Five foreigners share stories about their work and life in Lviv
Marketing Director at ELEKS
I have lived in Lviv for over a year. I moved here in April last year to start work at ELEKS. I’m originally from Galway, a city on the west coast of Ireland. Before moving to Lviv, I worked at another IT company in Kyiv for four years. Prior to relocating to Ukraine, I lived in London for five years, working in different enterprise companies.
I knew very little about Ukraine before I decided to move to Kyiv. I had only visited for a weekend when I was invited to an interview from London. It was easy for me to relocate because the company in Kyiv organised everything. They provided accommodation for my first three months in Ukraine. My first visit to Lviv was for a friend’s wedding. We stayed for the weekend and had such a great time. The city’s architecture, coffee-shop culture and the openness of the people were what drew me to move to Lviv.
Lviv is very different from other cities in Ukraine. You can walk through Rynok Square and enjoy the architecture or enjoy a cup of coffee in one of the local coffee shops. Lviv has its own culture and atmosphere and is quite different to Kyiv; in Lviv, people like to spend more time with their families, the city has its own pace, and everyone seems more relaxed. I also like the mix of old and new buildings that gives Lviv its own unique vibe.
As a tourist in the city, you only get to scratch the surface of what the culture is really like. I imagine most tourists all flock to the same top-rated restaurants on TripAdvisor, whereas once you’ve lived here for a while, you discover the interesting eateries that locals prefer.
Also, when you have your own apartment, you get to meet your neighbours and enjoy being part of the wider community. I like Svit Kavy, Mon Chef Restaurant, as well as the jazz bar, Libraria. There are many others, but with so many new restaurants and bars opening up, it’s hard to keep track. Lviv has some beautiful open spaces. I like visiting the parks and botanical gardens on a beautiful summer’s day.
The technology industry in Ukraine is very advanced as most companies have a mix of staff from all over the world, taking the best of what works and incorporating it into their own companies. It’s great to see this industry leading the way in terms of corporate culture and investing in their staff with constant training and development. You see cool, new offices opening up all the time, and I think people in Lviv have a good work-life balance.
A lot of Ukrainian companies have a wealth of international clients as the international business community appreciates the quality and expertise of the Ukrainian tech industry.
Ukrainian people are warm, curious and friendly, so I don’t think there are too many differences when compared with their European neighbours. I think that the IT industry will continue to evolve and grow; building on highly skilled development partners with international clients with a sophisticated startup ecosystem that can launch Ukrainian-owned innovative startups onto the world stage.
Executive Assistant at CoreValue
Originally, I am Polish and I come from Krakow. I have visited a beautiful city of lions over the last 3 years a lot, but started living here permanently only 1,5 years ago. Previously, I used to live and work in Germany, Estonia, Slovakia, and, obviously, Poland.
Regarding the Ukrainian IT industry, my knowledge was divided into two channels – on the one hand I had already known many people working at local startups and outsourcing IT companies and the experience that they shared with me was really precious. On the other hand, there was also a second channel, Estonia, called a Silicon Valley of Europe, with plenty of startups that were looking for unlimited resources available not only in terms of developers, but also business and legal potential of the country.
Relocation itself was not very difficult, because I am already quite experienced in moving around different European countries and I know how to handle it.
Besides, Ukraine has become closer to my heart due to family reasons. Despite the fact, that I have never expected to move to Ukraine, I was somehow ready to it when it happened. By that time, I had already made some Ukrainian friends and got acquainted with the culture a bit. In addition, language similarity made me feel comfortable enough. But I must admit that there are still some issues that make my life here a bit challenging. If you think that it requires a lot of effort to get residency in the European Union, try getting a Temporary Residence Card in State Migration Service of Ukraine.
My first visit to Lviv and Western Ukraine was 4 years ago. I was surprised that there are so many differences and similarities between Poland and Ukraine at the same time. It got me thinking about economic, legal and cultural factors that have led the country into its final shape. Also, there are a lot of features that could be learnt from Ukrainians, e.g. flexibility, open attitude, resilience or an ability to enjoy life. For me, Ukraine is a country full of contrasts and abstraction.
Due to the common Galician history, Lviv reminds me of my hometown, Krakow. Its architecture, slower lifestyle (compared to Warsaw or Kyiv) and many opportunities are the factors that attract me here, making me feel almost like home. My favourite place in the city is the city center itself. But I also like a fancy place near my workplace called Kava or Krymska Perepichka not far from my flat in Sykhiv.
When you are visiting a city as a tourist, you see it from a bit different perspective. In my daily life, the things that I suffer from the most in Lviv are traffic jams, lack of car parking places, and poor public transportation. I understand, that Ukrainian people face all these problems every single morning and it can be really frustrating.
