On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine.

Later that day, Tetiana Loktionova was in a financial institution in Cyprus checking out a few of the funds for her firm, the games-centric recruitment company Values Worth, when she overheard one other buyer asking how they might donate €100 to assist Ukrainians in want. Figuring out Loktionova was from Ukraine, they requested if she might suggest some hyperlinks to authorised fundraisers, which she did.

It was the primary of many, many actions Loktionova took to help individuals, particularly video games professionals in her dwelling nation.

“I am ethnically Russian,” she tells GamesIndustry.biz. “My mom was Russian, my father was Russian and I used to be born in Russia, however on the age of 9 months we relocated to my father’s hometown in Japanese Ukraine. I’ve at all times thought-about myself Ukrainian – even after I bought my passport, I stuffed in Ukrainian as my nationality.”

With over a decade of expertise within the video games trade, Loktionova started her profession as a PR supervisor, later main Ukrainian studios and workplaces at firms like Playrix, earlier than venturing into recruitment as each founding father of Values Worth and co-founder of InGameJob.com.

“I am ethnically Russian [but] I’ve at all times thought-about myself Ukrainian”

Among the many many initiatives she has been part of, she was instrumental within the creation of a video course introducing aspiring builders to careers within the video games trade – which over 8,000 individuals took half in. She additionally launched the Large Video games Business Wage Survey, produces the Expertise Administration monitor on the DevGAMM convention, and produced a guide to assist builders determine once they’re feeling indicators of burnout – additional examples of her efforts to help individuals to find their place throughout the trade.

Final yr, she devoted a lot effort and time to serving to Ukrainians not solely relocate and escape the conflict, but additionally safe employment elsewhere within the video games trade. The truth is, she has precedent for this.

“When the conflict truly began in 2014, I used to be a COO at Nika Leisure and I helped relocate 80 workers and their households,” she says. “It was a really darkish and onerous time. However we helped, and we shared our expertise with different firms on the right way to organise it, the right way to do it proper.”

When protests rose up in Belarus over President Alexander Lukashenko in search of a sixth time period in workplace, and a few of these protestors have been imprisoned, many deemed Belarus to be unsafe and tried to go away. Loktionova and her colleagues suggested firms and people on how they might relocate to Ukraine – though she now acknowledges that a few of these may have needed to relocate once more in 2022.

“When the conflict began final yr, it was completely pure for me, and for anybody on my group, to begin serving to,” she says. “Everybody round me began doing something they might handle to assist – except they have been additionally relocating.”

Instinct had led Loktionova to maneuver herself and her household to Cyprus on February 20 – simply 4 days earlier than the invasion started – with the intention to guarantee the security of her kids. This additionally gave her the respiration room to work out how greatest she might help those that wanted it.

“We noticed lots of Ukrainian individuals flee to completely different nations, they usually did not know what to do subsequent,” she says. “So I gathered round 30 volunteers from completely different nations they usually helped us to assemble and replace data on how every nation helps, what the method was, what documentation they wanted and so forth. It is an enormous guide, and it helped a whole bunch of individuals.”

#StandUpForUkraine was central to efforts discovering employment and help for Ukrainians

A lot of this was achieved by what she refers to as “Fb and LinkedIn activism.” She started by reaching out to each non-Russian-speaking connection she had on LinkedIn with data on how they might assist, the place they might donate and the right way to unfold this data. She emphasised that the Ukrainian video games trade employed 30,000 individuals, all of whom wanted assist – hopefully from the thousands and thousands of different video games professionals world wide.

She additionally arrange a type for Ukrainian builders to clarify what help they required, and one other for worldwide firms to element what assist they might provide, from relocation and housing to authorized and monetary help, in addition to employment. A whole bunch of firms stuffed on this type.

“I do know that at the very least 300 individuals have been employed on this approach by June – and that is simply those I learn about,” provides Loktionova. “The businesses have been so keen to assist, and we noticed a large amount of volunteers from Ukraine and the video games trade.

“I am just a bit a part of this, however with out such elements, with out everybody doing one thing, lots of this is able to have been unimaginable.”

Along with these efforts, she’s been key to InGameJob’s #StandUpForUkraine initiative – a non-profit effort to attach firms with builders fleeing the conflict – and organised a charity fundraiser, Make Video games Not Struggle, which raised over $15,000. She and her group have additionally been supporting different efforts, together with Video games For Ukraine, Gamedev Camp and Gamedev Beneath Bombs.

When the conflict started in 2014, and within the following years, Loktionova says there was “no such enormous wave of volunteers,” nor have been efforts fairly as organised. The 2022 invasion was completely different.

“Within the very first days, everybody within the enterprise was interested by the right way to assist their very own groups – myself included,” she says. “The CTO of InGameJob spent a number of days underneath bombing in a basement along with his spouse and small baby. Our recruitment enterprise accomplice noticed tanks and bombs from her window, and she or he and her household needed to flee the very second they awoke. We have been making an attempt to assist as a lot as we might, and the businessmen have been making an attempt to make their companies as resilient and guarded as potential.

