Creating opportunity: Sergiy Osypchuk

Growing up in Ukraine, BC CTO Award-winning B.C. entrepreneur didn’t let a lack of access to computers stop him from pursuing a successful tech career

Sergiy Osypchuk, founder and chief technology officer, SkyHive

One's passion and the opportunity to pursue it don’t always align.

Imagine wanting to become a professional hockey player without access to a rink to practise on.

For Sergiy Osypchuk, this kind of dilemma was very much a reality.

Osypchuk has always been fascinated with the idea of building something, and as a child, he aspired to become an architect.

His dreams changed direction when a childhood friend introduced him to the world of computers. His friend’s father was a researcher who worked on some of the world’s earliest computers, some of which took up the space of an entire room. As Osypchuk learned more about this technology, he refocused his enthusiasm toward building computer programs.

Growing up in Ukraine in the 1990s, Osypchuk found it difficult to pursue his passion for computers and to develop his programming skills. The home computer had yet to come into vogue, and he had limited access to the technology.

But like a pianist who practises fingering even when away from the keyboard, Osypchuk wasn’t going to let something as simple as not having the relevant equipment stop him from pursuing his passion. Not one to be deterred, he read every book he could on the subject and, with the help of his typewriter, typed out his programming code. Instead of relying on computer chips to test his program, Osypchuk would run his code through his mind, trying to identify any bugs or logical issues within his typewritten code. At age 11, Osypchuk was grateful to find an after-school computer class that gave him access to a computer once a week for 30 minutes. Preparing the code in advance helped him conserve precious screen time.

Each week, when he was finally in front of a computer, Osypchuk feverishly entered his code to confirm it worked.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, he was the youngest in his class.

“The teacher, who was leading the class, walked by and picked up the typewritten code off my desk as I was desperately trying to enter it into the computer,” said Osypchuk. “He just picked up the printed sheets, showed everyone and said, ‘Guys here’s how you should be writing,’ and then I noticed that maybe I am doing something extraordinary.”

He began doing contract work for various websites. He would eventually start his own company and hired a dozen employees to help him complete his contract work orders. But Kiev put a ceiling on Osypchuk’s career growth. He knew he needed to move across the Atlantic to truly reach his potential. After being headhunted by Amazon (Nasdaq:AMZN), Osypchuk moved to Vancouver. For Osypchuk, Vancouver was a more appealing destination than other technology hubs like San Diego.

At Amazon, Osypchuk helped develop Amazon Aurora, a part of the company’s relational database service, a database that was essentially infinitely scalable.

Engrossed by his dream of creating and building something himself, Osypchuk did not want to simply be a cog in the machine of a big tech company and determined he needed to move on. That’s when he met his partner and co-founder of SkyHive, Sean Hinton.

Together they aimed to use artificial intelligence to solve the hiring and employment issues that arise from an ever-changing labour market. As co-founder and CTO, Osypchuk is one of the company’s visionaries and does less computer programming than he used to, though he is not afraid to jump on a keyboard and code a few lines when needed.

From its inception, SkyHive has gone through many iterations until it found the best way to support rapid workforce training and revolutionize the recruitment process.

Early in its development the company was considering a blockchain-based platform that could be used to expand world cryptocurrency trading opportunities, and it even received an award for blockchain startup of the year. But the company did not end up pursuing that direction.

While trying to solve employment issues caused by automation, SkyHive found that most of the issues centred around hiring and matching skilled workers to the companies that need them.

The solution to those issues, Osypchuk said, is a new way of defining job descriptions and labour market needs in terms of labour supply skill sets. With the help of artificial intelligence, employers and job seekers can find their best match.

Osypchuk said SkyHive is his greatest endeavour so far, though it is likely just one of many more to come. 

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