Dana Okomaniuk is a consultant at Robert Walters Japan who, with two friends, co-founded goodjob, a not-for-profit start-up supporting Ukrainians in the process of building their professional path in the face of the Russian invasion.
What started as three Ukrainian women looking to help those being displaced by the war, Dana and her two friends are now helping over 65,000 people through goodjob – a project they started only two weeks after the conflict began.
Robert Walters Group is proud to be supporting Dana by fully funding her to run goodjob, and giving her the time and resources she needs to focus on this important project, as well as support from our technology, innovation, communications and leadership teams.
How was goodjob created and launched?
Russia invaded Ukraine last year on the 24th of February and while I knew something was going to happen, I just couldn't imagine it was going to be to this degree. One of the first things I did was reach out to Robert Walters and request some time off work because I quickly understood that I wasn’t in a headspace to be able to really focus on anything – I was absolutely devastated and completely overwhelmed with the reality of the situation. The company was amazing and gave me the time I needed to be off work and process what was happening.
As soon as the war began, almost everybody I knew in Ukraine was doing something to help. A lot of people, including myself and my family, were donating to charities and non-profit organisations that were helping. However, as it became evident that a lot of people were going to be leaving the country, I felt that I could be doing more. At first there were no restrictions on who could flee the country but very quickly the Ukrainian government altered the law so that men had to stay, and to this day that policy remains. This meant that a lot of women and children were going to be leaving their homes and relocating to Europe, many of which would need to find new jobs and homes.
Two Ukrainian friends of mine and I got in touch with each other and began thinking of ways we could help. One of my friends, Nastya Kharytonova who lives in Dublin, was already helping people find accommodation in Europe. Sophie Pavlovska, who lives in New York, was helping Ukrainians through volunteering efforts. I was helping displaced Ukrainians by directing them to channels where they could find new job opportunities. The three of us came together and thought of creating a platform where we would be able to help people with their relocation process such as finding new accommodation and job opportunities. Two weeks after the war broke, the three of us started goodjob.
Goodjob predominantly helps displaced Ukrainian women find new job roles. Why is that and are there any unique challenges these women are facing?
Yes, 90% of the Ukrainians we are helping are women because men aren’t allowed to leave the country and are often working jobs which are tied to a physical location such as having been drafted into the army or volunteered for territorial defence forces. Unfortunately, there are a lot of gender specific challenges displaced women are facing. For example, a lot of organisations are reluctant to hire people whose lives are currently so uncertain. In addition, many Ukrainian refugees are women who are now single-handedly responsible for children under their care and so must manage their job role alongside childcare. Organisations therefore often favour candidates who don’t have children, or who aren’t displaced by the war at all.
Being a displaced Ukrainian woman holds further challenges such as having to move to a new country, not being familiar with the local language, culture, or the way things work. Not having any guidance or support when navigating these challenges can be exceptionally overwhelming, especially for people who are already in the face of extreme adversity. On top of that, there are also unjust and incorrect misconceptions about Ukrainian women and their work in roles such as cleaners and mail order brides.
How is goodjob helping to overcome the challenges displaced Ukrainian women are facing?
Goodjob has been able to help women overcome these challenges by being more than just a job board and providing its users with educational resources and mentoring programmes. Our platform offers resources on how to learn languages through courses that are either free or priced at a very low cost. These resources are offered by our incredible volunteers or the amazing organisations we work with. We have partnered with companies such as She Codes who specialise in offering women programming lessons. In fact, since the beginning of the war, She Codes have helped over 5,000 Ukrainian women through their incredible initiatives. In addition, our partnerships with organisations such as Canva and LinkedIn have educated people on how to build a resume, build an effective LinkedIn profile, ace an interview and much more.
The results of our mentoring programme have also been incredibly helpful as our mentors use their networks to help displaced Ukrainians get in touch with key potential employers such as Google, Amazon, Meta and Hubspot, as well as build their own professional networks. Our mentors, including volunteers from the Robert Walters Group, also help Ukrainians by providing guidance on how to best navigate a new business landscape which to them is culturally very different. Most goodjob users are women because men haven’t been able to leave Ukraine, and the same goes for those using our mentoring programmes of which 90% are female.
