Crunching codes into original software by using whatever laptop is available, Turkey’s software whizzes are the brains behind a rising success in exports.
They may work for 48 hours non-stop, but they are also the most colorful personalities in plazas. The "nameless masterminds" of software may wear shorts and sandals, shave rarely or ride motorbikes to work, but thanks to the software they produced, the sector has generated a volume of $1.49 billion in Turkey, while annual software exports, to nearly 50 countries, surged to $250 million.
Güven Demir, a software architect at Telenity, said 90 percent of their work is "to rack one’s brain," adding that the company environment should be relaxed. "I recall staying at the office for three days. Sometimes my family calls to see if I am okay. If we are not relaxed, we cannot produce. When we see someone wearing a tie, we feel awkward. They are the marketing people, anyway," he said. Demir’s company organizes basketball and football matches every week.
"Software engineering is very different from classic jobs," said Şerif Beykoz, vice president of the Software Industrialists Association, or YASAD. "One can create the world’s best software with a laptop, but this is an extremely tough job. Sometimes one works on a project for days, rarely sleeping." The most productive software engineers have been moving abroad to earn more, but Beykoz said as the sector develops, the brain drain will recede.
Ferdi Saldırış, a software development expert at Coretech, said that his employers and executives were also software-based people, guaranteeing a relaxed working environment. "If I feel sleepless when I wake up, I may sleep for two more hours. As I sometimes work until 2 a.m., nobody harasses my coming late," Saldırış said. "If my executive calls, it is to ask me if I am all right. For the past seven years, I have not received a single order, be it written or verbal, from my employers or executives."
Software production requires extensive knowledge and experience, but investment cost is low. A few software engineers and entrepreneurs can produce "hit products" in a little office. "One server, one laptop and one person. This is enough to produce quality software," said Beykoz.
While investment costs are low, added value of the sector sometimes reaches 100 percent. "But the sector is still scorned," Beykoz said. "With zero support, the sector continues to grow. They will have to take us into consideration soon."
Higher authorities do not pay attention to the sector, according to Ertan Barut, one of the leaders of the e-Transformation Turkey Project. "Official data on software is scarce," Barut said. "Software associations claim to have exported $100 million worth of software, while the Undersecretariat of the Prime Ministry for Foreign Trade says the figure is $10 million. The government is not aware of the economy this sector can create. There is private consumption tax on software. Thus, companies export through the Internet and the government cannot record such exports. Then, our official exports stand at $10 million." Prof. Haluk Karadoğan, who joined the task to select Turkey’s top 500 information technology firms, reminded that each year 1,500 computer engineers graduate from Turkish universities.