Ukraine Information Technology 2022: Resilience and Leadership - CXOTalk # 747

Ukraine Information Technology 2022: Resilience and Leadership - CXOTalk # 747

Show Video

Lessons around leadership, lessons around  resilience. Konstantin Vasyuk is the executive   director of the Ukraine IT Association, and my  guest co-host is David Bray, a distinguished   fellow with the Stimson Center. Konstantin,  tell us about the IT Ukraine Association.  IT Ukraine Association is the largest national  association of IT companies, and we represent the   interests of more than 77,000 IT professionals.  We have been providing various additional   opportunities to our members on a  daily basis. But in this day and age,   we contribute to the ongoing development of the  industry and, of course, provide centralized   support to our army and our people. David, it's great to talk with you.  

Tell us about your work at the Stimson Center. The Stimson Center is a nonpartisan think and   do tank. They are one of the quieter ones in the  sense that they're focusing primarily on impact.  What I'm doing there is helping them think through  how everything from the future of data, the   future of biology, the future of commercial space  technologies is changing the world in geopolitics   and, similarly, how geopolitics and changes in  the world are shaping the future of technologies   and data that we (as either companies or as  communities) will be using in the decade ahead. 

Konstantin, tell us about  life in Ukraine right now.  The population of the territory of our  motherland, we have been caught by the   invasion of the Russian Federation. This is it,  and it has been 48 days of continuous defending   in which we have experienced great  fear, anxiety, and anger. It's war.  But at the same time, this immense bravery, joy,  pride, and unity we also felt. Just imagine more  

than 1,800 missiles have been launched into  our lands. At a moment like this, we have   consequences to deal with. We see people stand  up for each other and keeping the country.  It's drama. It's huge drama, and we all  fight on different fronts, some on the   forefront, others on the cyber and tech. But at  the end of the day, it's the results that count. 

In this regard, we have been combatting  the second world's strongest army.   This wasn't just because of luck. It's brave  work that everyone puts in to remain a closely   merged nation. I'm saying  this with emotions because   no country in the world is ready to go to war  with Russia, but Ukraine is fighting and fighting   quite successfully, I should say. By the way, considering the   bravery Ukrainians have been showcasing their  national DNA, and this is our national resource,   in fact, bravery becomes our brand. This is  what it means to be us today, to be Ukrainians,  

to be brave. This is the most little  characteristics of what we have now in Ukraine.  Like you said, the last 48 days have been  incredibly challenging, but Ukraine has   risen to the equation. At the same time, this has  been something that's been brewing for a while.   You had the 2014 conflict with Russia, and then  there have been several things behind the scenes.  Maybe if you could tell a little bit of the arch  of your industry association from 2014 onwards   in terms of you've had the constant concern  of Russian aggression, whether it be more   overt, as it is now, or things that were done  more quietly to try and disrupt Ukraine for   the last several years. I was wondering  if you could share a little bit about  

how does the IT Industry Association work with  what has been yearlong stresses in some respects?  We have been in the state of war for the previous  eight years, by the way. Since 2014, we faced the   aggression of the Russian Federation, but smaller.  Let's say in smaller amounts and smaller effect.  Nevertheless, we understood that  the probability and the risks still   exist. Thus, most of the companies which are our  members – firstly, we have a very mature business   and very responsible business – they have  BCP, and they realized these plans before,   so they moved people. They changed some  security levels of the data, storage, et cetera. 

We have transferred. We just changed business  processes in order to be ready for such   situations. Now, it shows that this  was exactly the correct approach,   which, in effect, it's now in the very  good condition of the industry, in general.  Advanced business continuity, I guess that's  kind of a funny way of describing a situation   that's not funny at all, but you did  a lot of preparation ahead of time.  Even we didn't just imagine. We couldn't  imagine that it will happen, so we worked   on it because now we see that something  comes to reality we didn't expect at all. 