Goodjob also shares educational resources which we’ve developed internally such as articles and free webinars for people to attend. We’re currently working on setting up our own internal ‘job academy’ consisting of a library of skill development resources to help people obtain the skills they need to be successfully placed in roles. In all, we’re able to not only help people find new job opportunities, but also provide guidance and education on the soft and hard skills our users need to successfully land the roles we direct them to.
Goodjob is focused on connecting people to mostly digital and tech career opportunities. Why is that?
Goodjob focuses on the digital and technology industries because of the nature of the situation displaced Ukrainians find themselves in. The war doesn’t allow us to have a clear picture of exactly what the future holds for Ukrainians and unfortunately, due to the volatility of the situation, many Ukrainians might be in one country one day, and have to relocate to another very quickly. For that reason, it is beneficial for newly relocated Ukrainians to not be tied to a physical location through their jobs.
By placing people in roles which can be done virtually and from anywhere, it allows displaced Ukrainians to find stability within their careers during such trying times. Luckily, Ukrainians have a very strong digital culture, both within the technology industry as well as broader areas. Even before the war broke out, the nation has always excelled in industries such as social media, media marketing, digital marketing, and the like. This is why goodjob prioritises these types of roles and leads with a tech focused strategy which is likewise reflected in our partnerships as we collaborate with organisations such as She Codes, LinkedIn, Canva, and more.
Have you noticed an increase in successful job placements since goodjob launched these educational resources and mentoring programmes?
Oh, absolutely! Our educational resources and mentorship programme have been able to yield significantly greater success when it comes to the number of job roles our users have been offered. The majority of people who go through our mentorship programme have in fact been able to find a job and that is an achievement we are so proud of. This success is one of the reasons why we recognise the importance of supporting people throughout the end-to-end process and are so passionate for goodjob to be more than just a job board. The success of our educational resources and mentorship programme is why we plan to keep providing and further develop these goodjob offerings.
How has Robert Walters Group helped you with the process of having goodjob up and running?
When the war first began, I was approached by so many people within the company, even people from different divisions and teams who I hadn’t spoken to before. Everyone was so kind, they offered their condolences and asked if there was any way they could help or support me and my family. These acts of kindness went a long way during such a challenging time for me – it was really comforting to receive this form of support from my colleagues.
After I had taken some time off work, my director put me in touch with Jeremy Sampson, our CEO of Northeast Asia, who very kindly asked me how I was doing. We spoke about my goodjob initiative as Jeremey showed real interest in what me and the co-founders had been working on. Within a few days, Jeremey offered me the unique opportunity to devote myself full-time to goodjob while remaining employed by the company. I truly wasn’t aware that the company would have an interest in, or be able to support, an endeavour like this. When this opportunity was suggested to me, I was beyond shocked and surprised in the most pleasant way. The Robert Walters Group have been truly wonderful, they have supported goodjob by providing support from their leadership, technology, innovation teams and more.
What’s next for goodjob?
One thing that we have realised at goodjob is that unfortunately, we aren’t in a situation where we are able to plan too far in advance. The volatile nature of war means that circumstances can change quickly meaning that we must stay open to all possibilities and be flexible when it comes to our strategy and planning. However, what goodjob is currently looking forward to is developing existing and new partnerships with organisations which will allow us to get that digital conversation going and foster as many digital opportunities for Ukrainians as possible.
Goodjob is looking to hone its focus on other groups of people who are experiencing severely impacting circumstances such as women facing domestic abuse, for example. Alongside broadcasting our current message as widely as possible, we also want to be able to target other groups of impacted people and provide them with the resources and opportunities they might need to help them get to a better place. We look to do this by partnering with charities who are already helping people experiencing these impacting circumstances and lending our support by using our reach to let people know these organisations are available and by sharing useful resources within our own platform. We have begun to work on this by collaborating with the United Nation's migration fund which work with women who have faced domestic violence and the Ukrainian charity KOLO which focus on providing technological help to Ukraine’s military force.
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