On the 24th of February 2022, I was in the process of developing contingency plans for our operations and our people when the situation drastically changed. With explosions visible on the horizon, I found myself and my family confined to our house in a village 15 miles north of Kyiv. A couple of days later ours was the last unoccupied village two miles from the frontline. Together with my wife, children and my mother, who was receiving chemotherapy treatment at the time, we spent almost two weeks in our basement.

During the previous months we’d had many discussions internally about the possibility of an invasion, but at the time, a full-scale war seemed completely illogical and impossible. We had an evacuation plan based on different scenarios — but none of these included missiles hitting residential areas in the capital. I still feel responsible for not fully anticipating the threat.

Support From Day One

On the first day of the full-scale invasion, we organized the relocation of all willing employees to Western Ukraine, in the city of Ivano-Frankivsk. For three weeks, day and night, we transported our staff, their families and pets to temporary shelters, hotels, and apartments.

From March through to June, we hosted around 200 families, with regular meetings and pizza parties helping to create a sense of home away from home – and despite everything, we still experienced joy: the wife of one of our colleagues gave birth to a baby in a local hospital. To be honest, we became a family ourselves during this time.

And once people started moving to safer areas or abroad, we kept on top of our employees’ locations and whether they needed any help with the support of an app, which allowed us to keep in constant communication.

Building and Maintaining Stability

The mental health of our employees has always been a priority. To mitigate some of the emotional impact of armed conflicts and crises, we work with psychologists who specialize in war-related trauma to provide daily support groups, lectures and webinars. The tools and coping strategies taught here are designed to support mental stability and growth despite hardship, and improve positive communication with our young children.

We also set up specific sessions dedicated to Ukrainian history and traditions, with many voicing a desire for more public talks where they could develop and explore a deeper connection with their Ukrainian roots.

With the strategies and tools in place to support the most critical needs of our teams, our focus shifted to include managing the long-term operational effects of the war. We installed Starlink satellites for internet access and purchased power stations and generators to provide electricity when missile attacks on critical energy infrastructure started causing blackouts across the city. During this time, our Kyiv head office became something of a support hub where colleagues and their loved ones could recharge their laptops, work, keep warm, and even spend the night due to curfews or missile warnings.

How Routine Saved the Day

The leadership team — one of whom did night shifts for the territorial defense division, another worked predominantly from a bomb shelter in Kyiv, and the third was actively resettling in Europe — worked tirelessly to keep tabs on and update their teams. Platforms such as Signal allowed us to chat, provide mutual support, share news, and promote donations for military divisions.

We quickly discovered there were a few key things we needed to do to maintain focus: keeping our daily work routines was invaluable for everyone’s morale. We didn’t clear our schedules of meetings — we kept a results-driven attitude. I’m still humbled by the loyalty and resilience of our people during what can only be described as the most horrific of circumstances.

Prioritization also took on a whole new meaning. You might feel compelled to constantly check the news in a country at war, but doing so is disruptive and stressful. To effectively juggle everyday updates, important tasks, and keep an eye on the bottom line, was only possible by restricting my exposure to news. Even now I limit myself to twice a day: once in the morning and once in the evening, to stay informed without getting sidetracked.

Growth Despite Hardship

The support of our clients and partners has been absolutely vital in getting us to where we are today. Their willingness to lend a hand and provide assistance in any way possible was a testament to the strong relationships we have built over time. The resilience, strength and dedication of our team and their commitment to maintaining these relationships has also meant that despite the challenging loss of one of our biggest markets, and the high level of uncertainty in the global economy, MGID has continued to thrive and remain profitable — which in turn has allowed us to invest in our growth.

Despite everything, the team has continued to deliver a great service, optimizing performance where possible: smoothing out processes for advertisers and publishers, pushing the boundaries of programmatic and AI technology, and enhancing everything from campaign creative to content and audience analytics. Looking ahead, we’re expanding our presence in the United States, Latin America and Europe.

Reflecting on the past year, being able to quickly adapt to changing circumstances and recognize the impact the war was likely to have on us operationally, meant we not only survived the hardest time of our existence as a business, but we grew into something I’m even more proud to be a part of.

As the war rages on, we remain committed to providing our clients with the most innovative and effective solutions on the market, and look forward to continued growth and success in the months and years to come. This harrowing experience remains a stark reminder of the unpredictable and dangerous nature of war. However, it also demonstrated how, as a team, we have been able to pull together and succeed, even in the most challenging of circumstances. Despite the odds, our spirits remain unbroken, our determination strengthened, and our gratitude for life renewed.

(As published on ADVERTISINGWEEK)