How do you keep morale up? I can imagine this is  almost a daily bombardment. It's disruption. How   do you keep the hopes up of both industry leaders  and then members of the association as well?  We worked on the adjunct projects,  adjunct businesses. We were quite   united all the time because those decisions  have been existing for 16 years, and we   have acquired mature businesses, as I already told  you. Now, we're in the next level of our maturity.  What's life like for you just on a daily  basis? I'm assuming you're not in the   middle of fighting. But how has life changed? It has affected all areas of life, in ways you  

didn't expect it would, from the first day when we  hear the bombs, explosions, so your life changed   in one second. And we haven't experienced anything  like this, but it's just rules that you have to be   ready for everything, starting from relocation. As you probably heard, more than ten million   citizens have moved internally to relatively  more safe areas, including myself and my family.   But that doesn't stop me from working, as  usual. Kids have online lessons, as they would.  Taking even those two simple points, my  working day has been prolonged, of course.   Now, we work – not, of course, 24/7, but – over  20 hours a day because we are all in to support   for Ukraine: the army, the citizens, and  people really trying to help. We centralize  

the assistance as best as possible on the level  of our organization, on the level of my team.  On the other hand, with kids and their online  lessons, it's harder to have work calls and have   a stable connection. [Laughter] Of course, I'm  sure you have experienced this with COVID times.  But let's imagine your kids, while they're playing  on the grass (after their classes), keeping them   in because of the air raid alarm is ringing. It's  a crazy sound, by the way, very depressive, and  

everyone should be in a shelter at this moment. This is the general picture of our life,   but we're in the most safer place.  Some people are in less safe places.   But more or less, the experience is the same. One of my friends moved to Italy with their family   from the suburbs of Kyiv. They lived there before.  On the second day, while the plane was flying   on, the child goes down on the ground and  says, "It's a missile!" It was terrible. 

This is daily life we adopted. I find it fascinating because,   in some respects, IT is so essential for  you to carry on the work wherever you are,   to carry on the education wherever you are. It  helps hold your people together. As you said,   they've been displaced by the conflict. Do you have stories, one or two stories, in   which IT has been absolutely essential to keeping  either work colleagues or communities together   in the midst of this very hard time  and challenging time for Ukraine?  For example, in the very beginning of the war,  some of the teams were moving around the country.   They were just relocating. At the same time,  they should provide delivery to the customer. 

They were moving in the same way. The first  day of the war, they were delivering products.   They were delivering software because  they switched between the team.  By the way, in Ukraine, we've got a very good  network connection. This is due to a fiber-optic   network – a very developed, decentralized  network. They just switched between team members,   and they delivered the product. The customer was  really shocked at how it was possible, but it was. 

This is one of the cases, but the main support  we have now (and before) is because, of course,   the first shock you have from the understanding,  but you're in another reality and you want to   wake up and see that everything is okay. But  it's not okay. It's the war on your land.  It's hard to describe. You shouldn't feel it,  of course. But it's only your internal feeling.   It's not the danger for your life. It's  danger for your perception of the life.  The main support in cases with people to support  each other in this situation. As one team,  

they're working. We work together now. We have  meetings. We have tasks. We have deadlines,   as in general, in usual life. But now, we're a bit much stronger,   a bit much confident, just a bit much resilient.  This is maybe the result how to overcome this,  

but it needs time to understand. Konstantin, at the beginning of the war,   I read stories of IT workers who, during the  day, were participating in war activities,   essentially. Then at night, they would  come home, and they would write their code,   do their programming, and work with  their customers and their deliverables.   Is that still happening? What's  the working life like right now?  Now, more or less, people understood and got the  rhythm of life, rhythm of work, in order to be as   much efficient as they can. If people think that  he will be efficient in the army, yeah, he will   go to army. If you're efficient in the coding or  performing your daily work, it will be like this.  This is normal because the first days are a shock.  The first days are not a typical schedule of your  

life. Later, it will go in the more or less normal  way in terms of your schedule, in terms of your   daily routine, et cetera. I think now it's quite  clear that people want to be as much efficient as   they can in their own place, what they can choose. We have an interesting question from Twitter.  

