KITC: Please, share your experience at ELEKS. What position are you in now, what direction are you working on at the moment?
Olga: I have been working as the Head of the Kyiv branch of ELEKS for 8 months now, although I still say that I joined recently ( laughs). My main tasks are to develop the Kyiv branch community, strengthen the company’s image and good reputation in the region and beyond. This includes a variety of aspects: from creating a friendly atmosphere and comfort in the physical office, where people could safely come, work or even create groups of interest to a more representative function in the media space. I also intend to make my previous business connections useful for the company – partnerships in Ukraine and abroad, potential customers who are interested in services and products developed by our company.
KITC:#nbsp;How did you relocate from venture history to the corporate segment and what are the main differences you notice?
Olga: Indeed, I have worked in the field of venture capital for 7 years. However, earlier this year I decided to move from the executive role of CEO of the Ukrainian Venture and Private Capital Association (UVCA) to a non-executive role (Co-Chair of the Association’s Research Committee) and join a much larger company (ELEKS already unites 2,000 people in Ukraine and abroad, more than 260 – in the Kyiv office).
Of course, there are some differences, but also similar features that are common to both industries. First of all, the field of IT has been close to me for a long time, because in its previous role most of the investment was either in technology startups or in IT companies. Therefore, in the context of the industry, I will not say that it was a sharp transition and a radical change. In addition, our company has its products, not just the services we provide. This is about the common features.
As for the differences, the association was more like a startup, a non-profit organization with a small team (there were less than 5 people in the permanent staff), which cannot be said about ELEKS, of course. It is a large company with more processes and departments.
Honestly, when I decided to move, I just wanted more work in a team, to have common values and a common goal, which we all walk together to and the tasks that help to achieve this goal. In my opinion, when a person works in one direction for a long time and then moves to another, these complementary skills are very helpful. In my career case, an example is understanding what you are planning, building a strategy, but also not forgetting that you need to be flexible (sometimes as a startup).
#nbsp;By the way, I’m currently reading Adam Grant’s book Think Again. It says that we can make a strategy, a plan for the development and organization of our lives for 10+ years, but we must remember that we need to revise, review everything again, and sometimes adapt to the conditions. This is normal and the principles we have been guided by can change over time and life experience. We will always live in a period of turbulence and this skill is very useful when making any decisions or implementing certain tasks.
Returning to the question, I will not say that it was a hard relocation volunteering for the development of IT and the venture industry continues. Last year I launched training for venture investors and next year I will launch a course for MBA students in one of the leading business schools in Ukraine.
KITC: ELEKS already has several offices around the world, and you recently opened a new office in Switzerland. Why?
Olga: We are actively growing as an international company with Ukrainian roots. The company has many customers abroad, so an important business need is to open offices in other countries where we are present or plan to develop business.
Indeed, ELEKS recently opened an office in Zurich, as we strive to be even closer and more visible in this market. We also have offices in the USA, Estonia, Germany, Great Britain, Poland, and the UAE. We strive to continue creating a community of talented professionals.
KITC: How can you describe the market of IT specialists in Ukraine? There are many open vacancies from ELEKS, what are the current trends?
Olga: Currently, the market is very hot, there is constant competition for good professionals and I think that all companies will agree. We have a lot of open vacancies, almost every week the company meets new colleagues.
In addition, it seems to me that there is still great potential in small towns. I was born in Sumy and I understand that there are several IT companies there, but they are still smaller than the top players in Ukraine. In any case, the involvement of specialists from different parts of the country would contribute to the development of the community and the IT industry in such regions. It is an experience that a person gets, shares create something, not to mention the development of the economy.
KITC: Does your company combine product creation for the client and your own needs? Is there now a need to move to the format of product business models?
Olga: In fact, there is, for example, Doctor ELEKS – software to automate the connection of medical institutions to the eHealth Electronic Healthcare System. We also deal with complex technological products that combine both software and hardware. And as we know – hardware is hard (smiles), but it’s a cool challenge and extremely interesting.
Undoubtedly, creating your products is an interesting niche, because, first of all, IT professionals are inclined to innovate and improve the product. From a business point of view, this can also be a promising area.
In general, companies need to observe, learn how to create internal corporate startups and how to build businesses from them, and not just as a hobby. It is not enough to simply develop technology and expect someone to show interest and acquire it. However, this feature applies to any startup and this is a typical problem for innovative entrepreneurs.
KITC: Are there currently cases when companies have switched from service to product in the market?
Olga: I can’t say about the whole market. You can see cases when a company is a service one but begins to develop its products. A separate team focused on this can be singled out. Sometimes corporations (and not only in the IT sector) on the contrary aim to launch external innovative ideas at their facilities. To do this, they conduct hackathons, launch corporate acceleration programs or, as the highest level of integration, create corporate venture funds (CVC).
Returning to the question, sometimes the opposite happens: the company creates its product, but because it is difficult to “fundraise” (attract) capital, it opens a service area with the involvement of its strong expertise. It is obvious that during the pandemic such cases took place in the startup market.
KITC: What value do you see in the Kyiv IT Cluster?
Olga: Since I have some experience in community management, I strongly believe that synergies create even more useful things for each player or industry. And because I believe in the strength of communities that are willing to overcome any obstacles together and share their own experiences, there must be such an IT cluster.
KITC: What are your plans for ELEKS for the next year and the longer term?
Olga: To develop and grow further. We want to increase the community both quantitatively and improve it qualitatively. So that people can develop within the company, increase their expertise. We have Competence Centers that allow you to gain new skills or move from one direction to another, as well as find a mentor within the company.
In addition, we have a powerful corporate university, where you can develop professionally, especially the so-called “soft skills”. For example, if a person has a desire to become a manager, and sees further career development in this area, not only professional knowledge but also software skills are important. It is essential to communicate as a leader, provide feedback to your team, colleagues, be able to communicate with customers, and be flexible (including mentally) in critical situations.
In general, it is training and professional and personal development that bring us all even closer and allow us to grow both individually and at the community level.
Besides, as a business, we plan to strengthen our international presence more. In particular, to open offices in other countries and we are actively working on it now. In addition, ELEKS is developing a relocation program for our specialists in those countries where we have offices and clients.