This general view shows destroyed Russian armored vehicles in the city of Bucha, west of Kyiv, on March 4, 2022.
Aris Messines | AFP | Getty Images
when BigCommerce CEOs held their blanket meeting on Thursday, not expecting any of the company’s 106 employees in Ukraine to appear on screen. Most of the staff there were just busy trying to find safety as Russia escalated its attack on its smaller neighbour.
Two days ago, a TV station was in Kyiv, half a mile from the BigCommerce office bombed At the hands of Russian soldiers, killing at least five people. The company’s employees had been evacuated by that time.
But from a darkroom in an undisclosed location, a BigCommerce product manager logged into the video chat. It was responsible for what CEO Brent Belm described as the most significant launch in the company’s 13-year history.
“There was no drought in the meeting,” Belm said in an interview late Thursday. “The rest of us have been so incredibly inspiring that she will be there and with a strong voice and leader.”
In the company Quarterly earnings call On Monday, Belm spent a few minutes briefing investors on the situation, noting that some employees “joined the army and took up arms in defense of their country” and “many of them have been reported to be in places where they are not safe, either in Kyiv or outside”.
Ukraine has emerged as a prominent area for artistic talent and has become one of the largest IT field Outsourcing Markets In the world. In several earnings announcements this week, US tech companies have added the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a risk factor to their business. Cloud Software Vendors snowflakeAnd the Box And the viva All note the danger, along with HP Inc. and alternative energy provider power plug.
Most companies, such as Box, said in standard language that factors such as the “Covid-19 pandemic or the Russian invasion of Ukraine” could influence the results.
BigCommerce’s mode is even more extreme. The Texas-based Austin company opened an engineering center in Kyiv in 2019, and it has about 8% of its workforce there. on it Jobs pageBigCommerce lists 20 openings in Kyiv, compared to 52 in Austin, 26 in London and 24 in Sydney.
“Ukraine has one of the most experienced and talented e-commerce engineering workforces in the world, and our team there is absolutely fantastic in many different ways,” Belm said.
Despite the chaos on the floor, Belm said the employee who called the meeting wanted to provide the company with updates on multiple storefronts, a product that allows merchants to create and manage multiple storefronts from a single BigCommerce site.
BigCommerce office in Kyiv, Ukraine
“She wasn’t taking us through her personal experience about the relocation or where she was, she just gave us an update on the product launch,” Bilm said. “It’s the biggest product launch in the company’s history and she’s been pivotal to her as the Product Director. And then bringing it to the screen and showing the greatness of what went into this product was so inspiring.”
However, her colleagues knew that she and her colleagues in Ukraine were living a nightmare.
Russia launch his invasion In Ukraine last week military attacks on major cities. President Vladimir Putin’s forces encountered stiff resistance from the Ukrainians, but deadly bombing continues. More than a million people fled the country.
“We can’t bring peace, we can’t have our arms around them on the ground,” Belm said of his Ukraine staff. “But one of the most important things we can do is let them know that no matter what they do, their jobs are safe and the company will do everything they can to support them until they get back to a safe place.”
More than half of the company’s employees in Ukraine work a few hours a day and some work full time, Belm said, mostly for distraction. But no one expects or requires anyone to work.
“They may not have a government to take care of them anymore, but they have an employer who will take care of them,” Belem said. “In many cases, they say they don’t want to spend days watching TV, panicking and taking their minds off the crisis.”
Sherry Manning, BigCommerce’s chief personnel officer, said the main thing employees in Ukraine wanted from the company was regular contact. There are two HR representatives in Ukraine to verify employees through Slack or over the phone. They also run daily safety checks, call neighbors and relatives to make sure team members are safe and hold them accountable.
The Ukrainian government announced early in the invasion that men between the ages of 18 and 60 were required to do so stay in the country. Most of the BigCommerce employees in that demographic have moved to the western side of Ukraine, and moved away from Russia to the east. Kyiv, the capital and largest city of Ukraine, is closer to the center of the country.
Manning said 15 of the 106 employees were still in Kyiv at the end of Friday. Some have infiltrated neighboring Poland. Most described them as “safe” while two said they were “unsafe,” Manning said, adding that the situation could change daily.
Some are preparing if called up to fight for their country and many have already taken up arms to join the defence.
Manning said employees around the world support their colleagues through donations. Employees in Australia and other countries are showing their homes.
“Every morning we tell them that you are not alone and we will never forget you,” Manning said. “We tell them we are doing everything we can to reach you.”
Bellm is also studying ways to find a more sustainable solution.
“I could have seen us open an office in Poland at some point down the road,” he said. “We just tell them we want to do everything we can to stay in touch and support you financially and otherwise.”
Bilem said the invasion came as a shock to his Ukrainian team. He meets with them every month and said that at the beginning of February he was asking them why they weren’t worried as news reports spread from US intelligence that a Putin attack might be imminent.
The invasion was just a situation, Belem remembers telling the staff. Many of them have Russian relatives, and they confirmed that the two countries have coexisted for years.
“It was the most beautiful thing,” Belm said of the staff’s response. “They just kept saying – we don’t think they’re going to attack, we’re a peaceful people.”
Belem is now trying to reckon with reality.
He said, “They are innocent.” “They have never done anything to provoke this. These people have been attacked, displaced and are in danger for their lives now. We do what we can and we pray for peace and we are praying for their lives. It’s every emotion you can imagine.”
In terms of maintaining the flow of funds, there have been some challenges as the banking and payment systems in the region have been disrupted. But Manning said the company has made emergencies.
“There was a brief period when we paid in US dollars but the banks were not allowed to convert it to the local currency,” she said. “And then, even when employees receive their money in the local currency, they can usually convert it back into US dollars and they couldn’t.”
They’ve since been able to get the dollars, Manning said, adding that the company also offered early access to payroll and offered interest-free loans if people needed the extra cash.
“They are investing in one of the most important assets they have in this world, which is their accumulated education, work experience, passion and talent for life,” Belm said. “There is a duty of care on us in return, which is to do everything in our power to make their time with us worthwhile.”