I arrived in Mumbai after spending a week in Kiev, Ukraine. I was invited to Ukraine by Alexey Krivitsky to conduct a two day Uncertification workshop called XP Days Ukraine and to speak at the Fourth Agile Ukraine Gathering. Big Thanks to Alexey for organizing this wonderful wonderful visit. Also big thanks to GlobalLogic for hosting me in Ukraine and Agile Alliance for funding my travel.
I was pleasantly surprised with the awesome infrastructure in Kiev and with friendly people around. Most of the people I met during my workshop and during the Agile Ukraine Gathering, amazed me with their smartness and knowledge. Even though the IT industry is a new booming industry out there, people’s knowledge and maturity was very high. Based on my 6 day stay there, I feel Kiev is a lot more advanced that any city in India. There is also a lot of work in progress. I would assume in 2-3 years time, Kiev would be one of the world’s most advanced cities.
The roads are very well built, just like roads in US. Telecommunication and Electricity seems to be very well planned. It was a 5 mins job to get a new cell phone connection with international dialing. This would take a week in India. Quite a lot of mobile service providers with really good service. In any part of the city you have good signals. Most people have high speed cable internet at home. Everyone has cable TV with a set-top box. I’ve been told that there are no power cuts. Some southern parts of Ukraine have water issues, but Kiev does not have any such issues.
Based on my understanding there are enough education institutes in Kiev to cater to the needs of the local population. A lot of people from other parts of Ukraine also come there for education and job. I was told that Kiev is not the only such city in Ukraine, there are at least 5 other cities which are equally well developed.
IT is a relatively new industry out there. There are really smart people who like to be in the IT industry. Also in the IT industry jobs pay a lot more (may be 5 times more) than what employees get paid in a factory. My understanding is that Developers with 5+ years of work-x are difficult to find. Also similar issue on the management side. Not many people around with lots of experience to guide the development teams. Having said that the guys I met are the kind of people I would like to hire. There were about 30 people I would blindly hire. Really really smart guys and gals. Most of these folk work as team leads for leading outsourcing companies out there. Also a lot of these folks understand and practice Agile but are frustrated because their clients or managers don’t get it. If you are looking to start a new office, I think Kiev is a great location.
One Hryvnia or Grivna (Ukrainian Currency) is about 8 Indian Rupee or 5 Grivna is about one US Dollar. Compared to Indian standards the cost of living is quite high in Kiev. Because of this and the fact that IT is a booming industry the salaries are quite comparable to the salaries of highest paid developers in India. A good salary for an experience developer in Ukraine is about 12,000 Grivna ($2500) per month after taxes. (They have some crazy tax rules and most people have found a loop whole in the system to avoid taxes).
Right now Ukraine has a lot of outsourced (not just off-shored) work from Denmark, few other European countries and many be a very few US projects. The time difference between most of the European countries and Ukraine is about 1-2 hours. So its quite easy to ignore the timezone issue. But Language is still a bit of an issue. Most people in the IT industry can understand English well. Most of them can also speak quite fluently. But if you would go to a store or restaurant, not many people can speak English. Most of the menus, sign-boards and hoardings are in Ukrainian. So Language can be a bit of a challenge, but not as big as it would be with China. I could survive for a week, I think others can also.
Local Transportation is quite well organized in Kiev. There are buses, subways, taxis, tramp train and long distance trains. In spite of having so many options for transportation, the buses can get quite loaded during peak hours. The subway is not very well connected to all parts of the city and hence most people use either the local buses or drive their own cars. One of the really nice things about the buses is they are environment friendly. They run on electricity instead of petrol or gas. All the streets have electric cables from which these buses draw electricity. Also in terms of the cars you can see on the road, you’ll find a huge variety of cars. The city is loaded with European cars. They also have a few Japanese car and quite a lot of Chevy cars. Chevrolet brought Daewoo which had a local manufacturing unit in Ukraine and hence you see Chevy.
Food is quite bland from an Indian standard. I could not survive without Tabasco (hence the blog title). Every restaurant I went, I had to explicitly ask for Tabasco sauce. (I’m really glad that in most of the places it was available). Also for Vegetarians it might be a little difficult to find food in most places. There are restaurants that serve pastas, salads, soups and pizzas that can keep the Vegetarians happy. On the last day, we did find an Indian Restaurant called Himalaya. The food was yummy. (Ummm…I love Indian Food).
One other thing that caught my attention was electronic signboards on the highway which show you the max speed, weather info and other usual stuff. I have never seen weather info on similar signboards. I think its a great idea.