I’m busy living this part of my story, in the meantime, you can read about previous events in chronological order. Would you like to contribute? Feel free to drop me a line here.
2019 : Becoming a writer, learning python and going deeper into content marketing
As I completed my mission of scaling hiring tournaments, Crossover Board decided to centralize operations and focus on factory model global hiring instead of locals in order to achieve even better scalability, I moved to the Content Team of Crossover for the opportunity of working with Andy 1:1.
We were going to use all the local experience we had for building a global brand, we started with partner stories initiative. We mapped all Crossover partners (over 4000) in the world and collected their Crossover stories, why and how they joined us, what changed in their lives, what is the impact of Crossover and so on.
Once we have the initial data, we planned for producing high-quality testimonial videos. We filmed in Istanbul, Kyiv, Moscow, Budapest, Bucharest, and Warsaw. Together with Heather Aholt, we figured out a new way of managing video production at this scale.
Having high-quality videos was important but measuring its effectiveness was there as a whole new challenge. I was considering myself a web analytics expert, this is where I found out I had to learn so many things to become an expert. Shared this experience with a medium post here. My Salesforce, Outreach, Google Suite, PHP & MySQL skills were no longer enough, so I started learning Python which has a massive user base and open source community.
Crossover is not for low performers and it is expecting you to work smart, due to high turnover, we were receiving negative reviews on Glassdoor, this was mostly due to people who are getting fired was writing reviews while happy employees ones don’t. I built a drip campaign on Outreach for activating happy employees and solved a reputation problem as a side project. Shared a blog post about it here.
Visited Israel for the first time in 2019 for hiring senior executives, I was amazed by the similarities between Turkish and Israeli cultures regardless of all the political nonsense. Shared a blog post about this trip here.
We launched WorkRemote, a blog where we discuss the future of work, remote teams at scale knowing most of the content pieces on remote work out there was not covering the most important aspects, trust, hiring and management in remote-first companies.
In 2019, I wrote 3.7M words and my English writing error rate was 2.01%, I shared why passive learning is so important for non-native English speakers in a blog post here.
2018 : Going global with Crossover
Andy decided to promote me for leading the local operations of Crossover in January. We were going to try a new approach called Hyperlocal. Our Country managers were going to become City Managers and we were going to own target cities around the world. Managed local operations in Istanbul, Kyiv, Moscow, Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Warsaw, Budapest, Minsk, Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo with a great team. Doubling performance metrics in a year.
Spending most of my time in daily check-in chats and Gemba walks with the crew, working under heavy pressure. Learned how to manage compliance among distributed team members.
I also built a team of Global Brand Ambassadors and hired 7 professional public speakers for Crossover in order to achieve the next level of scalability for hiring tournaments by turning them into Online Hiring Tournaments, an event series where hundreds of professionals got tested in a gamified way.
Flew tens of thousands of miles in 2018. Became expert on tools like Outreach, Salesforce, Mailchimp, Eventbrite and Google Suite in this timeframe. I managed a total headcount of 24 from all around the world, improved the hiring speed and efficiency by 7x in this timeframe.
In 2018, I wrote 586K words and my English writing error rate was 4.80%
2017 : Discovering the next step function in growth
The best thing about Andy was his high expectations and even higher quality bar. He turned Java for Good, one-to-many gamified hiring experience into full-scale gamified hiring tournaments and scaled it up to whole eastern Europe. We started 2017 with a tour of hiring tournaments and he flew all the way from Austin TX to Romania, Russia, Poland, and Ukraine for supporting us. Right before this tour, our Ukrainian Country General Manager was fired and Andy asked me to take-over Ukraine Operation in addition to Turkey Ops. I’ve operated in foreign countries before but this was the first time in Crossover.
Using all the online advertising methods I know and growth hacking experiments I ran, I ended up managing Ukraine, Turkey, Brazil, Egypt, and Pakistan operations. Improved my Salesforce, NoSQL, MySQL, Facebook Ads, Google Adwords, Linkedin Ads, content marketing and data analysis skills to keep up. Working with Heather Aholt was a golden privilege while she was managing the local operations team.
I had business trips to multiple cities in Ukraine, Egypt, Brazil, Russia, and Poland. Built awareness for the Crossover brand with the team. Flew tens of thousands of miles this year.
I started using Grammarly later this year, in 2017, I wrote 60K words and my English writing error rate was 5.63%
2016 : Changing the way Turkish software engineers work
Marketing a full-time remote position was nothing like marketing cosmetics, real estate, cars, vacation packages or retail products. I’ve managed the online advertisement budget for companies operating in these sectors so I had the knowledge. Our relatively new brand of Crossover was not trustworthy so our conversion rates were terrible. People were often asking me if we are some sort of Nigerian Scam. I struggled like my teammates who were hired for managing local operations in other countries. Romania (Sorin Zavelita), Russia (Vladimir Eronin), Poland (Markus Tornberg), Ukraine (Lev Chekov), Pakistan (Atif Mumtaz) were in the first round of local operations for Crossover.
I met over 300 people in this period and told them our story, I booked one full hour for each so I can really connect and they wouldn’t feel I’m in a hurry. I paid for drinks, food, etc. After a couple of months, word of mouth was so strong, almost every single senior developer in town knew our brand, they all had basic information about us and that ‘one friend’ who met with Crossover guy. Our application figures started going up. Things finally started moving but Chief Software Architect demand from Crossover customers was so massive (over 200 empty seats each offering $100K/year), it wasn’t enough and one-to-one meetings were not scalable.
