We are often asked why the Ukrainian IT experts we provide are so young – and so good. The reason is, it’s not uncommon in Ukraine for a software engineer to have both complete a Master’s degree and racked up over two years of work experience by age 25. It’s a far cry from the situation in Western Europe, where some governments are struggling to shorten the time it takes for students to graduate.
The secret to Ukraine’s IT success lies in a combination of structural factors and individual initiative.
A fast-track school system
The Ukrainian educational system is organized into five levels: preschool, primary, secondary, higher and postgraduate. Preschools are for children age 1 to 6. Compulsory (primary plus secondary) school starts at age 6 and ends 11 years later, at age 17. This mean that many students are ready for higher education already at 17.
After 4 years Bachelor’s degree studies and another 2 for the Master’s degree, 23-year-old Ukrainians are ready to hit the job market – after having worked part-time during their studies, of course. Higher education is not “free” for all students, but many receive scholarships linked to both performance and on-time completion of studies. No wonder, then, that few students take time off from studying along the way.
A focused mentality
Ukraine has strong educational traditions in the fields of mathematics and engineering. There’s a reason why the world’s largest cargo planes are built in Ukraine, and why the country produces engines and guidance systems for rockets and missile systems. In recent years, the country has established itself as one of the world’s leading providers of outsourced IT solutions.
Working in the field of IT means both prestige and relatively high pay in Ukraine. Combine this with a strong desire to get ahead in the world and a work ethic that involves putting in a full month more every year than in many Western European countries (1,800 hours vs. 1,670 hours), and you can start to understand the factors that energise these young IT wizards.
The IT culture of Ukraine
IT is developed with pride in Ukraine, where it’s look upon as a genuine craft. In some countries, developers rush to prove themselves so they can become managers and stop growing. This is not common in Ukraine. In our experience, Ukrainians prefer to advance their careers more in the direction of solution architects or technical consultants than toward management. They seem to feel they can make a bigger positive impact in these roles.
The European culture of “make the plan and work the plan” is very common in Ukraine, which means you generally get what you expect, when you expect to get it. And you can be quite certain that nobody will start developing until they’ve understood what they need to do and, in many cases, have suggested improvements. Since Ukraine is only one hour ahead of Western Europe, the young Ukrainian IT wizards are used to working in real-time dialogue, often involving face-to-face discussions.
So next time you meet a 30-year-old Senior Software Developer from Ukraine and you think he’s too young to have this experience – think again.