A Ukrainian Tech Leader in Zurich: Tamara's Freelance Success

Written by Xolo
on May 27, 2024 5 minute read

🏆 Tamara has been named Freelancer of the Month for May 2024 – Check out her Xolo profile here

Tamara’s story is one of passion and resilience. Originally from Ukraine, she now resides in Zurich, bringing her extensive experience in tech and project management to the global stage. From working on NASA projects to leading defense tech initiatives, Tamara's dedication to innovation and her support for Ukrainian startups have made her a standout leader in her field.

Hello, Tamara! Congrats on being selected as Freelancer of the Month! Can you tell us about yourself both personally and professionally?

Hello! I’m delighted to be selected as the Freelancer of the Month!
My name is Tamara Koliada, and I’m originally from Ukraine, but I currently reside in Zurich, Switzerland. I am a skilled tech and project manager with over 7 years of software development experience and 4 years in management. I have worked with American product companies to build software for interior design and spent 3 years with Biolin Scientific, where I helped redesign software for surface analysis and modernize the tech stack and automation processes for better and more precise measurements in new material discovery.

In 2019, I joined NASA's Datanaut program, where I learned about the latest technologies, and worked with open-source NASA projects, data, and APIs among the most skilled and passionate people at NASA, led by CTO Knowledge Architect David Meza. Afterward, I organized NASA's Space Apps Challenge in Lviv, Ukraine, and this year, in Switzerland.

When the pandemic started, Ukraine became a hub for outsourcing and the new Silicon Valley around Kyiv, especially in deep tech, AI, and the Machine Learning field. During this time, there was a huge demand for IT professionals, with many holding multiple jobs. It was then that I transitioned into management. 

I’m also an organizer at heart. Collaborating with various companies and organizations like Digitalizing Space, we organized the biggest online hackathon in 2020 to help creatives transition to the digital era. With Ukrainian Hub, I managed more than five early-stage startup grant programs. Together with Lift99 and Facebook, we organized a program to help senior developers become CTOs in startups and held more than 30 meetups, hackathons, and master classes. I was frequently invited as a speaker on AI for Diia Osvita and for internal conferences for top management at Ukrsibbank. I also served as an expert mentor for Open Data Hackathons and other activities. It was a great time before the war started…

When the war started, I volunteered full-time. After my hometown Chernihiv was liberated, I realized we could not only help with donations, food, and housing but also by contributing to winning this war–and doing what we do best: Technology. I began working with defense companies in the EU and helping Ukrainian startups in the defense industry. Many of my friends and coworkers are now in the army or have started their own projects such as building drones, satcoms, and other hardware. I’ve helped them in any way I can.

I am now leading the DFRS Accelerator, an initiative aimed at helping Ukrainian defense and miltech companies collaborate with EU partners and secure government contracts. Though we are only three months old, we have already started representing several startups and assisting them in incorporating into the EU. We have a strong partner in the Netherlands: DeltaQuad. We have helped hire skilled personnel through recommendations and translated the entire PX4 drone autopilot documentation into Ukrainian and are now building a software course for drones. 

My general professional background now includes providing legal and accounting support, aiding in the recruitment of developers, and overseeing comprehensive project management and financial planning.

Outstanding and rewarding work! Could you walk us through your decision to go solo and become a freelancer? 

The decision to become a freelancer was a combination of personal ambition and circumstantial necessity. While I still work full-time, freelancing helps me navigate a unique niche that is too regulated for big companies.

I always had a strong desire for autonomy and the ability to choose projects that I am passionate about. Initially, I engaged in various side projects–starting with different freelance platforms for software developers, contracts for consultancy, and organizing events and programs in Ukraine. However, the pivotal moment came when I saw the pressing need for specialized project management in Ukraine's burgeoning defense and tech sectors. I realized that by going solo, I could provide targeted support and drive innovation in a way that larger companies could not. This decision was further reinforced by the positive impact I saw my work having on Ukrainian startups, helping them navigate complex regulatory environments and achieve international standards, and representing Ukraine on a bigger scale.