I took a risk by investing $4K of my annual operations budget into a new idea trying to solve this scalability problem. I needed Java masters, I was going to try one-to-many communication with candidates in a gamified concept. I designed an event concept named Java for Good in partnership with Oracle. Invited 50 senior software engineers for 12 hours of coding, they were going to try building an MVP product for solving technical challenges of Turkish Red Crescent (the equivalent of Red Cross in western countries) and HAYTAP (leading animal rights organization of Turkey). A chance for doing good with their software engineering expertise, if they can follow a pre-announced set of engineering rules (design patterns, unit testing, etc.) they were going to get a $100K/Year paying Chief Software Architect offer from Crossover. Ultimate win&win for everyone. Luciano Bargmann who then was leading the technical testing efforts of Crossover was very encouraging. Later on, I was going to try the same concept in Kharkiv, Ukraine with Oracle and AnimalID, a pet-centric tech company.
After using all the digital advertisement tricks I know, I was waiting in the event venue for the candidates. 42 People actually showed up and we had a great time together. We hired 4 people in a single day, which was usually a monthly result per country. We published all the source code open source as we promised.
2015 : Joining Crossover
I knew I needed more international business experience, after taking a couple of months off due to my wife’s pregnancy, I decided to get back to the game and applied to a job on Linkedin with the title of Country Manager – Turkey for a company named Crossover. It was a remote position. At first, it didn’t seem real but still wanted to try. Answered some written questions like “What is your first 30 days plan once you get accepted?”, did my best in 3 hours.
A week later I received a phone call from Barcelona, the woman on the phone told me she’s calling due to my job application and asked if I can talk to her CEO for a job interview. I accepted.
This is where I first met Andy the CEO of Crossover, he was building his local operations team and we had a casual but structured conversation, without making it uncomfortable, he checked if I was the one who answered those questions and finished with a kind message saying “I had over 400 applicants for this Country Manager role and reduced it down to three, can you wait for me for a week?”, I wasn’t expecting much, I could just go back to media planning business but this seemed like a good opportunity so I said yes.
A week later, I received an email from Robin Rosi with the subject of “Welcome onboard” so I got the job but what’s next? Our task was becoming the experts of developer relations and bringing in Chief Java Software Architects, I had to forget everything I know and start over…
2009 – 2015 : Becoming an expert on web analytics and online advertisement
I started working with ReklamZ in early 2009, which happened to be the leading advertisement network of TR at the time. Orkun Tekin, the CEO extended me a job offer. Worked here as a Publisher Relationship Manager which is the person who manages the inventory to be represented to the advertisers. Educated myself on website analytics and digital media planning in a year. I was obsessed with optimization and back then it was not very well received, my colleagues often accused me of “breaking the magic” which is a marketer lie. Nowadays Growth Hacker/Technical Marketer is a job title but it didn’t really exist back then. This experience opened my eyes, growing websites through digital marketing was a higher leverage activity compared to building websites.
So I built my own digital media planning company under the brand of XO as in eXtraOrdinary where I started making 10x more money compared to what I made trying to build websites for 10s of customers. Managed digital advertisement budgets of many local and international companies with aggressive goal-based contracts.
I had business trips to China, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt for the first time in this timeframe. Most importantly, I got married and had a baby girl in 2015, not knowing my daughter, Amine was going to teach me that love has many different forms.
2007 – 2009 : Account and Project Management
I built corporate websites and microsites for over 100 companies with my core team including my cousin, life-long LAN party ally. I learned a lot about the project and team management in this time frame. Satisfying customers were tough as usual, we were spending most of the time on building things and making so little. I also tried some startup ideas, a niche social network around food, a football manager game, a single sign-on solution and lost some of my savings.
2004 – 2007 : Early years of professional growth
Forums were big at the time, as I met more people who were also trying to build websites, I discovered a US-based open-source community around once-popular Mambo CMS, a content management system built with PHP and MySQL.
I immediately started translating software documentation into Turkish and built its Turkish community under Mambo.gen.tr domain. Though I had no formal English education, I was quite comfortable thanks to RPG games I played in my entire childhood.
Webmasters community I’ve built grew over 100K members in no time, my content marketing strategy was built around writing articles for the once-popular tech magazines of TR. Chip, Byte, PC World, etc.
I virtually met two extraordinary figures in this timeframe, Aliyar Fırat, and Danial Taherzadeh who ignored my young age/incompetence and taught me a lot remotely. Unlike many kids in Turkey, they were my remote childhood best friends. I have to mention my brother who saw my passion for the web and paid for my 256kb/s ADSL (at home? it was a crazy luxury) connection at the time. Forever grateful…
Ran a very embarrassing TV show named WebSector at the time for 20 episodes where I had casual conversations with people who made investments in the Turkish online-sphere.
2002 – 2004 : First touch with the internet
I started working at Kont Technologies (Primary Samsung distributor of TR at the time) for summer periods as an intern where I spent all the time left from carrying boxes in the R&D department where I had fast (yes 256kb/s was fast at the time) internet connectivity. This is where I realized the internet is the future.
Before 2002 : Early childhood
I was just a kid living in Istanbul/TR. Thanks to my mom, I was familiar with the computer since she bought my first computer in 1992 when I was four basically by investing all she had. Unlike my peers, I enjoyed playing with HTML, CSS, JS, PHP, and MySQL more than playing in the street. I was a physically weak kid in my early childhood, I guess that was the unconscious motivation behind becoming a professional Greco-roman wrestler in high school. Financial challenges aside I enjoyed every single moment.