What I really love about working here is people. I have never experienced such an open and helpful society, although I have already worked in various environments. I have been working at CoreValue Ukraine only for 6 months, but I really feel like the fellow team has become my second family. From the business point of view, the taxation system is very preferential for IT sphere. It strongly encourages either investors or employees, who would rather choose Ukraine than the other country. Both, cultural and geographical closeness to the European Union, competitive rates or even time zone are the factors that speak for predominance.
Here, the corporate culture is similar to our Western neighbors, companies are obliged to provide relevant service or product quality, which means they will always follow due diligence and needed standards. From my perspective working at CoreValue, I can confirm that clients are always very happy and pleasantly surprised.
In my opinion, Ukrainian IT business has an unlimited potential due to the size of the country. At the moment, there are more than 400k IT developers working in Ukraine. I believe that with strong education system and relevant support from the IT industry, this number will further increase and Ukraine will become a great place to run your own IT business. I am absolutely not surprised that entrepreneurs are looking for new opportunities here, as they can expect high-quality services. In addition, there are not that many significant cultural differences, compared to India or China, for example. From my experience, I may assume that this hidden potential will be rising over the next 5 years. Therefore, I can honestly say, that from different perspectives right now is a perfect time to start your own business path in Ukraine.
Business Development Specialist at DataArt
I recently moved to Ukraine in June of 2018. I am originally from Albany, NY and lived there almost my entire life. I am a Ukrainian American Diaspora and grew up speaking Ukrainian, went to Ukrainian Saturday school to practice Ukrainian and learn Ukrainian history and was/still am an active volunteer of the PLAST Ukrainian International Scouting Organization.
My first ever visit to Lviv was in 2012 when I was a foreign exchange student at the Ukrainian Catholic University. My initial impression of this city was that it was one of the most beautiful cities that I have ever seen with my own eyes and for some reason I knew that I would make Lviv my home someday. I specifically remember walking around the incredible city center and I had goosebumps all over my body. Lviv felt magical and to this day, I still feel that magical feeling whenever I am in the city center. Moving to Lviv was very easy for me thanks to my past experience with this city. I also have family and friends in Lviv that helped make the move incredibly smooth and painless. This city is very open to foreigners and it is small enough that navigation is super easy and getting lost would not be a huge problem. I also believe that Ukrainians have the highest level of English language skills in comparison to other European countries and foreigners with no knowledge of the language won’t have too difficult of a time communicating with people in Lviv.
Lviv is the perfect mix of the old and the new. The new IT companies, the new buildings being built all over the outskirts of the city, the new industries that sprout up year after year. But with all of the new, the old balances that out. The old buildings, the old streets, the traditional values that Ukrainians hold onto. It just feels that this place is a rare combination that you cannot find in the modern world. Additionally, the pace of life in Lviv is perfect. It is not too fast and not too slow. There is a work life balance that people cherish here.
I also love this city because of how close it is to nature (the Carpathian Mountains), to Europe, to the Baltics, to the Balkans, to Scandinavia, etc. With the introduction of low cost flights, traveling from Lviv to Europe is easy and affordable.
After living here for a while, I actually understand what taxi rides should cost. A tourist might pay 300 to 500 hryvnia to ride from the airport to the city center, whereas someone who lives here understands that 100 to 200 hryvnia is the going rate. Another big difference is that you know where the quiet coffee shops are where tourists don’t normally go. It’s nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city life and have some peace and quiet while drinking some great Lviv coffee. I almost have too many favorite locations in Lviv. There are plenty more places and I could probably write a book on all of my favorite spots in Lviv, but this list is my top 5: Trapezna Idey, Port Wine Bar, Pstruh, Hlib Ta Vyno, Shevchenkivskyi Hai and a tie between the Park of Culture/Park Ivan Franko/Stryiskyi Park.
Working in the IT industry in Ukraine has been superb! My background is in political science and I have only worked in the public sector. At first, I was unsure how transitioning from a government career path to the private sector would be, but quickly saw the private corporate world is an incredible place. My colleagues at DataArt have been so incredibly welcoming and made me feel part of a family from day 1. Since starting at DataArt, I instantly saw how hardworking my colleagues were. I also have many friends in other IT companies, and know how driven they are to succeed in their projects.
Regarding how Ukrainians do business. In the IT world, it almost seems to me that the “old Soviet mentality” does not exist as it may in other industries across Ukraine. IT employees are constantly exposed to such a wide variety of cultures and thought processes from across the globe, that they have been forced to adapt a different, modernized business style. I also have witnessed that many IT companies provide training for their employees as to how to communicate with foreign clients, English language courses, different business and marketing strategies, etc. I personally think that this is great because the IT company is investing time and money in its workforce to constantly expand the knowledge and skills of their employees. Richard Branson stated “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of employees, they will take care of the clients”. I definitely see this mindset all across the Lviv IT sector.
