A smiling, dark-haired man with some light stubble wearing a teal shirt. He’s standing in a games room in Zendesk.
Sarp Oğulcan Solakoğlu, iOS engineer, Zendesk. Image: Zendesk

Zendesk engineer: ‘I love the multicultural nature of Ireland’

18 Dec 2018

Sometimes, the decision to relocate can be a gradual one that happens over many years.

When you move to a new country, it can be anything from an exhilarating experience to a difficult culture shock. It can also be different every time, depending on the circumstances and age at which you move.

Sarp Oğulcan Solakoğlu is an iOS engineer working at Zendesk in Dublin. He has moved multiple times throughout his life and these moves played a part in his overall decision to permanently relocate to Ireland from his Turkish home.

Where are you from and what’s it like there?

I was born in Ankara, the capital of Turkey. But the last 15 years of my life before moving to Ireland were in Istanbul. In a few words, I can describe Istanbul as one of the most beautiful cities to visit and enjoy, but not a good city to live in.

First of all, Istanbul is very crowded. By very crowded, I mean more than 15m people live there. Even though during the last few years the public transportation has improved a lot, it is usually overrun with people. The economic situation is not good in Turkey and everything is very expensive if you earn Turkish lira. Turkey is also a very divided country and you can feel the tension in the air where people are without patience and very angry with each other.

Having said that, it would still be one of the best places to spend vacations as a euro-earning person who doesn’t live or work there. Lots of history to soak in, cultural activities to enjoy, amazing food to eat, spectacular scenery to witness, as well as the occasional ferry trip on the Bosphorus to relax and feed the seagulls.

How long have you been in Ireland?

I moved to Dublin in October 2016, making it a little over two years ago.

What prompted your decision to move here?

The decision to come here wasn’t an instant one; it evolved through time. My experience of living abroad started with my father being a military health attaché at the Turkish embassy in Washington DC. I was seven at the time and we lived in the US for three years. After his role was done, we moved back to Turkey. It was a weird experience for me since I started primary school there, got used to their culture, and actually learned to read and write in English before I learned it in Turkish. So, when we returned, I had some troubles adopting back to Turkey. When I did, I was perfectly happy and did not think of living anywhere else, until the last year of high school.

My father got a position in a hospital in the US for a year. I moved with him there, thinking I would study for the SATs and go to college in the US. But it was a second culture shock for me. I left all my friends and all the things that I was familiar with at home. I couldn’t/didn’t want to adopt and, after three months, I returned back to Turkey to study for the college exams. These transitions were kind of a tough challenge for me and led me to think I’d never try to live anywhere else again.

By the time I graduated and started working in the tech industry, I was really ambitious and chasing after roles that would progress me. I had a feeling that the position I was searching for could not be found in Istanbul. At the same time, the political and economic situation started to get worse in Turkey. I had a long-distance relationship with my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, and we could never agree on the city we would end up living together in.

In June of 2016, I had the opportunity to go to WWDC, a developer conference that Apple organises where thousands of developers from all around the world gather in San Francisco for a week. That week ended up being the most magical and eye-opening experience for me in which I got over my fears and decided that I did want to go out into the world and work in these companies side by side with these people.

The political events that ended up happening in Turkey after this trip made my decision final. I got an offer in Dublin, proposed to my wife and moved. After two years, I’m here working at Zendesk while my wife is doing a PhD in Trinity College, so I guess I can say that we have accomplished every goal we were dreaming of when moving here.

What’s your role in Zendesk?

I am a senior iOS engineer working on the support application of Zendesk. It is available through the App Store.

How would you describe your working environment?

I believe it is the best working environment I’ve worked in. People genuinely feel happy to be coming to work every day. Currently, my team is from seven different nationalities and I feel everybody adds a different richness to the team. Our new office provides an environment where people can find the best place they can be productive and also an environment that enables human interaction. It’s not just about work in the office – people also unwind, relax, play some games and, after a long day, go home less stressed than they would usually be in some other environment.

What do you like most about your job?

I like that Zendesk is a growing company and there are lots of possibilities you can explore within it. Work is never dull; every day there is something new to develop, areas to improve and future projects to think of. People who work at Zendesk are as passionate as you are, so you push forward and reap the benefits together.

Was it difficult to adjust to living and working in Ireland?

The initial part after moving to Ireland was the hardest. Getting the GNIB (now IRP), the re-entry visa, the PPS number, opening a bank account, registering with Revenue, managing to find a place, while also trying to do all of the previous things, was hectic.

The second hard part was to separate my mood from the weather conditions. Some people think that Turkey is just summer all year long but no, we have all of the seasons and it snows in the winter and goes below zero in most places. So, winters here are actually better. The problem is that the rest of the year is not so much different.

Other than that, there wasn’t anything I would call hard to adjust to. I can’t say that I’ve had difficulty adjusting to the work life in Ireland either. Since I’ve worked in many software development jobs before, the core process of how the work is organised and how the code is written is mostly the same.

What surprised you about moving to Ireland?

Before landing, when I had a bird’s-eye view of Ireland, I was surprised at how green everything actually was. I’ve watched YouTube videos and read things of course, but seeing it was still amazing.

When I went on Daft, the rent prices got me. How there were lots of houses and not many apartments in the city, and how it was so hard to find one, is still surprising to me coming from a city of 15m people where apartments are the norm.

How does your working life help to make you feel at home here?

Work is one of the main reasons I’m here in Ireland and it is also a really big portion of a person’s life. If you are not happy at work, you would either consider changing it, or even changing cities for different opportunities. At first, I was not sure if I would stay long in Ireland.

When you have those ‘should I stay or should I go?’ thoughts in your head it is always hard to settle and feel at home. After my wife moved here with me and started her PhD, I got a job at Zendesk. I’m extremely happy with my job at Zendesk and this lifted those thoughts of ‘would I leave for somewhere else?’.

What do you like most about your adopted home?

I must say, the people of Ireland. Here, I never felt that there was discrimination against me. Most of the people are really polite, friendly and welcoming. I feel that if I moved to any other European country I think this would be a little different.

I love the multicultural nature of Ireland; I made friends from all over the world here. I would not have this opportunity back at home. My Irish friends enable me to learn more about Ireland, the history, the culture. And, the more I learn, the more I feel at home.

Friends from other countries give you a better view of the world and a look into different cultures. I’ve also made lots of Turkish friends here. Having a group from your own culture really gives you opportunities to better express yourself and have conversations that are more familiar to you.

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