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  • Writer's pictureVeronica Irwin

His country's at war. He can't go home. This Ukrainian coder is working through the chaos.

Sergiy Netesanyi wasn’t called to fight. Instead, he does his bit by continuing to work from a colleague’s apartment in Lviv.


4/4/2022

Sergiy Netesanyi is a solutions architect from Dnipro, Ukraine, who works for the software development service company N-iX. On a normal day, he works in the company’s Dnipro coworking space. But these aren’t normal days. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Netesanyi has been working out of his chief operating officer’s apartment in Lviv, where it’s safer.


He’s one of over 650 employees N-iX has relocated to western Ukraine and Europe since the war began. The company raised $486,000 for the Ukrainian army and refugees, and purchased four SUVs for the military and two vans to assist in delivering humanitarian aid to the besieged city of Mariupol. N-iX has also delivered 85 units of computer equipment for the Ukrainian armed forces and 20 sets of bulletproof vests and helmets for workers who went to fight.


Netesanyi was not called to fight. Instead he continues working, from an apartment with two other families. Nothing feels “normal” in wartime, he said, and the concern he has for colleagues and family he knows are still in some of the hardest-hit parts of the country is often overwhelming. But continuing to work and keeping a daily routine are a few of the things he says help him maintain a sense of normalcy amidst the tumult.


“I had to get back to my habits and doing the usual, simple things which I used to do” after relocating to Lviv, he said. “It was important to return to some of what I used to have, so that my wife and I can switch our focus from the war.”


I spoke with Sergiy Thursday to learn what a typical workday looks like in wartime.

8:00 a.m. | Morning routine


Before the war, Netesanyi’s day usually began at 8:00 a.m. with his alarm. But now it often starts at 5 or 6 a.m., when he’s woken by air raid sirens. “Sometimes it’s five or six in the morning when you wake up and go to the [bomb] shelter, and after that you can’t sleep, so you just start working,” he said.


But however he wakes up, starting the day in the same consistent way has helped him find some calm. Good coffee, a square breakfast and some physical exercise are tenets of his morning routine. Cooking, especially, has become a small escape.


9:00 a.m. | Sign in to work


The start of Netesanyi’s workday probably sounds familiar to tech workers everywhere. He typically spends the first hour clearing his emails, catching up on chats he missed on Facebook Workplace, the messaging service N-iX uses, and then reviewing his calendar.


He also uses this time to catch up on the news and check in on his team. Netesanyi manages 10 solutions architects, many of whom still have family in civilian areas like Mariupol where Russia is actively waging attacks. Employees regularly need to sign out of work to evacuate themselves and family members, or to mentally recuperate, and Netesanyi is in charge of knowing everyone’s status.


“When the war first started, it was really hard to understand what to do and how to do [it] and what is their emotional state and how to help people deal with all that pressure,” he said. “The HR team worked 24/7 to coordinate relocating people from central and eastern Ukraine, like Mariupol and Kherson, and helped me get out of there. Then there’s lots of internal cooperation, and the company charts who needs an apartment for living, who can provide it and how else we can help each other.”


10:00 a.m. | Go to bomb shelter


Netesanyi is interrupted by air raid sirens as often as five times a day. Most of the alarms happen in the morning or in the evening, he said, but some interrupt work. He and his apartment mates go to a bomb shelter when the air raid sirens sound, then return to their desks afterwards.


11:00 a.m. | Introductory meeting with a client


Netesanyi works with a variety of different clients in his role at N-iX. Some days he’s working directly with engineers at his clients' companies, while others he is working with C-suite executives. On Thursday, one of his first video meetings was with managers of a data center, who came to N-iX for help optimizing their internal infrastructure. The conversation helped Netesanyi determine the scope of the project and how to visualize how data is currently organized, and what specific problems the client needed to solve.


12:30 p.m. | Daily team meeting


Managers from the entire company meet every day at 12:30 p.m. on a video call. They discuss what Netesanyi calls the “state of the company” — both projects the company is working on for clients, and the status of employees' health and safety.

“It’s how many people have been evacuated, do we have any problems with our projects and how do we facilitate moving people abroad,” he said. “It’s basically a status update.”


For Netesanyi, the health of the company and the health of the country are fundamentally intertwined. The Ukrainian GDP is in freefall, and millions of Ukrainians face poverty as their savings continue to shrink. By continuing to operate, N-iX is able to support the Ukrainian economy and, thus, the worth of the Ukrainian currency in refugees’ pockets. It also means N-iX is able to continue paying the salaries of employees who now serve in the army, and employees working from home who donate every extra dollar they have to the frontline effort.


“Our government decreased income taxes, but the people who work here are still paying them the same as before,” he explained. “We just want to help the economy, help it survive.”


2:00 p.m. | Lunch break


Netesanyi, like anyone in his situation, occasionally needs a break. He often finds himself checking in on his team as well, to make sure they’re taking the rest they need.


“Everybody tries to do their work, even though it’s really hard and you get tired, much faster than you usually do,” he said. “Sometimes you just can’t do as good as you did before, but everybody understands.”


3:30 p.m. | Meetings


As a manager, Netesanyi said about 80% of his time is spent in meetings. On Thursday, he also met with engineers at an IoT company attempting to make their smart home devices work better together, and a telematic platform managing fleets in Africa. Introductory meetings are typically with senior management, while later meetings involve consulting with engineers who work directly on the projects. Sometimes it’s hard taking meetings in an apartment with so many other people — but under the circumstances, clients understand.


5:00 p.m. | Volunteer


When he’s done with his daily tasks for N-iX, Netesanyi keeps working. He and most of his colleagues are dedicating their technical expertise to different volunteer efforts, he said, constructing tools to help the defense monitor street movement, for example, or building applications for nonprofits.


Employees volunteer in more traditional ways, too, offering hands-on assistance at hospitals or cooking food for homeless children. Early in the war, employees in Lviv collected new clothes and shoes for their colleagues' families moving across the country. They also organized buses to evacuate women and children to the Polish border. “Whenever anyone on the team has some free time they can dedicate to volunteer, we do it,” he said.


8:00 p.m. | Dinner and a movie


It’s an understatement to say Netesanyi has had a long day. By the evening, he has met with several clients, worked on volunteer projects and sheltered from the Russian military several times. And despite the overwhelming nature of war, sometimes he needs to think about something else.


To do so, Netesanyi and his wife have been enjoying their fair share of American romantic comedies. Some of the titles they’ve enjoyed lately are “Holidate” and “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” The couple began doing movie nights in the first week of the war, he said, in an attempt to keep their spirits up.


“We open up Netflix and pick up a romantic comedy movie, no matter how stupid it is,” he said. “It was the first step in regaining possession of this situation and control of myself, and it helped a lot.”


Protocol link: https://www.protocol.com/workplace/ukrainian-tech-workday

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