War Zone: Rescuing a Colleague: Kyle Bank

  • Season 4, Episode 4
  • November 13, 2023
  • 31-minute listen

War Zone: Rescuing a Colleague: Kyle Bank

The Big Idea

It’s hard to imagine an organization that wouldn’t do what it takes to protect employees who are swept into a global conflict with bombs literally falling from the sky. Are there principles at work in this episode that might apply in less harrowing situations? Do our Olin scholars know other similar examples—and what those examples say about leadership?

Episode Description

In early March 2022, the skies over Irpin, Ukraine, sizzled with Russian missiles and thundered with mortar shells. Under those skies in the first days of Russia’s aggression, the lead software developer for a Chicago-based startup huddled in his parent’s basement when the air raid sirens sounded.

For a substantial investment of thousands of dollars, the leadership at that startup—Phenix Real-Time Solutions—could hire an extraction team to relocate their Ukrainian-based developer and his parents to relative safety in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.

"It didn't take any convincing for our CEO or our founder,” said Kyle Bank, BSBA 2014, and the COO at Phenix.

It was, 'What's it going to take? How do we do it?' Same thing with our board of directors. Not one word of hesitation.  

—Kyle Bank

It was a situation Bank never anticipated when he joined the video streaming company in 2016. Bank joined soon after Phenix found a Ukrainian software engineer through an outsourcing company and built an in-country development team around him. 

The programmer's harrowing ordeal with his parents, who are in their 70s, started with a walk through a Russian checkpoint and across a makeshift bridge to replace the bombed-out span. They had to hurry to the Ukrainian-occupied part of Irpin, where they could catch a ride with volunteers to neighboring Kyiv. A day later, the extraction team—actually, a single driver employed by an organization that arranges such things—would collect the threesome and their belongings.

“The experience of getting out of Irpin to Kyiv was probably the most dangerous part of the story,” the programmer said as he described the ordeal, which included a 13-hour drive to Lviv through more checkpoints and around battle-damaged roads. Said Bank: "I was absolutely glued to the computer screen all day trying to find out if he'd made it. It was a nerve-wracking day."

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This podcast is a production of Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis. Contributors include:

 Katie Wools, Cathy Myrick, Judy Milanovits and Lesley Liesman, creative assistance

  • Jill Young Miller, fact checking and creative assistance
  • Austin Alred and Olin’s Center for Digital Education, sound engineering
  • Hayden Molinarolo, original music and sound design
  • Mike Martin Media, editing
  • Sophia Passantino, social media
  • Lexie O'Brien and Erik Buschardt, website support
  • Paula Crews, creative vision and strategic support


Kurt Greenbaum, Communications Director

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St. Louis, MO 63130-4899

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