Young mother embarks on new IT career after fleeing war in Ukraine

“When the war started, a missile destroyed our house,” says Nina Cherlenuk, 25, from Irpin, a city 25 km west of the capital, Kyiv, in northern Ukraine. “So, together with my daughter, I fled.”

She had graduated from Kyiv Medical University with a major in radiology just a few years before the war. Together with her husband and daughter, Cherlenuk lived in Irpin, which became a battlefield during the Kyiv offensive.

She is one of the millions of Ukrainians who have been forced to leave their homes since the beginning of the war in February. More than 5.23 million refugees, primarily women and children, have fled to neighbouring countries while over 7 million people have been displaced internally within Ukraine.

For women, a new city or country often means career changes – a new workplace, a new company, or an entirely new profession. However, in the context of war, the transition tends to be more complex.

“I was thinking about leaving the country, but I realised that I would need at least one year to get my documents in order, get my medical diploma validated and learn a new language,” says Cherlenuk, who was displaced to a small village in the western part of Ukraine. “After experiencing the initial shock, I understood that I needed to do something and started to look for new opportunities. That was when I found out about Будь/Be.”

The БУДЬ/BE platform was created to help displaced Ukrainian women get jobs in IT and creative industries. It was conceived under the “EU 4 Gender Equality” program, which is implemented jointly by UN Women and UNFPA together with the NGO INSCIENCE, with funding from the European Union. Mentors and experts from both Ukrainian and international companies support women in their job search in tech, design, programming, software development and testing. They help participants set their goals and guide them towards achieving them. The mentors also give feedback, support and share knowledge about searching for jobs and employee onboarding.

“Shortly before the war, I gave birth to my daughter and took maternity leave. I wasn’t expecting that I would never go back to my workplace because of the war. This platform was exactly what I needed in this situation,” says Cherlenuk.

Right after she completed the initial course, Nina found a remote-work job as a data researcher in an IT company.

“There was a moment when I lost all hope and confidence,” she says. “I thought that IT was not for me. I wanted to quit. But my mentor told me that I have the power to do anything. She believed in me more than I believed in myself. Just one week after this conversation, I received my job offer. Now, I work as a data researcher in an IT company with a focus on medical software. It is very important for me to work remotely so that I can spend more time with my daughter.”

According to Olena Skyrta, INSCIENCE co-founder and partner, approximately 500 women have participated in the mentorship program so far, while the educational course has reached more than 100,000 people.

“For some Ukrainian women, the platform has become a reliable compass to navigate tech and creative industries. For others, it is a powerful support in career growth and job search during the war,” explains Skyrta. “By the end of the course, some participants have already found new jobs. These stories are incredibly inspiring to us.”

Olga Osaulenko, Programme Manager of the “EU 4 Gender Equality” program, adds that the platform is designed for women who lost their jobs and want to learn a new profession, women abroad who are searching for work, and those who have moved to another Ukrainian city and are looking for an online job.

“It helps women to gain financial independence regardless of age, experience, or temporary location due to the war,” says Osaulenko.

This story was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of UN Women and UNFPA and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

Originally published on UN Women’s regional site for Europe and Central Asia