Russian businesses and specialists are relocating to Kazakhstan to find a way to keep operations afloat in times of political and social unrest. The IT industry is no exception. Many of us can’t help but wonder what the effects of such workforce influx will be. Can we cope with it? Will it be useful to our industry? On March 16, QazMonitor attended a first-in-its-kind meetup for IT professionals who have recently arrived in Nur-Sultan from Russia.
A warm welcome
As I walked into a cozy bar called KHS HUB (short for KazHackStan), a young man greeted me with a smile and asked: “Are you from the chat?” That was Ahmed Akaev, one of the co-hosts of the meetup.
“I accidentally got involved in one of the relocation chats on Telegram, and started helping people coming from Russia. I suggested to have a meetup focused on IT because there were many experts that have come here.”
Ahmed began the Q&A session while around him, at every table, professionals from top Nur-Sultan companies and newcomers from Russia mingled with each other. Everyone was chatting and laughing; the HUB seemed more of a laid-back co-working space with drinks, rather than a conference room or a bar.
At first, the questions from the audience were about mundane yet important things, like taxes, searching for apartments, prices of necessities, and obtaining residence status in Kazakhstan. Later, questions about big data, and IT education opportunities in Nur-Sultan started popping up.
“Some people have already settled down and now ask where they can learn Kazakh. I think, it’s great! They are interested in places to improve their skills in IT and other areas. People are open to a new culture, and I even get messages about events for celebrating Nauryz.”
Next came the part of the evening many had been looking forward to. Representatives of two IT companies – TSARKA (the largest cybersecurity provider in Central Asia, based in Nur-Sultan) and KazDream (IT holding with over 400 employees) – shared the stage to brief the audience on the current situation in the Kazakh IT sector, as well as inform the audience about vacancies in their companies. The salary range got everyone interested.
One of the speakers shed light on the expectations of Russian job candidates:
“Firstly, we aim to inform the foreign audience about the IT market in Kazakhstan to help them form a picture and expectations of the quality of life and salaries. We hope to see experienced middle and senior candidates that our labor market lacks. Those who can ‘nurture’ our guys and improve business and technological processes.”
The atmosphere gave way to open and genuine interactions, so much so that an audience member found a match for potential employment right then and there. The man had been an architect engineer for over ten years, working as a project manager of a construction project. He spoke up to ask whether it was possible to re-establish his career and integrate into the world of IT. A woman at the next table chimed in that her company might be interested in a seasoned worker like him. The two exchanged numbers right away.
Now for the hot topic
We asked the CEO of TSARKA Olzhas Satiev to comment on the potential effects of new workforce inflow:
“This will be beneficial for the Kazakh IT industry as many startups and companies focus on the local market only. Russian developers have experience working in international projects, and they know how to scale them. Say, if Kazakh companies aim at a market of 10 million, for Russian projects, it’s for 100-million clients. Consider Yandex, for instance.”
The cybersecurity expert agreed that even if Russian employees relocate just for six months, the experience exchange in the working environment will have a huge impact. As for the salary expectations, Satiev mentioned that they are 20% higher on average compared to the local market. “Many of [the Russian developers] simply don’t realize that the cost of living is cheaper in Kazakhstan,” he added. He has already received ten applications to his company, but made an offer to only one of them.
As for local developers, many of the sought out Kazakh experts who previously moved to Russia and changed citizenship are now moving back to rejoin our IT community. The standard practice for so long has been for young career starters to find their luck in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, or even Silicon Valley. This is the sad reality.
But on the bright side, our market is expecting big players to open offices in Kazakhstan and open jobs for hundreds, if not thousands, of local developers. This could make the difference and put Kazakhstan on a world map of IT, not as an incubator of middles and seniors, but as a force of its own.
Before parting ways, Satiev had this to say to the worried ‘couch analysts’:
“The need for quality staff and strong developers is huge in Kazakhstan. We need tens of thousands of workers in different IT areas. Not being able to find a job shouldn’t be a concern. People will be motivated to improve their skill level and exchange knowledge.”
Not saying goodbye
As the room emptied out, it was obvious that there was something uplifting in the air. For people who took the risk to move to a new country and for us. Dinis Kudlov, a co-founder of KHS HUB, hinted at a future event:
“It was a warm, friendly, and productive evening at the same time. The KHS HUB holds meetings on a regular basis for IT specialists in different areas. This was the first meeting of its kind, and it was, in my modest opinion, very successful. During the event, I was already asked ‘when is the next meeting?’. Our platform is always open and ready for these events.”