While studying for my masters degree in software engineering at university I managed to get a job, which was rare in our industry at the time. Jobs at private IT companies were very competitive. Most of my friends left school or university and lived off grants to study software engineering. They were wasting their time and not doing anything particularly interesting.
When I was 19, I decided to start my first company – Digis. I wanted to create a company that was different to anything in the sector. I wanted to prioritise excellence, ability, and customer service. I asked four friends to join me, we had a budget of $400 for the first month. It was exciting. The average age in the company was 22 years old for the first 3 years, by which point we had grown to about 50 people.
We now support IT app and web development for some of the World’s largest companies – PWC, BlaBlaCar, and HubSpot. Of course, when you get bigger you have to constantly think about whether the structure you have is working. After three years we were still very much structured as a start-up. I did everything – payroll, HR, strategy, budget, marketing, office management. I had to restructure the company to allow us to grow. We hired new people to help with systems and reporting lines. A new structure was set up to set our staff free.
Then covid-19 hit.
We were then on the front line of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
And now we are navigating a global economic slowdown.
Before the war we had 80% of our workforce based in Odessa, Ukraine. Today, obviously we are spread across the world. Some are in the Middle East, many of us are here in the UK, and some have stayed in the Ukraine, moving to the west of the country. Throughout the invasion we have been committed to continue delivering for customers and be the best employer we can be. We always made sure our staff put their family and safety first and were supported to do their job to the best of their ability. Sometimes we had members of our team working from bomb shelters. To date we have never missed a deadline for a client.
We take our responsibility as an employer very seriously. Our value-add as a company is to make sure we hire the very best talent out there. We care deeply about inspiring loyalty and retaining the people who work for us. We want to motivate them and boost their happiness. We invest a huge amount in our HR function, supporting our staff be the best they can be.
I suppose that leads to my final point to anyone either in work or thinking about starting a business. I used to get anxious or depressed when I didn’t hit targets. That is a mistake. Sometimes working hard is difficult and you miss targets because of a global context or exogenous events. It is more important to enjoy what you are doing.