This is from Arsalan Khan, who is a regular  listener. Thank you, Arsalan. I always thank   you for asking such excellent questions. Arsalan says this. "How do you prepare for   an invasion, and how did you convince your IT  organization members to be ready for a war?"  You will be ready for the war when you have this  experience at least one time. Before this, you   won't be ready, really. Customers are mostly the customers   whose companies are to provide some BCP, really,  because customers worry about their business. At   the same time, as I've already mentioned, we have  been in a state of war for the last eight years,   so we taught some lessons taken from this and  the basic things we have done. The combination  

of these (in our customers) recommendations and  our experience made this general preparation.  But for the last one month, two weeks, one week  to the invasion, we really didn't think that   it would happen. Really, we didn't expect this. That's why maybe, in answering this question,   you will not be ready for war. Mentally, yes.  [Laughter] Maybe. You should expect something.   But of course, any exact actions, you will have  to overcome the threat when it comes to reality.  This is an interesting war and conflict in the  sense that not only – as Konstantin said and you   noted, Michael – are there people that are working  20-hour days where they may have a day job that   has them doing one thing and then a night job that  has them doing something different (in Ukraine) to   address the conflict and to keep  the continuity of business going.   You also have people (either in the United  States, Canada, parts of Europe) who may have   a day job that is not at all obviously relating  to the conflict that choose to either outside of   business hours or choose time from work. I know of people who are volunteering to  

either help with vetting NGOs, trying to help  with logistics to get things, to support people   in Ukraine, tracking Russian disinformation  activities, helping with secure communications.   This is something where, as a result  of IT, and as a result of what   Konstantin's IT Industry Association is doing,  you can bring in people from overseas as well.   Not to get ahead of whatever official governments  are doing, but to support as volunteers in ways   that they just couldn't do otherwise physically. You can be at war and, at the same time, these   IT companies are still making their  deliverables to overseas clients. I find that   hard to imagine, given all the pieces that  need to be in place. You need to be able to   concentrate. How do you concentrate when, if  you send your kids out (as Konstantin said)  

after school, maybe there'll  be an air raid siren, or maybe   actually there will be a missile attack? Then  what about the infrastructure – all of that?  But one important thing that we will analyze  it maybe after the war because the general   situation was different, and the starting  point is different for different countries.  We have some things like we have a huge territory  of the country. We have a big territory of the   country. We have a well-developed infrastructure,  and we have BCP. We have a mature business.  We have people, very smart and creative  people, and we have the experience of COVID   for two years now with remote work. In combination  of this, we have got some opportunity to realize a  

different approach and different results. Therefore, what I'm trying to say is IT today is   all-encompassing, but everyone is doing the right  thing. Those who went to combat are performing   their civic duty. Those helping on the cyber  front are also performing their civic duty. Those   who are working and keeping the economy, keeping  contracts, keeping the customers' delivery,   they also are performing their civic duty. This is high motivation for us  

because we understand that we are doing now,  at this current moment, not knowing what will   happen tomorrow because you know this situation  is not so simple – like it seems sometimes.  We have a question from Twitter. This is from  Wayne Anderson, another regular listener who   asks such great questions. Konstantin, he wants  to know what are the top three needs of your   members from global IT providers right now. What  can global IT providers do to help your members?  The most, more or less, conditions are  kept, so people, human capital we have.   Safety, more or less, we have safety  for data, cyber security, et cetera. 

Now we have just trust and confidence from the  customers to keep on with the business because I   know some businesses are just considering their  risks and they have projections regarding some   decrease in contract value, et cetera.  It's just in order to reduce the   risks. But still, I hope that, after some time,  they will return back because of the huge deficit   and huge demand on the global market. Just don't wait for this moment that you   should return back. Just keep on doing business.  Of course, we are ready to provide additional   information, maybe sideways. It's maybe some  meetings and proof that our business is resilient   and confident and very capable to deliver services  you need. This is maybe the one and main thing. 

