As calls to leave Russia continue, some US tech companies choose to stay
Under pressure to cut all ties with Russia – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made another such exhortation this week – some US companies continue to employ IT staff in the region, even as others have closed. their doors.
“Leaving the Russian market is a must,” Mr Zelensky said, addressing the Wall Street Journal CEO Summit in London via video link on Tuesday. “The aggressor must be isolated. Total and complete economic isolation. This will allow Ukraine to fight for our rights.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, hundreds of Western companies have suspended operations or pulled out of the country entirely, citing concerns about the conflict, worries about the safety of their personnel and complications from doing business there as Western sanctions increase. Last month, the World Bank predicted an 11.2% drop in Russia’s gross domestic product this year.
Still, some companies maintain operations in Russia, including Paxful, a Wilmington, Del.-based peer-to-peer bitcoin marketplace, and Mapbox, a San Francisco-based digital mapping startup. Both companies say they want to honor their commitments to their Russian employees. Paxful has about 70 people in Russia, including full-time employees and contractors, while Mapbox has about a dozen full-time employees there.
“We have a moral obligation. We cannot abandon our team in Russia,” said Dmitrii Moiseev, information security manager at Estonia-based Paxful.
Russia is an attractive place to employ IT personnel due to the high quality of its engineers and the low cost of talent, Moiseev said. This is part of the reason why Paxful chose to set up one of its four IT hubs there, with the others being in Estonia, the United States and the Philippines. But nearly half of all Paxful’s IT staff are in its Russian hub, which mainly employs engineers and developers, he said.
Paxful is also continuing to hire from the region, which Elena Nedvetskaya, its St. Petersburg-based personnel vice president, says has gotten easier since the war began.
When there are rumors that a company might be leaving the country, “then employees are more available to chat,” she said. Ms Nedvetskaya confirmed that Paxful hired engineers under these circumstances.
Paxful officials had no further comment this week after Mr. Zelensky’s speech.
Robert Farish, vice president of International Data Corp. and regional general manager for markets including the former Soviet Union, said Russia’s IT labor market has shifted in favor of supply. The response rate to IT job vacancies has increased since the start of the war, he said. According to data he saw on Russia’s largest online recruitment platform, the average number of candidates applying for each IT job in March fell from 1.3 in February to 3, Farish said.
Tom Lee, head of policy at Mapbox, said that after the war began, the company abandoned plans to establish a more formal presence in Russia. But she decided to keep the ten people she employs there.
“We respect our commitment to our team,” he said. “The people we have worked with, whom we have long counted as colleagues, to whom we have committed ourselves, it would not be the right thing to sacrifice them for a symbolic end,” he said. , adding: “Obviously the top priority here is to comply with the law.”
Mr. Lee, who was interviewed last week, declined to comment further after Mr. Zelensky’s statements this week.
Jeff Lawson, CEO of cloud communications company Twilio Inc.,
said in March that he struggled with similar issues early in the war. Although Twilio does not employ anyone in Russia, he said he was thinking deeply about whether to suspend the company’s services in the region.
In the end, he decided to cut off government customers and stop building new relationships with customers except for nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations, he said, while leaving the services operational for existing private customers.
Nonprofits and NGOs supported by Twillio include some providing services to Ukrainian refugees, the company said.
Mr Lawson acknowledged there were various reasons why companies left the country, but said he did not want to be forced to follow the exodus. Plus, he said, it’s “a net positive” for Russians to still be able to access communications services.
Asked about Mr. Zelensky’s statements, the company said it was unable to provide additional comment at the time of publication.
Write to Isabelle Bousquette at [email protected]
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