AIMS International Ukraine is like any of the 50-plus AIMS partnerships around the globe – but also rather different. There’s the war, of course, but the local team’s mandate is unique too. Besides helping local candidates find work in or out of the country, they also work with AIMS partnerships in Europe to assist foreign companies to provide remote work to Ukrainians at home, as well as support existing institutional clients that want to look after past or present employees in the country.
We spoke to Alexei Onischuk, AIMS International Ukraine Managing Partner about AIMS International’s goals in Ukraine, the country’s excellent talent, the local team, and staying mentally fit in a country at war.
Alexei, we know that it’s still early days, but there have been successes already. Can you tell us a bit about them?
I’ve had very pleasant and productive meetings with AIMS International partners in eastern and western Europe. We made the first placement partnering with the Romanian office and Dan Badiu, which has all chances of being successful. We discovered the opportunities to create voluntary projects to help and employ Ukrainians with partners in Bulgaria and Greece. I appreciate greatly the attitude and willingness to cooperate among the AIMS partners that I’ve met.
Have you and the Kyiv team been able to meet any other AIMS partners in person?
Not yet. I have a dream. When Ukraine wins the war, I would like to invite the AIMS International community to visit Ukraine, to see our country and our beautiful and green city, Kyiv. I think it would be a great experience for everyone. Modern European history is being made in Ukraine, right now.
AIMS International Ukraine works with AIMS International’s Lithuanian, Polish and Romanian partnerships, which previously held responsibility for the country. How does that work?
It’s a kind of partnership, sharing responsibilities as much as ideas. We discuss current or potential projects, determining where we might employ Ukrainian people. Our partners in Lithuania, Poland, and Romania do a great job persuading their clients to consider Ukrainians as potential candidates, as do others within AIMS.
It’s so important for us to establish cooperation with the majority of AIMS International’s offices in Europe, so we can give Ukrainian people the best choice of vacancies and work on projects of mutual benefit. Apart from providing Ukrainian candidates, the Ukrainian office can act as a shared resource for research and other services that AIMS International’s offices elsewhere may need at relatively short notice, even if it is on a part-time basis.
Ukraine’s skilled candidates
We know that Ukraine has a large number of highly skilled software engineers and a vibrant fintech scene. How is that industry faring?
Yes, we have many highly skilled IT professionals. The industry was booming; it was a purely candidate-driven market. The current situation has obviously changed the game, so many European companies now have the opportunity to sign up highly qualified, English-proficient workers.
What other skills and specialist expertise do companies outside the country look for in Ukraine?
There are specialists with industry-standard qualifications and skill sets in areas like international reporting, digital marketing, construction, human resources, and administration. Then, we have top-level executives with international experience. We can also provide English-speaking scientists, doctors, and pharmacists for the life sciences industry.
Living and working in Ukraine now
Everyday life must have changed enormously for you and tens of millions of your compatriots in the last three months. How has the way you and your team work changed in Kyiv?
The Covid pandemic helped us to adapt to what happened later. In 2020, when working from home took off, we understood that we’d have to make some changes. We actually came up with a new motto: “Go global, go remote”. With us remotely, I focused on creating a team of well-organised, self-driven people, who are able to work with a high degree of autonomy. We strive for a collegial atmosphere, avoid micromanagement, and communicate among ourselves without formality.
Today, while we all reside in Kyiv, I am currently located in Vinnytsia in central Ukraine; our lead recruiter is in Frankivsk in western Ukraine; two more consultants are in Kyiv; and another is in Kryvyi Rih in eastern Ukraine. So, within three months of war, we have managed to build a company with truly nationwide coverage! (Joke.) If we went any more remote, we’d be cloud recruiters. Like angels! (Another joke.)
After hours, you’re a drummer in a rock band playing classic rock, as well as your own songs. You also play football. We’re guessing you’re a big believer in shutting the laptop at the end of the working day and doing something completely different to switch off and relax? (Is relaxing the right word when your country is at war?)
Our band is working on a new song dedicated to the brave defenders of Mariupol. Ukraine has faced a terrible challenge, and the majority of us weren’t ready to witness so much death, injury, and loss. Our brave soldiers keep fighting, but there are many people who feel guilty, because they can’t help the situation. There are people who seem to be in mourning all the time. That won’t help anyone. I believe that you have to be strong yourself in order to help someone else. It’s like putting on an oxygen mask in a plane: first you, then a child.
I have to be in good mental shape, because I am responsible for the mental health of my daughter, my family, and my team. That’s why I keep playing sports. I do my best to support my team, pay their salaries, and keep the business running, but we also provide some of our income to support the Ukrainian people. These are the ways that I can influence the situation. With AIMS International, we can do more, help more, change more. Let’s do it together!
About the Interviewee:
Alexei is a professional in recruitment and development of senior and middle managers with almost 20 years of experience. Alexei has an education in information technology and psychology, he is certified business coach and is the author of few books: “Corporate recruitment: your way to reach the Stars”, “360 Feedback at work”, “How to build the Talent Development Machine”.