You're highlighting that this is both an immediate  conflict in terms of military defense – whether it   be on the physical battlefield or in the cyber  realm – but it's also the long-term, which is,   you need your economy to continue to be robust. If  anything, if your economy shrinks because nobody   wants to do business with you, that is actually  worse than what could happen on the battlefield.  It's sort of amplifying what you're saying.  If folks continue to do business with you,  

if they can grow their business with you, even  in the midst of all this, the fact that you have   shown this skill. You have skills now that most  people can't claim when it comes to ultimate   IT resiliency. You have demonstrated that. Exactly, and one important thing maybe I would   like to add is that this business is supported by  customers and businesses that are earning money.   They spend this money for the help, for the help  to the army and to the people, because thousands,   millions of dollars are spent by Ukrainian  IT companies or companies with development   centers in Ukraine to the aim of the army, not  military goods, including non-military goods,   of course: medicine, humanitarian aid, et cetera. This is possible exactly because our customers   pay our bills, pay our invoices, and we deliver  services. This should be kept, and this will help   defend Ukraine, defend Europe, and defend the  world from these crazy, really crazy people.  

Sorry, but what we see now, there are no words to  describe this. This is important to keep business,   to keep the economy in order to just fight  for the peace and gain this victory finally.  Can you even imagine how things would  be different if you didn't have the   Internet nowadays in the midst of all this? We've got more than 5,000 Starlink equipment,   sets of Starlink equipment already supplied to  Ukraine. This equipment is distributed between   the grid infrastructure, some government  bodies, some local authorities, some   critical points where it's needed for the cities  which just lost Internet connections, some mobile   operators, et cetera, and so we have some backup  for the channels, for Internet channels. Some IT   companies also have this equipment as well. We monitor the situation and really now  

have not any complaints to the network connection,  and we hope it will be kept. But we have also   reserved channels like Starlink, and this  gives us hope to continue even if some parts,   some regions, temporarily will be cut  off from the global fiber-optic network.  In the midst of this terrible bombardment  and the atrocities that we read about   that normal life goes on. We're able to  do this. IT companies are making their   deliveries. You touched on this  earlier. What kind of planning  

goes into ensuring that when this catastrophe  happens that you're able to continue?  Exactly in this condition we have,  short-term and mid-term planning.   We are not speaking about some far-off horizons.  But anyway, again, according to the BCP we have,   we have special measures to provide reserve  electricity and Internet connection.  Again, we have diversified. We have offices  in other countries, so not 100% of Ukrainian   developers teams from the company work in Ukraine.  Of course, when we speak about small companies,  

small-scale companies, they have their whole  stuff here, but again, they diversify people.  It's hard to imagine. I can hardly imagine that  we will get a loss of Internet connection all over   Ukraine. In general, we're much more optimistic  regarding this because we have some double-checked   things and channels, separate reserved channels,  and general networks. So, we can switch to   other channels in case we have some disaster. But no one can be sure for 100% that it will  

not exist, but this probability can be for any  country. Let's be fair. Of course, war is war, but   we have quite good connections at  least now. We hope it will be kept.   And we don't miss the opportunity to  have reserved channels for such cases.  We have another question from Twitter, a  really interesting one, and this is again   from Arsalan Khan who says, "This is as much  a cyber and information war as a physical war.   Has the government's view and use of IT  changed as a result of what's going on?"  Let's talk a little about cyber because, as I just  mentioned, some people went to the cyber front.  

It's certainly an area we have  expertise in, and a lot of projects.  Maybe I will not tell you very detailed  information because we are in a state of war   now [laughter] but let's maybe review the parts  of the cyber activities which we have because now   this part of the DDoS attacks. We are down by  90% of people have computers and smartphones,   and just launching an application on  a laptop or even phone and you are in.   But they are particularly harmful in the long-term  period, and this is not so sophisticated one,   but the hacking and pen testing is second level. Basically, before the war, some people were,  

of course, doing this from time to time. But  now, this is done by more sophisticated users,   of course. They've done it very well, and  the most sophisticated part, it will be   internal work when the site is hacked and there's  work to build some botnets, some other stuff to be   particularly in and continue destroying this  infrastructure information, infrastructure,   et cetera. I mean that, in this, we have good  expertise because even before, in previous years,  

we have some attacks in Ukraine, cyber-attacks. By the way, what is interesting now and today,   you know that the cyber army of the Russian  Federation, which is said to be very   cool and advanced and is doing, it's an  illusion. It's as weak and incapable as   their armed forces on the ground. [Laughter] Now, we have revealed   that it's a myth. I would like to say that  we will happily share with you the details,   but after the war, how we've done this and  how we prove that this is an illusion of the   very powerful cyber army of Russia. But the Ukrainian cyber army is really   powerful, and we're proud of it. But again,  the details will come later. [Laughter] 

