One person's war is another hemisphere's developer crunch

Unexpected result of thousands of developers fleeing? More automation


Thousands of developers are fleeing the war in Ukraine, while thousands more in Russia have been sanctioned out of being able to work in the West. There are two ways out, and one is to automate those jobs.

This is according to Jennifer Thomson, IDC research lead for accelerated application delivery, cloud, and services, who says Russia's war against Ukraine will have a massive impact on companies that look abroad for developers, if for no other reason than the sheer numbers of tech professionals in the country.

"Look at the [Ukrainian government's] website, and it just tells you 130,000 engineering graduates and 16,000 IT graduates [emerge] yearly. That's actually twice as many as countries like the UK or Poland are able to churn out," Thomson said. 

The IDC team reports that many Ukrainian developers work for Western companies, both as freelancers and permanent employees. US software development company EPAM is one example: It is currently trying to find ways to relocate its displaced Ukrainian devs - all 14,000 of them, Thomson adds. 

There's no way to accurately know how many developers and tech professionals from Ukraine have been displaced by the war. Likewise, countless developers in Russia have also been cut off due to sanctions. That's only going to make existing developer talent shortages worse

"Organizations will need to find ways to be able to plug that developer skill gap, be it through the use of more advanced modern application development technologies, be it through automation or be it through looking at how they reskill their own talent," Thomson said. 

Automation has been on the horizon for some time, and the COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated investments in tech like robotic process automation. Analysts have predicted that business software will increasingly be built by its intended users via no-code development tools, the eventual outcome of which may be millions of lost jobs. Toss a war and displaced developers into the mix, and the future takes on a decidedly grim hue. 

As talent shortages in the West continue, and as thousands of developers are displaced due to the war, companies are left in a bind, Thomson said. "The speed of digital business isn't going away. And I think this is actually going to highlight the talent issues we're facing." 

That doesn't mean organizations are in the wrong, though, at least if they want their business to continue operating sans devs. Thompson said "organizations, I think, are going to have to start to look for not just workarounds, but realistic strategies to enable them to be able to deliver the software innovation that's required." 

There's another complication, though: What about all the developers in Ukraine and Russia left without work from Western countries both during and after the war? "If you look at the number of organizations that are pulling out of Russia… for better or for worse, there's going to be a lot of talent that's left on the table," Thomson said. 

She points to a potential future where "a global developer talent pool springs up from this," but as long as there's a potential for future dev hotspots to become war zones those talent pools will always come with some degree of risk. ®

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