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  • Olena Vodzianova

Changing job during wartime: how to nail it twice and become a Big Data Engineer

Hi! I’m Olena, a Big Data Engineer. Eight is more than a number for me and all Ukrainians. This is how long I’ve been in programming and how many years the Russian-Ukrainian war lasts. I completely switched my profession and started working as an engineer in December 2014. In 2022 when Russia began a full-scale war in Ukraine, I decided to change the company and the project again. Why did I choose the hardest times for career change twice? That is what my story is about.


Watershed moment in 2014


2014 has become a key moment not only for Ukraine but for my career too. At that time, as a 25-years-old Senior Information System Auditor, I found myself thinking “now or never”. I’d been into programming, so I decided to become an engineer. As soon as I started looking for different courses, in less than a month I jumped into a Java internship. Thus, I changed my salary of several thousand dollars to 500 dollars.


Anybody I knew told me I was insane. Instead of developing my career as a pro auditor, I went down to the first step on a career ladder. More than that, I did that when the war just started, the situation in the country was unstable, nobody knew what would be next. However, at the most challenging time, people often realize that we should enjoy everything we do in life, including our jobs. When we care about this important things, nobody’s different opinion matters.


How I did it: 3 tips


  • Family and closest people supported me. I was sure that I had somebody to catch me if I fell.

  • I reduced my expenses. It seemed impossible, but it was even easier in practice than I thought. I gave up on everything that was not vitally necessary.

  • I chose positive attitude and self-confidence. Despite receiving an offer from another company for the auditor position and the opportunity to relocate to Frankfurt, I chose to stay in Ukraine and follow my dream.


Did the war affect the work process and my personal development?


It did impact our lives in general. For example, in the summer of 2015, companies started preparing plans for possible relocation in case of changes in the front line. In addition, more colleagues from Donetsk and Luhansk were forced to move to Kyiv. Still, there were no hurdles to studying and working in Kyiv at that time.


Why I decided to change jobs again in 2022


When I had no thoughts about changing my job again, my friend and ex-colleague transferred to a new company, right after beginning of the Russian invasion. When chatting, he told me that SD Solutions had just opened a Big Data Engineer position for his project with technologies that I had been interested in for a very long time. This was the first thing that attracted me. Besides that, an unusual product made me think again. The Otonomo platform, enables providers in the transportation, mobility, insurance, and automotive industries to harness mobility data and insights to transform them into strategic assets. Together with non-toxic team where the percentage of men and women in the is around 50/50 his words tilted the scales to “Yes” side, where the opposite one was full of “I don’t know what will be tomorrow”.


What doubts I faced when deciding to transfer to a new company during a full-scale war


Although I was interested in the position, I had to decide if I could put on the line everything for only one proposition. So, I wrote down all the pros and cons. It’s critical to think through all the points that bother you and brainstorm options for a retreat, just in case.


Doubt 1. War


At the time of the interviews, I was in Lviv and knew that I would return to Kyiv one day. Although the previous company offered relocation, I wanted to stay in Ukraine, supporting the economy and workforce market to show that it is possible and even beneficial to cooperate with Ukrainians.


Even so, I was afraid of the:


  • Inability to work because of mental state. War is constant stress, and stress affects productivity and performance.

  • Lack of internet due to hostilities. What to do and how to work in this case?

  • Fear of getting into the firing zone when you just start working.

  • Forced relocation.


How to overcome


Yes, it is scary to be without work during the war, but I noted the following pros:

  • Even in war, there are opportunities, people, and options. In fact, something constantly happens in the world. Floods, earthquakes, coronavirus, and the war in our country have been here for a long time. But our lives cannot be paused and simply replayed after Ukraine pushes the aggressor out.

  • The company understand and evaluates risks while from our side we can use mobile internet, autonomous battery or find another place to work.


Doubt 2. New company


A new job is always stressful, and getting a new batch of negative thoughts during wartime means doubling the pressure on your mental health. Is it even worth it?


How to overcome


If the current job is boring or uncomfortable, then how can this stress ruin your life less than the one you’ll get if you change it? Switching to another project leads to something more fascinating, which is already better for the mental state. People should identify the moment when the psychological pressure is greater than they can stand. If you feel you need a change, don’t wait until burnout comes, even if it seems to be not the best time.


Doubt 3. New people


Equally stressful is the fear of “disconnection” with the new team. It might have a negative impact on the work process, performance, and results.


How to overcome


Adaptation among new people depends on two main components of teamwork:

Your personality. If a person is naturally friendly, colleagues will help simplify the adaptation period. If mutual relations are established, then working relations will be at the highest level as well.


Team attitude. If the team is non-toxic, has moral principles, and is not only focused on career growth, they will understand how difficult it might be for a beginner and will try to smooth the adaptation period.


Doubt 4. Trial period


What if I don’t pass the trial period? I will be without a job and money; what to do next? The question that worried me, probably, the most.


How to overcome


I knew two things that would help in this situation: my savings and my closest people.

In my opinion, you should always have one with enough money for at least a few months. At the same time, the support of the closest people always comforts me. As time shows, if you have friends, then at least one of them will text you to offer some help.

Also, I always remember that it’s okay to make mistakes in a new workplace since it’s unusual and uncommon.


Process of changing jobs during the war


In fact, it hasn’t changed. Except that before, you could always meet at the office. Now everything is remote and adapted to circumstances when people are scattered all over the country, or at any moment, an air raid can start. (However, I have already visited the Kyiv office).



First interview


When I woke up before the first interview, I was like, “why am I making my life so difficult?”. And it’s utterly natural that right up to the offer, you can still return to “why”, “how”, and “what if”. But when you have already started, finish it or at least go to the first interview. Quite often, many doubts disappear after it, or new ones appear instead — they also should be analyzed.

Our first interview calmed me down because I saw that communication was comfortable — the recruiter answered all my questions and did not ask any tricky ones.


Offer


I went through all the hiring processes and was waiting for the results. By then, I was already sure I wanted this job without hesitation. I was worried I might not pass because there were other candidates. The workforce market in Ukraine is large, which creates considerable competition.

When the offer came, I immediately signed it and was already waiting for the first working day.


First day


Fully prepared, I got involved in working with a team from the first minute because I was contacted in advance, which was a green flag. There was a clear plan, so I didn’t have to worry about whom to contact and where to start. It reduced my personal stress level.


What I get in the end


Now I have been working in SD Solutions for 6 months, and I do not regret that I took the risk of changing jobs because now I have higher salary, a flexible schedule, interesting tasks and a stack of technologies that I want to learn.


Would I advise you to change jobs during the war?


Yes, but there are several IF points:

  • Current work has become routine and uninteresting, which reduces productivity and enjoyment of the process.

  • Working conditions changed during the war and became unsuitable for you (for me, it would be a mandatory relocation).

  • It became difficult to work with the team because of their political views and moral values.

  • You want changes. Everything is dark, so why don’t you let the lights on?

Although it has certain peculiarities and a new level of risk, changing jobs during the war is not something grandly different. Whether you can do this or not is only up to you. The main thing is to make this decision after considering all arguments for and against.



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