Again, not wanting to go into details,  but the other dimension of what was   asked in that question is you've been dealing  with disinformation attacks on Ukraine since 2014,   and even before then. You've gotten really  good at it, and I've been very impressed at how   Ukraine is very quick to sort of tamp out  if Russia tries to start spreading either   disinformation or tries to actually polarize  your people. Is that something that you,   as IT Ukraine Association, have a role of making  sure there are not disinformation attacks against   the IT Association, or is that another part  of the Ukraine government that helps with   addressing disinformation attacks as well? From time to time, of course, we check and   update our Web interfaces and sites in  order not to be attacked. But in general,   the business, before the war, especially, the  business was much more ready for these possible   attacks than government structures. But then when  it occurred and happened in previous years, some   measures were taken. Of course, we came to more or  less a normal level of cyber security, in general.  But again, we have critical infrastructure,  and we have general information portal sites.  

The difference, the risks are different,  so maybe, generally speaking, we have more   or less a normal level of cyber security and  cyber defense. But now, of course, it was risen   in times and, of course, we  paid attention. Our members   do have expertise in this area and do share it  and implement it together with the government.  We clearly see the partners. We clearly see the  opponents and enemies. I mean that the help from  

the partners' hands is very precious, and we  do appreciate such help and support. That's   why maybe this area, as well, can be discussed  and applied as partnership support for Ukraine.  This area should be discussed with the exact  government bodies and exact responsible people,   not an association in this case. But in general,  I suppose that it can be done and maybe already  

been done somewhere. In general, we are open  for this, and we can speak about this, but   just in general because it's very specific and  strategic issues, and it should be discussed with   competent people – I would like to say. As you look towards leadership   traits that you're seeing be espoused (in  Ukraine at the moment amongst IT leaders)   what would be maybe two to three leadership traits  that you're finding to be the strongest that are   coming to the fore in the midst of this conflict? It's very difficult to predict the situation   in the future. But now, in our daily  work, we are trying to be a platform  

to connect different expertise, different  requests, in order to find out the solutions   with the different angles. We look at  the different angles on the same things.  IT people like structured business. People who  work ... [indiscernible, 00:30:11] help their   country by their own expertise, experience, time,  or money. We're now in a constant flow of very  

intensive communications and collaborations. It  gives us unique lessons, unique experiences, which   we will hope to implement after the war as well. Now the world is wide,   the world is very fast-changing. The situation  in Ukraine showed up a lot of things,   unexpectable things, to the other world. Again, as an association, we're  

a national association. We want to connect our  members with all needed resources to keep their   business. We want to connect and do this through  the government, connected with the business,   to keep an ongoing economy, et cetera. We  are a multifunctional organization now.  The democratization of technology now allows you  to have an outside influence. In some respects,   you are the metaphorical David  standing up against the Goliath,   and you're doing so quite successfully. I guess, as we look to the future,   aside from people investing in IT Ukraine now  and obviously doing business, what could also   help with rebuilding? Is there anything else that  you would ask for, Konstantin, if you were asking   for people to help with Ukraine and recovery? Of course, when we will come to this point,   when we clearly understand that the war is  finished, the bombing is finished, because we   should be in a safe environment. One interesting  thing is going now in the western regions, we have  

still buildings, coworking business centers,  and other facilities for IT people as well, and   for creative industries, because a lot of people  moved here, and a lot of people will stay here.  Under the condition of even some risks of,  let's say, missile attacks, businessmen and   entrepreneurs, they build facilities. They  invest right now a lot of money because,   after this period of war, they will be ready  to accept and to provide services for the IT   companies. This is a great example of how much  we're confident in our victory and how much we're  

confident that, after the war, we will have a  fast recovery period, a very fast recovery period,   and we hope for this. This is an example. I find it fascinating, and it makes sense   that entrepreneurs continue to build despite the  war. In a way, it seems like the entire country   has been taken over by this spirit of  unity, starting with your president.   Again, it's just unbelievable. Yes, we're proud of our president,  

