Dr. Ayşe Naz Erkan is the first and the only Turkish software engineer at Twitter. She is only 32 years old and currently lives in New York City! Although born in Adana, a city in southern Turkey, she considers herself a true ‘Black Sea Region’ person. Her mother is from Artvin, her father from Trabzon, both located in northern Turkey, a region famous for its distinctive humor, eccentric cuisine and quick-tempered people.
Her academic career is quite amazing! Let’s simply say that she studied at the best schools such as Istanbul Boğazici University, Max Planck Institute in Germany and NYU's Courant Institute where she earned her PHD degree. Ooopss! Almost forgot! All these schools and institutes offered her a 100% scholarship. Despite this exceptional academic background, she started working for a no-name startup company when she graduated. It was a small social media analysis company. “People thought I was crazy; I was working 12-18 hours per day and the salary was not impressive. Yes, I was working very hard yet I was also gaining a lot of experience and learning a lot at the same time,” says Dr. Erkan.
After her one-year career at this startup, Twitter acquired the company, thus all the employees of the startup became Twitter employees – of course after some interview process.
When I asked her opinions about Twitter, the response that I got was quite explanatory, she thinks that Twitter is the only source in the web which catches the moment (zeitgeist); people learn what is going on in the world at the second as long as they follow the right people. And most importantly, Twitter is an uncensored and democratic platform where people can share anything they want. Moreover she believes that Twitter is a platform, which enables to create a better world. According to Dr. Erkan, it is amazing to observe how people collaborate on Twitter during hard times such as the earthquakes, the revolts etc…
She says she wants to create as much value as possible at Twitter where she defines her role as solving interesting problems. Someday though she wants to start her own company in Istanbul which she thinks is slowly becoming a convenient environment for startup companies.
It was really exciting to talk to an amazing woman who achieved all these accomplishments without taking any advantage of her parents' financial resources. I have to say that the reactions to this interview, which has been published on the front page of Hurriyet, made me very proud.
Here's my longer article on Hurriyet daily newspaper in Turkish.