For almost 14 years, I’ve worked with a software team in Kyiv, occasionally in person there, sometimes with team members visiting Chicago, but mostly through Skype, chat and mail. Still, they have become my good friends and coworkers. It’s a remarkable relationship (especially at the start) that obviously wouldn’t have happened without the internet.
The team has grown from just a couple of guys, and over the years we’ve built software solutions behind the scenes for some of the most recognizable internet brands.
My earliest days visiting Kyiv were fascinating. I came of age just as the USSR was dissolving. That was the most significant geopolitical event of my lifetime (arguably since surpassed by the rise of global terrorism). My new friendships were intriguing… these were mostly people who grew up in an independent Ukraine, building a business together, unrestrained by history.
There have been plenty of moments when I felt like the proud American, and saw the growing effects of westernization on the Ukrainian economy and friends. There have also been moments when I’ve acknowledged America and western Europe is on unstable ground to be moralizing, particularly in areas of income inequality and the occasional trampling of our own Bill of Rights.
Ukraine sits as a resource for both Russian and Western influence. The politics and oligarchy dictate much of what makes the news, but its people are usually far removed from all of that. They are busy building a bustling economy, and connecting with the world. Except times like today — or during the Orange Revolution of nearly a decade ago — when these people rise up together with passion that we in the west should envy.