Timeline and Events

2023: Growth, quality, and tough decisions for Exceptionly

We have spent most of 2022 on quality improvement and structural development. In 2023, we started seeing the effects and handsomely surpassed our annual revenue target of $1M as a small business. Exceptionly was not built to be yet another VC-funded pump and dump company. It is still 100% self-funded and committed to remain so. Our product base is much more transparent and simplified now:

  • People – Hands-on tested software engineers worldwide
  • Payroll – A hassle-free way of paying your talent worldwide

Although our revenue growth was solid, we made tough decisions for automating to eliminate and reduce our costs by shrinking some of our teams’ headcount dramatically. We let 50% of our workforce go due to this automation.

We invented a new account management strategy named Silverbullet, where we endorse only the rockstar software engineers identified in our 4-layer testing process. This resulted in 84% endorsement-to-hire for our clients: a massive time saver and enabler for clients who set sail for building state-of-the-art software products.

2022: Scale-up phase for Exceptionly

2021 was a massive success for Exceptionly. Besides getting net cash-positive in the first six months of operations, we built a globally remote team of exceptional professionals from 8 countries. It is time to start offering our exceptional talent to 1000x more clients through our cutting-edge software engineering talent-hiring platform.

We took advantage of the holiday season and applied many process improvements to deliver exceptional talent for our clients at scale. Here are some key bullet points for 2022:

  • All departments aligned to reach our $1M/year revenue goal
  • We improved our software talent sourcing volume and quality by 4x
  • We improved our technical evaluation/endorsement volume and quality by 3x
  • We moved all of our operational tasks into Jira for transparency and accountability
  • We got rid of emails and unnecessary calls to get closer to achieving an async remote work culture

2021: My new venture: Exceptionly

Exceptionly - Tested Remote Software Engineers

After years of administrative work with global talent companies, I decided to take a bold step and build a unique remote software talent company.

I built Exceptionly for doing what I’ve done twice in my career. This time, it is for everyone, not for a specific company. I invested in a unique, extensive data set of 2 million hands-on tested software engineers and an automated talent acquisition process, which helped me hire over 4000 tested software engineers. Exceptionly does not rely on non-tech recruiters so that it can afford the following guarantees and other benefits for US technology companies:

  • 100% Hands-on tested talent
  • No upfront payments
  • Same-day response
  • Pay after you hire
  • 60 Day money-back guarantee

Let’s get you your most successful remote software engineer

Latest from the Exceptionly blog:

2020: BairesDev Experience

With a personal invitation from the BairesDev CEO, Nacho De Marco, I joined BairesDev as the VP of Talent Acquisition. I had lots of fun working with a great team of professionals in a 100% remote environment. We built the talent acquisition machine, handling over 20K applicants weekly, and I led a group of 250 under Sourcing, Talent Support, Recruitment, and Staffing functions.

In 12 months:

  • Business volume grew 50%, and we protected our record of increasing over 50% YoY for six years in a row
  • We increased average talent quality by 15% for 500+ new hires
  • We built a new platform focused on objective testing for a better candidate experience
  • We expanded hiring speed by 44% for our clients
  • We increased the # of new applicants per month from 7,000 to 21,000
  • We ran 4 ROI-positive hiring tournaments with over 10K developers as experiments and decided to scale up this initiative in 2021

2020: Content efforts, marketing, and reputation management for Crossover and Sococo

This was a very productive quarter at work. I am highly involved in Crossover and Sococo marketing. I also found time and shared some remote work knowledge with the community in this timeframe:

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 to achieve even better scalability. I moved to the Content Team of Crossover to work with Andy 1:1.

We would use all our local experience to build a global brand. We started with the partner stories initiative. We mapped Crossover partners (over 4000) worldwide and collected their Crossover stories, why and how they joined us, what changed their lives, the impact of Crossover, and so on.

A photo with Heather Aholt in Krakow, Poland

Once we have the initial data, we plan to produce 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.

High-quality videos were important, but measuring their effectiveness was a new challenge. I consider myself a web analytics expert. I learned I had to learn many things to become an expert. I 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 an open-source community.

The Crossover environment was challenging, and turnover was massive, resulting in many negative reviews on Glassdoor. I built a drip campaign on Outreach to activate happy employees and solved a reputation problem as a side project. I shared a blog post about it here

A photo from Jerusalem

I visited Israel for the first time in 2019 to hire senior executives. Despite the political nonsense, I was amazed by the similarities between Turkish and Israeli cultures; I shared a blog post about this trip here.

We launched WorkRemote, a blog discussing the future of work and remote teams at scale, knowing most of the content pieces on remote work out there did not cover the most important aspects: trust, hiring, and management of remote-first companies.

2019 I wrote 3.7M words, and my English writing error rate was 2.01%. In a blog post, I shared why passive learning is so crucial for non-native English speakers.

2018: Going Global with Crossover

Andy decided to promote me to lead the local operations of Crossover in January. We were going to try a new approach called Hyperlocal. Our Country managers would become City Managers, and we would own target cities worldwide. We have managed local operations in Istanbul, Kyiv, Moscow, Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Warsaw, Budapest, Minsk, Buenos Aires, and Sao Paulo with a great team. We were doubling performance metrics in a year.

I spent most of my time in daily check-in chats, and Gemba walked with the crew, working under heavy pressure. I learned how to manage compliance among distributed team members.

I also built a team of Global Brand Ambassadors. I hired seven professional public speakers for Crossover to achieve the next level of scalability for hiring tournaments by turning them into Online Hiring Tournaments. In this event series, hundreds of professionals got tested in a gamified way.