Despite all the negative that is happening in Ukraine, there is so much more positive that is occurring on a daily basis. The changes that I have seen from 2012 to 2018 are almost unbelievable. A mere 6 years have flown by and Ukraine has become a completely different country from what I first saw.
The IT industry in Ukraine seems like it will continue growing exponentially. Companies all across the country are constantly trying to hire more programmers as the number of international projects continue pouring into the country. With more projects and more people in this industry, I believe that Ukraine will one day become the technology startup capital of the world. The cheaper costs of production, the incredible quality of work and creative ingenuity that the Ukrainian workforce possesses will one day attract many foreign investors to start their companies here. Mark my words, Ukraine will not only be a global IT powerhouse, but the country will one day become THE premiere global leader in Information Technology. It will take a decade or more, but it will happen. I am very grateful that I am living in this incredible country during this great transition.
Juan Pablo Figuerora
I’ve been living in Lviv for a year and a half already. I’m originally from Chile, and before moving to Ukraine I lived there. I knew that the IT scene here was quite big and fast-growing, as I became familiar with it a few years ago when I attended IT Arena. Relocating was a very smooth process, as I think Lviv is a very friendly city for foreigners and I already knew some people here from previous visits.
The first time I visited Lviv was in the summer of 2014, as part of a 3-months Eurotrip which took me from Paris to Istanbul, and I have to say that Lviv was the highlight of my trip! I immediately fell in love with the city, and knew that I was going to come back one day.
The human scale of the city is one of the things I love the most, for example, the fact that the center is so packed with interesting places makes it possible to visit so many of them just using your feet. Coming from living in very large cities in the past, where you need to get on the subway for a very long time to go from one place to another, that’s something I really appreciate.
I think one of the differences is that as a tourist you are hitting these “Lokal” cafes all the time, and when you live here you almost completely forget about them! Just love Kryva Lypa, that’s my favorite place in Lviv. Other places I usually hang out at: Ivan Franko Park, Stryiskyi Park, Communa, Cat Cafe, Dreamers, and although my Ukrainian friends would prefer me to omit it, I’ve got to admit I end up in Puzata Hata quite often.
At least in my field (Data Science), I forecast more and more projects coming in Computer Vision, where the trend is in creating software that can correlate some image (for example, the picture of a part of your body) to some metric (for example, a disease) using deep neural networks. I think that’s where the future is in our field at least in the next 2-3 years, so we will need more and more people trained in Deep Learning techniques.
Marketing Intern at Teamvoy
I’m Ukrainian. I was born in Stryi, but my family moved to the USA when I was 8 years old. While studying at the University of California, I got interested in consumer psychology, consumer behaviour, and marketing. I think these areas will definitely revolutionize traditional approaches to content marketing.
Right now, I’ve been doing a summer internship at Teamvoy already for one month. In the USA, such internships are very popular. It’s a great opportunity to get new practical experience, spend a few months observing the work from inside a company, as well as meet new people and professionals working in the field you’re interested in. After a few internships at home, I decided to combine travel and work and come to Lviv, the city I already knew and liked as I participated at a summer school organized by UCU last year. Before applying for the internship, I made a little research about tech companies here, then made a list of 20 companies that seemed most interesting for me, and contacted them directly. However, it turned out that local companies do not usually take summer interns, only a few companies got back to me, and I chose Teamvoy.
Working at the tech industry here is quite similar to working in the tech industry anywhere – the market is global and your geographical location doesn’t play such a big role anymore. Comparing it with my experience at companies in the USA, I can say that approaches to teamwork don’t really differ. The only thing I have noticed, is bigger openness in the USA. Besides working in small teams, people organize meetings that can be attended by everyone from the company – be it an HR manager, psychologist, designer or developer from other project. It can you an idea of how other people work at your company, as well as, bring some fresh ideas and inspiration. In Lviv, people are more separated, they closely work with their colleagues within a department or a team.
In a few days, I’m coming back home, but I can say that I had a really great time here. I’ve been helping the company with content marketing, describing the projects and apps Teamvoy works on, communicating with the clients and the team. I made some new friends and definitely enjoyed spending time in the Lviv’s lovely old town.
I’m closely following the situation in Ukraine and I’m really happy to see that the tech industry is growing fast within the country. I also know that very soon Lviv will have its own tech park with the whole cluster of tech companies. It’s great that Ukraine has found this niche and I believe it really a big potential and many young talented people. I was also pleasantly surprised by the level of English of my colleagues here at Teamvoy.