Libraryour peopleMeet Mert Celik - a conversation with our engineering team lead

Meet Mert Celik - a conversation with our engineering team lead

In 2014, Mert Celik moved from Turkey to Estonia to complete a Master’s degree in Software Engineering, and joined the Veriff team after graduation. Discover how his career started, what attracted him to Veriff, and his day-to-day experiences in the role.

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Ucha Vekua
March 18, 2022
Our People

Mert Celik is an Engineering Team Lead at Veriff. He joined the company in May 2019 as Senior iOS Engineer, after completing a Master’s degree in Software Engineering. Born in Turkey, Mert moved to Estonia in 2014 and lives there to this day.

We recently had a chat about his career to date, international student life in Tartu, his experiences of working at Veriff, and more. Enjoy!

To get readers up to speed, let’s talk about your professional career. How did you decide to follow the engineering path?

I have always felt that there was something magical about sophisticated and complicated products. However, it wasn’t really clear to me what I wanted to do until the very last moment of my high school studies. 

When I had to make a decision about my career path, my curiosity pushed me into the engineering direction. I wanted to learn how two very distinct things could work together and be useful for each other. 

During my Bachelor’s degree course, I decided to explore different engineering fields and understand which direction would be the most interesting for me. Finally, I decided that Software Engineering would be the most relevant field. That’s how I chose to come to Estonia and start my Master’s degree here. 

Interesting! Tell us more about your international student life in Tartu, Estonia.

My student life in Tartu was very interesting. I met lots of international exchange students from all over the world. It was exciting for me to be part of this community and learn about different countries and cultures. 

Other than that, I was very active in taking part in different hackathons and tech events happening all around the city. Those events helped me to develop my skills and meet like-minded people. 

From an academic point of view, it was challenging to study Software Engineering at the University of Tartu. That’s why I enjoyed attending classes and focusing on my studies to develop my skills and learn more.

What’s the story behind your early engineering professional experience?

During the first summer of my master's studies in Tartu, I decided to get professional job experience in my field. I bought an online iOS Development course to practice my skills in that field. After finishing the course, I started applying to different companies based there. 

Lots of companies rejected me, but I kept searching for opportunities, then one of my friends told me that the company he was working for was searching for an iOS Architect. I felt that it was a moon shot, but I decided to give it a go and apply for the position. 

Even though I didn't have much experience in the field at that time, I still managed to get through every interview round and, finally, I got the job. 

After that, you found your way to Veriff. How did that happen?

At first, Veriff got my attention when I saw the slogan: “Veriff - Stripe for the Identity Verification”. As someone with experience in building APIs and frameworks, I was impressed with the way that Stripe had built their tech. 

I knew a couple of people working at the Veriff engineering team who were working on identity verification and biometric products, and they were telling me all about the awesome company culture they had. At that time, I was searching for new challenges and opportunities to develop my career. 

Finally, I got in touch with Veriff. Things progressed well, and their final offer was a very interesting and challenging opportunity for me. So, I decided to take the challenge and join the company as a Senior iOS Engineer. 

What are the main challenges for you to change positions and take over new roles at Veriff?

When changing positions at Veriff, the key is to really understand the environment you are in. It is essential to improve things within your responsibility in the company and set good processes, then you can have an impact on a bigger scale.  

I would say that the biggest challenge for me was to identify the exact problems that needed effective solutions. Thanks to a great team, it was easier to integrate and get used to the new processes that came with new responsibilities. Clear and smooth communication was a key component in the professional growth process for me.

What does your everyday life at Veriff look like?

Working at Veriff is great and challenging at the same time. I work as an Engineering Team Lead, and we are working hard to scale our solutions, which is the critical component for sustainable growth. 

Other than that, I heavily invest in growing the personal relationships within the company. My role involves building bridges between different engineering teams to work together more effectively. There are many one-on-one meetings during my workday, which helps me understand problems and find different ways to fix them. 

Which of Veriff’s values resonate with you the most?

For me, it would be “We have each other’s backs”. Our team at Veriff is very helpful. Every team member is ready to support each other in any situation, and, I think, this is what keeps the company thriving. 

You can clearly feel that everybody is very enthusiastic about what they do in the company, which creates a very motivating atmosphere to get things done. 

To sum up, let’s do a speed round of questions:

What are your hobbies?

I enjoy doing outdoor activities, such as riding a bike or running. I also love playing American football. After the pandemic started in 2020, I got into computer games as well. Besides that, I have a DJ controller and try to make some electronic music on a basic level. 

What is a must-read book for you?

There are two books that had a really valuable impact on me. The first one would be How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. This one talks about the fundamental techniques in handling people in different ways.

The second one is Never Split the Difference by Christopher Voss, which teaches us about the art of negotiation and features in many interesting stories.

What are your favorite podcasts? 

One that comes to mind is the Joe Rogan Experience. It is a classic, and I always enjoy listening to the various conversations there. 

Other than that, the 99% Invisible podcast is very interesting. They talk about different stories that are not very well known. I also like listening to the Harvard Business Review podcast to learn more about recent business projects in the world.

Mac or PC? 

I think both of them are good in their own way, but since most of my time on the computer involves programming and music-making, I’d go for a Mac.

What would be your advice to anyone who wants to kickstart their engineering career?

Try not to concentrate on every detail in the initial stage when you start learning about a specific engineering field. Don’t try to learn everything in one go. It is a long process, and you should try to understand how things work on a bigger scale. 

After having an overview, you can dive deeper and learn something more specific based on your interests. This approach will help you learn about different use cases and gain knowledge in something that aligns with your field of interest.