This is Deniz Tokat from Turkey, lives in Bern, married, with two daughters. I had not met Deniz before this interview. Within one hour he completely won me over with his gentle way and kind heart.
Powercoders: Deniz, tell us, how did you find your way into IT?
Deniz: In Turkey I used to work as a Mathematician at a university. When we came to Switzerland three years ago, I first tried to find a job in Mathematics or as a teacher, but it was very difficult because of language problems. I thought IT could be a solution, and I started doing some online IT courses. In the Turkish community here in Switzerland we have a network of IT interested people and IT professionals called hicoders. We share our experiences and our hopes, we support each other and we also have courses going on. It’s all built on volunteers investing their free time in the evenings and at the weekends. I was taking some courses there. My friends and I applied for Powercoders. The first time we were rejected, because we still had the N-permit. After we got a recognized refugee status, we applied again, and luckily, we were accepted.
Powercoders: What are you doing professionally today?
Deniz: The internship at SIX, that I got after the bootcamp with Powercoders, finished successfully at the end of January 2022, after one year. Today I am an employee at SIX, as a Mainframe Junior System Engineer.
This was possible thanks to my colleagues, my line manager, my mentor within the team at SIX, and my job coach from Powercoders. They believed in me and they thought it was possible to go further with me. My mentor showed me how I can learn and do the job. He has left now and I am doing his job now. And I am still in touch with my job coach, Markus Gallagher. He gave me advice and I could share my feelings and problems with him. He is a software engineer and works for another company. A very helpful and kind person.
What do you like most about your work?
My colleagues are very kind and experienced. Some of them have 30 - 40 years of experience in Mainframe. When I ask, they kindly share their ideas and experiences. I am thankful that they invest and believe in me, and have the patience. It takes around three years to learn Mainframe. I love my job.
How did you succeed to get where you are today?
I am open to learning. When I have an opportunity to learn something new, I get curious and want to learn more, and I ask questions. This also motivated my mentor. In return, this helped me.
In addition, I’ve always been interested in Computers and IT. I like to spend my time learning new technologies and programming languages. I believe also that my background as a mathematician and my skills in analytical thinking helped me a lot.
Any tips for newcomers at Powercoders?
Keep learning, be interested and be patient!
Would you mind telling us about your journey, leaving Turkey and coming to Switzerland?
It’s the story of so many of us. Crossing the border illegally from Turkey to Greece, staying for months in Greece, then moving to Switzerland.
In Turkey, my wife was kept in prison. I kept escaping from the police for more than 1.5 years, otherwise I would have landed in prison too. Finally, they let my wife go, because they couldn’t find anything against her. In my case, I don’t know if they had something on me. I have friends, relatives, and even my brother who are in prison. It is a political judgment, you have no chance. It is a political situation and nobody cares about your innocence. Unfortunately there are thousands of innocent people still in prison. Some of them lost their lives. Some of them are with their babies in prison.
There’s a lot to say. You can find a lot of articles on the internet. But usually people don’t want to know too much. We are lucky, we are here. But there are hundreds of thousands of people living in such a terrible situation in Turkey, they don’t have the opportunity to come to Western Europe like us. It’s not easy to decide, it’s not easy to come, many don’t have the means to come.
If you were a very powerful influencer, what is the first thing you would change in the world?
There are big problems in our world. I would like to work against bias. We all have bias towards each other, towards different nationalities, religions etc., but we should try to overcome them. When I first came to Switzerland, I also had a bias towards the Swiss. But I changed a lot during these last 3 years. People can change their bias, but it should be even more. I would like to understand better how to help people overcome their bias.
What was your bias towards the Swiss, when you first came?
Well, we came here as refugees. Switzerland is not an easy place to be a refugee. But I was lucky. I had not so good experiences, but I also had very nice experiences, very surprising encounters. They changed my mind. I have Swiss friends now, they support me.
Do you feel a cultural clash here in Switzerland?
Actually, no. At first, we were living in a village. We found a lot of similarities with the people there, culturally, in the families, - I was amazed by it! In the cities it is maybe more individualistic, but in the countryside we found lots of similarities. Now we live in Bern. We really like it here. We were lucky, we met very friendly people.
I guess friendly people like you attract friendly people. Thank you, Deniz, for sharing your story with us. We from Powercoders wish you and your family all the best for your future!
Success story Deniz Tokat, Mainframe Junior System Engineer at SIX.
Interviewed by Sunita Asnani, Team Social Media, Powercoders.