I flew tens of thousands of miles in 2018 and became an expert on tools like Outreach, Salesforce, Mailchimp, Eventbrite, and Google Suite in this timeframe. I managed 24 people worldwide and 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 following 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 hiring tournaments and scaled it up to Eastern Europe. We started 2017 with a tour of hiring tournaments, and he flew from Austin, TX, to Romania, Russia, Poland, and Ukraine to support us. Right before this tour, our Ukrainian Country General Manager was fired, and Andy asked me to take over the Ukraine Operation in addition to Turkey Ops. I’ve operated in foreign countries before, but this was the first time in Crossover.

On one of the many Brazil trips, me, Luciano and Andy

I managed Ukraine, Turkey, Brazil, Egypt, and Pakistan operations using all the online advertising methods I know and the growth hacking experiments I ran. I 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. I have built awareness for the Crossover brand with the team. I 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 knew. Our relatively new brand of Crossover was untrustworthy, so our conversion rates were terrible. People were often asking me if we were some Nigerian Scams. I struggled like my teammates, who were hired to manage local operations in other countries. Romania (Sorin Zavelita), Russia (Vladimir Eronin), Poland (Markus Tornberg), Ukraine (Lev Chekov), and Pakistan (Atif Mumtaz) were in the first round of local operations for Crossover.

I was familiar with PHP, MySQL, and a bit of JavaScript, but I was nowhere near being a developer. I needed to learn their mindset and behaviors to succeed in this position, so I chose the hard path; I would meet as many senior software engineers as possible. So I built myself an open calendar using Calendly, and my brand ambassador started booking meetings with senior java experts of Turkey in Istanbul and Ankara for me. I turned my every day into slots and met 6-8 Chief Software Architects per day. In this timeframe, I developed a severe caffeine addiction; Turkish culture suggests drinking something with your guest, so I did.

I met over 300 people in this period and told them our story. I booked one full hour for each to connect, and they wouldn’t feel I was in a hurry. I paid for drinks, food, etc. After a couple of months, word of mouth was so strong that almost every 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 massive (over 200 empty seats, each offering $100K/year). It wasn’t enough, and one-to-one meetings were not scalable.

My Java expert colleagues, Furkan and Erdem

I took a small risk by investing $4K of my annual operations budget into a new idea to solve this scalability problem. I needed Java experts. 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 and invited 50 senior software engineers for 12 hours of coding. They would try building an MVP product to solve the technical challenges of the Turkish Red Crescent (the equivalent of the Red Cross in Western countries) and HAYTAP (Turkey’s leading animal rights organization). I gave them a chance to do good with their software engineering expertise. Suppose they can follow pre-announced engineering rules (design patterns, unit testing, etc.). In that case, they will get a $100K/Year paying Chief Software Architect offer from Crossover—ultimate win&win for everyone. Luciano Bargmann, who was then leading Crossover’s technical testing efforts, was very encouraging. Later, I tried the same concept in Kharkiv, Ukraine, with Oracle and AnimalID, a pet-centric tech company.

After using all the digital advertisement tricks I knew, I was waiting in the event venue for the candidates. 42 People showed up, and we had a great time together. We hired four people daily, usually a monthly result per country. We published all the source codes as 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 returned to the game and applied for 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 I still wanted to try. Answered some written questions like “What is your first 30-day plan once you get accepted?” I did my best in 3 hours.

I missed the first team meeting in Bucharest because my visa arrived later than promised. Mircea Strugaru and Andy Tryba are trying to get me included.

A week later, I received a phone call from Barcelona. The woman on the phone told me she was calling due to my job application and asked if I could 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. 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 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 to become the experts in developer relations and bring in Chief Java Software Architects. I had to forget everything I knew 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. I worked here as a Publisher Relationship Manager, which is the person who manages the inventory to be represented to the advertisers and educated me on website analytics and digital media planning in a year. I was obsessed with optimization; being metric-driven was not very well received back then. 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 exist back then. This experience opened my eyes. Growing websites through digital marketing was a higher-leverage activity than 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 than I made trying to build websites for 10s of customers. I managed the 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.

2007 – 2009: Account and Project Management

I built corporate websites and microsites for over 100 companies with my core team, including my cousin, a life-long LAN party ally. I learned much about the project and team management in this time frame. Satisfying customers were demanding, as usual. We were spending most of the time building things and making so little. I also tried some startup ideas, a niche social network around food, a football manager game, and a single sign-on solution and lost some of my savings.

2004 – 2007: Early years of professional growth

Forums were significant at the time. As I met more people trying to build websites, I discovered a US-based open-source community around the once-popular Mambo CMS, a content management system built with PHP and MySQL.

I immediately translated software documentation into Turkish and built its Turkish community under Mambo. gen.tr domain. Though I had no formal English education, I was pretty comfortable, thanks to the RPG games I played during childhood.

The webmaster community I’ve built grew to over 100K members quickly. I built my content marketing strategy around writing articles for TR—Chip, Byte, PC World, and the once-popular tech magazines.

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. My brother saw my passion for the web and paid for my 256kb/s ADSL connection (at home? It was a crazy luxury). Forever grateful…

I ran a very embarrassing TV show, WebSector, for 20 episodes where I had casual conversations with people who invested in the Turkish online sphere.

2002 – 2004: First touch with the internet

I started working as an intern at Kont Technologies (Primary Samsung distributor of TR) for summer periods. I spent all the time left after carrying boxes in the R&D department, where I had fast (yes, 256kb/s was fast at the time) internet connectivity. I realized the internet is the future in these years.

Before 2002: Early childhood

I was just a kid living in Istanbul/TR. Thanks to my mom, I have been familiar with computers 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.