Freelancing comes with its challenges. Could you talk about a tough challenge you’ve faced and overcame while solo?

One particularly tough challenge I faced was navigating the constantly changing regulations for exporting military goods, compounded by travel bans for men leaving Ukraine due to the ongoing war.

To overcome the evolving regulations, we worked closely with a dedicated compliance team from our partner DeltaQuad, collaborating with legal experts and international consultants. We developed a comprehensive database to track compliance requirements and ensure all our exports met ISO standards.

The travel ban was another significant hurdle, as many of our key team members were unable to travel to meet international partners. We mitigated this by leveraging virtual platforms and partnering with local representatives in the EU to facilitate in-person meetings on our behalf.

By staying adaptable and maintaining clear communication, we successfully navigated these challenges, ensuring our defense projects remained compliant and on track.

You’ve seen, been through, and accomplished a lot in this time. How has Xolo played a part in your freelance work?

I’m a new user of Xolo, initially recommended by a client. Since then, my experience with Xolo has been incredibly positive. The platform has streamlined many administrative tasks that used to take up a significant portion of my time, allowing me to focus more on strategic project management and client relationships. 

One feature I particularly appreciate is the comprehensive invoicing system, which simplifies financial management and ensures timely payments.

Regarding Xchange, I see it as a game-changer for freelancers and small businesses. The ability to connect with a broader network of potential clients and collaborators is invaluable. Xchange facilitates seamless integration and collaboration, which is essential for someone in my role, where building partnerships across borders is crucial. I am excited about the potential of Xchange to enhance my business operations and expand my professional network even further.

What advice would you give to someone starting their freelance path on Xchange?

My first piece of advice would be to leverage the Xchange platform's network to build strong, professional relationships. Networking is crucial for finding opportunities and establishing credibility.

A few additional tips I have:

Use Xolo's Tools: Make the most of their comprehensive invoicing and financial management tools to keep your finances in order. This will save you time and help you stay organized. Highly advised to try Xolo Leap in case you want to start a company in the EU without any bureaucratic headache.

Continuous Learning: Invest in your professional development by taking courses relevant to your field. Platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning offer valuable resources.

Effective Communication: Develop strong communication skills. Clear and consistent communication with clients is essential for managing expectations and ensuring project success.

Set Clear Boundaries: Define your working hours and project scope clearly. This helps in managing client expectations and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Seek Feedback: Regularly ask for feedback from clients and use it to improve your services. Positive testimonials can also boost your profile on Xchange.

Join Communities: Engage with freelancer communities on social media and forums. These communities can provide support, advice, and potential leads.

Always prioritize cultivating a stellar reputation from the outset. Every client interaction is an opportunity to showcase your expertise and dedication. Treat each client as your best client, delivering exceptional service and exceeding expectations. This approach not only fosters client satisfaction but also generates a steady stream of referrals, opening doors to new opportunities effortlessly.

Remember, success in freelancing hinges not only on skill and talent but also on strategic planning, continuous learning, and unwavering professionalism. Embrace these principles, leverage the resources available through Xolo, and embark on your freelance journey with confidence and determination.

Discover the all-new side of Xolo, built for top-freelance talent

Tamara is part of our growing community, now boasting over 120K freelancers from around the world. If there’s one thing that resonates with us in his story, it’s shared by nearly every freelancer we come across: Community networking matters. Xolo is on the path to enable you to share a public portfolio for free, and apply to fresh projects with clients looking for strong and lasting talent. With Xolo, you can seamlessly:

  • Discover freelancers in and out of your industry
  • Team-up to tackle larger projects (or create new ones)
  • Join clients in search of strong freelancer relationships
  • Join the Xolo community to connect with like-minded solopreneurs
  • And feature your best work, rates and talents for all to see

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