In our tech-talks, we share real-life stories from key characters in Turkish-tech. These journeys offer lessons and tips for anyone who wants to learn how to code and discover insights about how to get a job in tech.
Aksel Arzuman is a charismatic and intelligent software developer who was born and bred in Istanbul. He studied Mathematical Engineering at Yildiz Technical University, arguably one of the top 10 universities in Turkey.
To broaden his horizons and get international experience, Aksel complemented his academic journey by studying Computer Engineering at The Athlone Institute of Technology in Ireland, thanks to the Erasmus program. This is where he perfected his English and learned practical coding skills for the first time.
He told us that “coding is my job but learning new things is my hobby as well”. However, it sounds like his job and his hobbies blend well, because when we asked Aksel what new things he recently learned, he mentioned he was teaching himself yet another coding language. A typical developer!
Aksel discovered the wonderful world of tech through the medium of video games, beginning an obsession with his PlayStation at a young age. He said: “when I was seven, I had a PS1 and I was in love with that. I remember, at that age, all the boys wanted to become a football player or a police officer. However, my dream was to work for Sony and make games for PS1.”
His other dream was to become a hip-hop star and it is through this interesting ambition that he discovered coding. He told us: “I was making Rap music when I was in high school. I was using a tool to make the music and another tool to record my voice. I wanted to make a plug-in in order to simplify the process. That's how I noticed I need to learn coding, in order to make those plug-ins.”
Like many people we speak to, Aksel discovered coding through his other hobbies. Ultimately, Aksel felt an urge not only to be a spectator in the technology industry, but to play an active role, telling us “I wanted to be a part of it, not only to use it…I noticed I was not going to learn much about coding at university, therefore, I took a course that lasted a year to learn the C# and .Net Framework.”
Shortly after graduating from university in 2015, Aksel spent 2 years working for SoftTech, a software development company backed by İş Bankası, one of the leading banks in Turkey. As Aksel recalls, being a first-time Software Engineer was a huge challenge: “I was the only .Net developer in the Cheques team and I believe that's how my story started. As a junior developer, I had so much to learn, had due-dates, and had to be so careful with releasing something new.”
In December 2017, Aksel joined Armut, one of Turkey’s leading services marketplaces, as a Back End developer. He has spent 3 happy years there so far and today he has risen to become a Senior Software Developer and Tech Lead.
Aksel explained his job to us: “As a Tech Lead, I work closely with the Product Manager and together we break Epics/Stories [user journeys] into small tasks and assign them to the team. In addition, I try to find a suitable language and architecture for the projects and discuss them with the team.”
Perhaps what Aksel enjoys the most about his job at Armut is the freedom he has to push the boundaries of what’s possible and continue to challenge himself. As Aksel informed us, Armut’s corporate culture encourages this: “I have always wanted to work in a company where I am free to use any necessary technology. Here [at Armut], I am also free to fail and learn from it...so you can see how your ideas impact on our users and if it did not go well, then you can learn from it.”
As a Tech Lead at Armut, Aksel plays an important role in recruiting new developers to the team and he shared some valuable insights into what tech companies are looking for in their new recruits: “I have been recruiting developers for a year. Regardless of the level, I test their basic programming skills by asking questions or having them write algorithms. Then, I try to measure how passionate and curious they are about programming.”
For complete beginners who are asking themselves how they can learn to code or whether they have what it takes, Aksel advises that “the first step should be to decide what you want to do. Do you want to build a mobile application or a web application? Or do you want to write back end services? Doing research about this is important. After that decision, there might be multiple programming languages to choose from.”
The next most important skill you need to succeed, according to Aksel, is “to be patient and try to learn your programming languages on a deep level to make sure you also learn what's happening backstage”. Many leading tech companies have told us they are looking for someone with a deep understanding who compliments this with a strong grasp of the context behind your code, so you can connect the dots and solve a variety of problems.
An example of bigger picture knowledge that’s crucial in the world of technology is agile development. As Aksel explains: “being agile is so important these days because you can get your MVP (minimum valuable product) to production quickly and start to learn from it immediately. We do not know if a new feature we're building will be used/liked by our users. Therefore, releasing in small pieces will cost you less effort, less time, and a chance to get feedback from it in a shorter period of time.”
In this context, Aksel has some very good advice for beginner-coders who want to maximise the likelihood that they get a job in tech. He highlights the importance of creating as many coding projects as possible to perfect, and showcase, their skills. Aksel for example built a movie app in his free time to improve his C# skills. By building this app, he was able to show off his skills by publishing everything to Github, which he describes as a “developers showcase”.
When we asked Aksel whether he was excited about the future of Turkish tech, he told us that, in Turkey, “many of the big companies that have legacy systems were afraid to use new technology, and banks are a good example of this situation. However, they noticed that in order to continue to survive, you need to have an agile mindset, not a waterfall mentality. From a technological perspective, your customer should be able to finish an operation within milliseconds. To deliver on this requirement, Turkish tech companies needed a change of mindset to take their businesses to the next level, and I have seen that they are adapting to this need.”
It is no wonder that Aksel is optimistic about the future of tech in Turkey, when he is clearly an optimist at heart with a positive outlook on life more generally. With that kind of attitude, it’s no wonder that Aksel has taken on a leadership role in tech at only 28 years of age. We hope his story will inspire more people to follow in his footsteps.