and we're proud of our people and country as well. We just changed for this   period of time, short period of time, and we have  that the best people now, the best people working   on all the fronts. Of course, we're quite united  and we're quite optimistic while we have such   a lot of things which we should bear now, like  the losses on the front, the missile attacks,   the bombings, the suffering of people. But still, we're motivated to live. We're  

motivated to change our country for the better,  like we did before the war, because we were one   of the most developing, fast-developing, countries  in Europe, a country which was aiming for the new   level of life, economy, et cetera. Now we have  this in mind, and we are going to implement it,   the IT industry, one of the industries of  the new economy, because this is inspiring   became we will be very fast recovering. Again, now we're still working in these   very hard conditions. It proves  that we're a new economy industry.  Arsalan Khan comes back, and he says, "Are  you aware of how AI is being used given all   of the data that's being collected right now?" A couple of examples were some technologies   like artificial intelligence, et cetera, were  used for the military purposes, of course.  

Again, I will not give you a lot of details,  but some applications with drones, some   applications with people recognition, equipment  recognition, et cetera, are now used in Ukraine.  This data, which we operate with, is also used for  the military purposes to optimize some processes,   to defend, to make some things secured,  more secured, and to identify people,   et cetera. Now it's quite applicable and  useable. We use these technologies widely.  David, as we move towards finishing up,  any thoughts on what business leaders   can do to protect against cyber attacks and  disinformation? David, any thoughts on that?  What's going on in Ukraine, what we even  saw with COVID, and even beforehand,   it's not a question of if these things will  happen to you. They will happen to you and,  

in fact, they may be going on right now. I think the first thing is, how will you know?   Assume it will happen. How will you know? The second thing is, as Konstantin demonstrated,   have a short- and mid-term plan. Prepare for what  you're going to do when you discover this, when   you discover whether it's a disinformation attack  or cybersecurity because, unfortunately, as we've   seen, once the intruders are in, they're going to  move very quickly once they've done recognizance   or disinformation. A lie can get halfway around  the world before the truth gets its sneakers on. 

Then the last thing, I think, is build alliances  or connections. What Konstantin is doing with this   association is there's strength in numbers. Given we are all connected to the Internet,   no organization is an island. If you actually  have that strength, you can actually have   greater visibility as to what might be the  latest trends. Maybe it's ransomware of a  

certain type that's now going up. Maybe it's  this sort of type of disinformation attack.  Basically, assume it's going to happen,  if it hasn't already happened to you.   It will happen again. Have your plans.  Then ultimately, build connections through   associations because we're stronger together. Konstantin, you're going to get the last word.   Any final thoughts or messages  that you would like to share?  There is a need for your support to Ukraine,   to our people, to our bravest people.  The economy will have to be rebuilt,  

and that's why we ask just one thing;  we propose one thing. To contribute   to this by keep doing business with Ukraine,  with Ukrainian businesses, companies who are very   reliable and strong in this situation, and any  other situations. We are partners to work with, so   do business with Ukraine and together we will win. Okay. With that, I'm afraid we're out of time.   This has been a fascinating discussion. We're so  grateful to Konstantin Vasyuk. He is the executive  

director of Ukraine IT Association. Konstantin,  thank you so much for being here with us today.  Thank you. A huge thank you to my   guest co-host and good friend Dr. David  Bray. David, what a fascinating discussion.  It is, and quite relevant both for the  immediate crisis but for IT leaders everywhere.   This is the new reality of the decade ahead we're  going to face. Konstantin, I look forward to when   we can both break bread because things are in  calmer times, but then I have imagined you have   a big future in advising other organizations  for the ultimate IT resiliency test. Thank you. 

Everybody, thank you for watching, especially  those folks who asked such great questions. Now,   before you go, please subscribe to our YouTube  channel, hit the subscribe button at the top of   our website so we can send you our newsletter  and keep you up to date, and support Ukraine.   Thanks so much, everybody. I hope you have a  great day, and we'll see you again next time.

2022-04-21 18:18

Show Video

Other news