“We stopped any enterprise operations for 2 weeks, and we additionally had to consider our future method of working with Russia and Belarus-related firms. We have been one of many first ones to make an announcement about stopping relations with any Russia-related companies.”

“Some firms have been anticipating to rent a extremely low-cost workforce, individuals in a really troublesome scenario and who haven’t any different alternatives”

Equally, the trade at giant responded with way more drive than in earlier years. Dozens of firms launched fundraisers or made important donations to assist humanitarian efforts in Ukraine. However whereas Loktionova is grateful for all the assistance she acquired serving to to make use of affected Ukrainians, she says that some companies’ motives weren’t solely altruistic.

“Ukraine, let’s admit it, was thought-about to be a part of the third world and it was anticipated that the salaries can be actually low right here. However they don’t seem to be,” she says.

“Some firms have been anticipating to rent a extremely low-cost workforce, individuals in a really troublesome scenario and who haven’t any different alternatives. Some companies, outsourcers and recruitment firms like us, have been confronted with the scenario the place they thought we ought to be paid a lot lower than the others – however why? As a result of we’re in a tough scenario?”

She provides that the easiest way for the trade to help Ukrainian video games companies is to make use of their providers, particularly the varied outsourcers and repair suppliers nonetheless working within the nation, or to put money into studios striving to proceed working. Proper now, that is the easiest way to help Ukrainian gaming firms – to help the sport builders by investing in them.

“I perceive the dangers, and I perceive why some firms – particularly large firms – will face issues,” she says. “Large firms don’t wish to cope with sanctions, or handle the record of occupied territories [which keeps changing]. When a spot is occupied, it is underneath the sanctions record. Some firms are saying they now do not work with Ukrainian companies… what? Why? They’ll nonetheless rent Russian residents, however not Ukrainians.

“Spend money on Ukrainians, proceed to take their jobs purposes severely. Do not be afraid of hiring distant Ukrainians. Males aren’t allowed to go away the nation, except they’ve three youngsters, are older than 60, or meet different situations – so please rent remotely. Everybody can work remotely. In the event you’re searching for an outsourcer, attempt to discover a Ukrainian group that will help you. You will be shocked.”

General, she is grateful for the trade’s response to the conflict in Ukraine, and notes that extra help was given than was publicly disclosed. Some firms, particularly these with property in Russia, saved their donations and their help quiet. Loktionova additionally notes that whereas there was a robust preliminary wave of help, that diminished considerably within the second half of the yr – regardless of the continued conflict.

“It additionally relies on the shift from humanitarian help and help for refugees to what Ukraine actually wants now, which is the armed forces,” she says. “Most firms’ inside insurance policies don’t allow them to [donate to this]. I perceive that, it is cash, it is enterprise.

“Wanting again on 2022, how onerous it was and the way onerous it’s nonetheless, I am pleased with being a part of the video games trade”

“I am pleased with being a part of the video games trade. Wanting again on 2022, how onerous it was and the way onerous it’s nonetheless, I am proud. The best way the neighborhood and the media reacted, everybody in my bubble.”

She shares that “there have been some disappointments, particularly on the Russian-side of the neighborhood,” however provides that there was shut ties between the video games growth communities in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus.

“There have been individuals who I thought-about my mates, individuals the place I assumed we have been alike, and it seems we’re completely completely different. That is the largest loss I had final yr, this disillusionment concerning the community I constructed.”

Going ahead, Loktionova hopes to additional enhance consciousness concerning the Ukrainian video games trade. She plans to replace the record of volunteers and put extra of an emphasis on selling Ukrainian outsourcers and repair suppliers worldwide.

“The businesses from Ukraine, they want a while to outlive 2023,” she says. “That is why it is an excellent concept to help Ukrainian companies and conferences, in order that we are able to combine higher into the worldwide neighborhood, and in order that we’re robust sufficient to rebuild the trade in Ukraine, to make it distinguished once more. We have to protect these individuals and companies.”

She concludes: “I completely admire Ukrainians. I’ve talked to quite a few leaders they usually say, particularly within the video games trade, individuals love what they do. They do it as a result of it is their vocation. They are saying their group hasn’t misplaced any productiveness or efficiency in comparison with the earlier yr.

“Think about being actually depressed, having this shock on this very, very emotionally onerous setting, dealing with hardships with your loved ones and mates – Ukrainians have discovered their work-life steadiness. Or war-work-life steadiness. Our job helps us to outlive, to remain targeted and concentrate on one thing we’re excited about, one thing we love, not only a job for a job’s sake however a job you take pleasure in. Think about how vital it’s being underneath conflict, underneath bombs, how vital it’s to do what you take pleasure in.”