Note: This feature follows up on story printed in the January issue of Certification Magazine last year. Click here to read the original account.
Last year, Certification Magazine and I were able to get insight from a friend and former work colleague who lives in Kiev on what conditions were like there. One year later, we're circling back to find out what things are like now for Vitaliy Golomoziy.
Certification Magazine: What is your current work status?
Vitaliy Golomoziy: It was very difficult to find a job last year, and after six months of an active search, I finally landed at Graycore, U.S.-based company that specializes on Magento. I have to say that it is a very good place to work and I think worth six months of a search.
In addition to that, I continue working at my university. I'm having a lot of classes this year and even got my first doctoral student.
CM: As you are also a university faculty member, how is university life? How has this war affected students?
VG: Our facility was hit by a missile on Dec. 31 last year. It was not a direct hit though, and the damage to the particular building in which we work was rather moderate. As of now, we fixed most of that, mainly due to the help of our graduates and other supporters. Other university buildings were not so lucky, but fortunately, to the best of my knowledge, nobody was killed on wounded.
But other than a very peculiar New Year's Day celebration, the life in the university is going on. We have our classes, and we continue research and collaboration with our colleagues abroad, mainly in the E.U. We still feel a very strong support from the academic community.
CM: What is the employment situation like for those in IT?
VG: The situation is stagnant. Our IT companies are facing major difficulties in finding new clients or prolonging existing contracts. Partly this is due to the inability to leave the country for males (which affects negotiations and business trips), partly it is due to the anxiety of the potential clients in view of problems with electricity last winter. It is also partly due to competitors from other countries that are promptly "filling the gap." I cannot say that overall that sector is rapidly declining, but perspectives are uncertain.
CM: You had talked about the power grid being attacked. How are folks managing?
VG: Approximately a year ago, in October 2022, Russia started a campaign to attack Ukrainian critical infrastructure, including power generation plants, grid, and heating infrastructure. This had a deep and profound effect on regular life during this year.
As of April, Ukraine produced enough electricity to cover its needs and even import some, albeit small, quantities of energy. Yet, it is unfair to say the result was completely insignificant. All power plants except nuclear plants were damaged in one way or another. Most of the subsubstations were heavily damaged or completely destroyed.
The average Ukrainian household spent about 5 weeks in total without power supply during the campaign (against our critical infrastructure). The longest period we experienced without electricity was about three days. One time they managed to cause a partial blackout, when the whole power supply (in Kyiv) was off for multiple hours. Except for these extremes, however, most of the time we had an electricity by schedule, usually for about 50 percent of time, switching on and off every 4 hours.
Businesses, especially private ones got a heavy blow. However, after the initial shock, we all adjusted. We learned how to calculate the energy consumption of different devices and how to manage daily activities with a fraction of normal power consumption. In some buildings, local building managers could organize and orchestrate power consumption in such a way that the building could remain powered for a long time without violating daily consumption limit. This could also lead to tension when it comes to power consumption and being fair to others.
However, society overall has adjusted. The government managed to maintain critical infrastructure — water supply, central heating, supply hospitals and public transportation (metro, in particular). Those who had enough money purchased small power stations (at double-triple prices) and small generators, those who didn't have money used car batteries and appliances (like wires or inverters). The internet was full of instructions on how to supply various devices from various sources, how to increase or decrease voltage to supply internet routers, how to calculate its consumption and the time it will work for a given source.
The internet is available in general, but there are challenges to overcome.
In general, after some saturation period, the country adjusted to power consumption at a level considered unimaginable before. When power is off, local cafeterias, pharmacy, grocery stores, and other business run their generators. You can easily spot working businesses while walking on a street even with your eyes closed, just by the sound. Some factories and plants shifted to work on night hours, since more electricity is available at that time, and even businesses that are critically dependent on power supply, such as restaurants, managed to survive.
While it is pretty much impossible to power a big electric oven by a generator, some installed grills, some switched to gas-filled appliance, some introduced a special "no electricity" menu. Cinemas and theaters adjusted their schedules whenever possible, used generators whenever suitable, and continue working, too. Large malls and business centers got multiple-stories-high industrial generators and provided services to recharge phones and connect to wi-fi, quite often free of charge. Restaurants and cafeterias quickly realized that investment in a stable internet connection pays off quickly, and started providing coworking services for additional fees, which people use a lot.
Long story short, life returned to normal as much as it was possible in these circumstances.
It is important to note that international support from the E.U. and U.S., first of all, was paramount. Gas prices remain stable despite drastically increased demand, batteries, generators, power-banks, switchers and other appliances that were very scarce and expensive at the beginning, became abundant by the middle of the winter and prices returned to normal. Somebody calculated that donated generators alone would cover more than 1 gigawatt, which is a typical performance of a nuclear reactor. These powerful generators usually went to hospitals, schools, water supply and heating stations, which greatly increased overall resilience.
Many businesses failed, many suffered huge losses. The IT sector has been affected. Many foreign companies, especially those using Ukrainian outsource services refrain from doing business with Ukrainian companies. They are afraid their critical processes or timelines might be affected by outages. Even so, most IT companies managed to mitigate their power supply problems. Getting new contracts or even continuing an old ones has proven to be very challenging.
As a new winter season is coming, the situation is getting more concerning. Our battered grid and generation capabilities is in a much worse and more fragile condition compared to a year ago. On the other side, our society and businesses are much better prepared. The anti-air defense system is much stronger than a year ago.
The general situation does not give many reasons to celebrate. Ukraine is critically dependent on foreign aid to sustain both war and a regular life and such aid. We are concerned the collective West will get tired of supporting Ukraine.