit your team in their office when starting your cooperation. Continue meeting each other in person and build relationships during the project.
Want to learn more about cultural differences? I encourage checking out this Country Mapping Tool designed by Erin Meyers to learn more about how different cultures build trust, make decisions, and give negative feedback.
Here are some of the aspects of cooperation with Ukrainian tech agencies and freelancers that you have to remember when starting a project with a tech team or freelancers.
I have learnt to choose working with software development companies that are registered in the U.S., Canada, or the EU (a trusted jurisdiction), but located in Ukraine. For your business, this fact might also be important due to GDPR and other relevant treaties that affect how you can do business abroad.
A contract signed with a company registered outside of reliable jurisdictions might not be worth much. In addition, making a payment to these countries can be a challenge.
I once witnessed a scary case that happened to an American business that attempted to make a bank transfer to one of the banks in Ukraine. That account was frozen and American FBI paid the company’s founder a visit stating he was funding a military conflict. Rarely, these things can still happen.
That’s just much easier if the company is registered in the European Union, UK, US or Canada. Keep this in mind!
Ways to cooperate with developers
The development process is as crucial as choosing the right tech stack for your product – don’t neglect it. Tech teams work with their clients in different ways. You have to understand what way suits you the best and choose the team that has experience in working within this framework.
Here are some of the most common cooperation models with tech teams you should consider before starting work with Ukrainian developers.
Choose this option if you don’t have previous experience in building products remotely. In this model, you get your own account manager who bridges you with your tech team, identifies your project needs, and works out the development process with the tech team.
You still have full access to your team and communicate with them when supported by an account who can better align your needs with developers’ work.
Partially managed team
Choose this option if you have experience in product management and remote work. With this option, you decide on the backlog and create documentation. While setting up strategy for the development process. you don’t manage the team daily.
Your assigned project manager will take care of having all milestones for your project achieved. Having someone local managing your team is always a big advantage as things remotely are more difficult to communicate and implement.
This option is for you if you have all the processes and tools in place and want to do team management on a daily basis. This model resembles hiring someone on a retainer and managing them like your in-house staff.
When choosing this option, hiring and managing your outsourced team is no different from managing people locally. The only difference is that you don’t have to make huge commitments and can easily scale your team down when project requirements decrease.
If you need only a couple of developers and would manage them on a daily basis it is worth working with a local recruiter who will find developers, not tech teams.
To sum up…
Hiring developers in Ukraine can be overwhelming at first and you can still make a lot of mistakes with your first outsourcing experiment. However, you have to remember that finding the right team in Ukraine brings much more than just savings in development work.
Working with the best Ukrainian developers means having great communication, high project ownership, and, most importantly, professionals passionate about growing your product with you. Give it a chance!