Operational change: saying goodbye to our Minsk colleagues
Some of you may know that Dotdigital has had a highly skilled Engineering team in Minsk, Belarus, since early 2010. It is with great sadness that as of the 15th of January 2023, we have closed our operation in the region, following Russia’s war against Ukraine.
Some may ask why this is of sadness, especially since the apparent support Belarus is giving Russia. The answer is plain and simple – people. When it comes to people, there was no support from our team members in Belarus for this war. Let me explain more…
For those who have never been, Minsk is a wonderful city – and I know this due to personal experience, because of the many visits myself and my team have made. Much of it was destroyed during World War 2, so most of it is relatively new, but there are still some pockets of buildings, architecture, and culture that survived.
As you can imagine as an ex-Soviet state there are lots of Russian influences: the main boulevard running through Minsk is wide and straight with buildings on either side that are not allowed to go over a certain height. Interesting fact: that building height is exactly half the road width! There is an amazing red church, an octopus ‘spaceship looking’ library, a huge opera house, and, like many other countries in the region including Ukraine, it has an amazing set of universities, many of which create exceptionally skilled engineers.
I remember my first visit to Belarus shortly after starting at Dotdigital in 2014 when I made a point of having one-to-ones with all of the team members in a nearby cafe and realized quite quickly that their dedication and skills were a great asset to Dotdigital. The team was kind enough to show me around Minsk, and I learned a lot about their culture, values, and independent pride.
With the Belarusian government elections in 2020, things started to change rapidly. The election was marred by claims of widespread electoral fraud. Numerous countries refused to accept the result of the election, as did the European Union which imposed sanctions on Belarusian officials deemed to be responsible for the fraud itself, as well as subsequent violence and repression of protests.
In 2021, the Belarusian military forcefully landed a flight that was transiting Belarus airspace in order to imprison a protestor. This soon meant that our teams could no longer visit our team members in Minsk by air (an EU-led no-fly zone across all of Belarus came into effect) nor could our colleagues come to visit our head office.
When COVID struck we all learned to work remotely better than ever before which enabled our operations to continue. However, with Russia’s attack on Ukraine at the start of 2022, some of which came from the Belarusian border, it became apparent that keeping our Belarus Engineering hub going longer term was becoming more difficult. Further sanctions by western governments meant that even paying our team was becoming more challenging.
We, therefore, took the decision early in 2022 to offer a relocation scheme for our team in Belarus to join our Engineering hub in Poland.
I am very pleased to say that with the scheme we have successfully relocated 65% (11) of our Belarusian team to Poland, enabling them to continue working for Dotdigital. Thanks to the Polish Government through the Polish Business Harbour scheme we were able to get visas for our team and with the help of our superstar Polish team our Belarusian team members were welcomed with open arms.
As I mentioned at the start of this, it is a sad day for Dotdigital as 5 of our team are unable to make the relocation work. They will always be a big part of our Dotfamily; many had long tenure but made the choice which was right for them, to not relocate.
We want to thank all of the team who are continuing with us and all those who have dedicated much time to building our fantastic products, websites, and more. I hope to be able to see Minsk again one day but more importantly, I hope to once again see peace in Ukraine.