Migration has grown in the last half-century in Germany, and 1.345.943 foreigners moved to the country only in 2019. Gökmen is one of them, and one of the 40.000 people who chose Berlin every year as the city to start a new life. 

In this interview from our Meet our Members series, we talked with Gökmen about his reasons to fled Turkey, how he experiences the current pandemic as an impaired-hearing person and how we can all be more inclusive regarding the different communication preferences of people. 


Gökmen, can you tell us about your position and your company?

I’m working at Sanasearch as a software developer. Sanasearch is a Swiss-based platform that helps people find the best and nearest therapists in both traditional and alternative therapies such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Reflexology, Naturopathy, Physiotherapy and Psychotherapy among others.

When the CEO introduced me as “Hauptentwickler” that was probably the first German word I learned (haha).

Sanasearch makes it easier for patients to chose the right therapist for them, as on the platform one can filter according to specialist, symptoms, choose among 23 languages and select the target groups you’re in (i.e. children, athlete, pregnant, non-binary gender identity). Then you can browse on the therapist list, read other patient’s reviews and book an appointment. On the other side, therapists can organize their meetings and available times using the booking system. I’m responsible for maintaining this project and managing the IT team.


What makes you passionate about your work?

I love to solve problems and tell people what the problem is. That adds value to my work: it can be a code snippet, a documentation update, or a technical operation on servers. As I’m giving a solution, I’m also trying to prevent future problems. This satisfies me like finishing a level in a game, and I’m always excited to start the next level.

Talking about gaming, I know you have a deep interest in games and developing them…

I mostly worked on the back-end side of the projects during my career so I wanted to try something in a different field and started making simple games for kids. At the moment I don’t have a professional project, but I’m joining game jam events, doing hobby projects, and publishing them in my itch.io profile. My goal is to get a Nintendo developer license and port my games to the Nintendo platform. Unfortunately, this is a time-consuming process and I don’t have enough time outside of my job to fully work on this, but I hope I succeed in the long term.


How is your experience with coworking spaces and how has it been at Engelnest?

Last November I joined Engelnest as my first coworking space in Berlin as here I feel like in an incubator, in a nice nest for doing more work. Some jobs require inspiration, synergy, brainstorming, and I think this is a nice place for it. Other spaces are more like a corporate office with a boring and stressful atmosphere.

I’ve been working remotely for nine years, and in Turkey, I was a member of Workinton coworking. So coworking is not a new experience for me. Sometimes I prefer to work at home, but coworking spaces are between home and office, and I love this flexibility. Coworking is the best solution for me to beat being distracted and improve my self-discipline at work.

Screenshot of Tile, one of the games Gökmen has developed. The goal is to draw a pattern in the least number of moves.

The idea was inspired by a simple BASIC code that Gökmen planned to use to generate random postcard images, but later decided to gamify.

I know you moved from Turkey a couple of years ago. Which were your reasons to leave Turkey?

This is the second significant move in my life as before I moved from a small city in Turkey to Istanbul. For me Istanbul is like a gateway to the world: I found my first job and first working environment there; all my first seminars, events and working networks were there. There’s diversity and you can meet different people in a very beautiful city. However, the city is very crowded with a population of almost twenty million, and the infrastructure is insufficient. Besides, there is a general problem of democracy and freedom in Turkey which destroys the country’s potential. Berlin is a more calm, libertarian and beautiful city where you can also meet various people.


How has been this journey of settling in Berlin for you? What advice can you give to anyone thinking about moving to another country?

Maybe you know but Turkish people call Berlin “Klein Istanbul” as there are many places where you don’t feel like a total stranger like Neukölln and Kreuzberg. This makes me happy about living in Berlin, there’s diversity. I don’t feel marginal or foreign here. Living, working and being neighbours with different people add richness to my life. One problem for me is I still couldn’t learn German, so there’s still a language barrier that will be broken only when I’m able to understand and speak German fluently. Despite this, people understand my case.

For anyone thinking about moving either here in Berlin or somewhere else, I would advise to stay first for a few weeks or months and try to work remotely, then decide whether to fully move or not.


How has COVID-19 changed accessibility for deaf and hearing-impaired people? What can we all do to be more inclusive?

I think German people are sensitive enough about this topic, but some things get more complicated without anyone’s control, as we have to wear masks and there’s no way of reading the lips. On the other side, people started using online tools for meetings which help us use accessibility tools like live transcribing, recording, writing instead of speaking, etc. I think having such communication alternatives works for all of us, as is necessary to respect every person’s preferences in communication channels, not only for the hearing impaired but also for people struggling with social anxiety for example or have other reasons to prefer different communication methods. That should be considered natural.


Last, what are your favourites places in Berlin?

Before the lockdown, we enjoyed many of the museums Berlin had to offer and used to go to FEZ Berlin with my wife and daughter as there were charming events, theatres, playgrounds, and fast food areas. Now we mostly go out to get some forest air, but I also love Köpenick and the best thing is to go to Müggelsee by bike on a sunny day. Another favourite is Potsdam, and we usually grab a snack from the train station and spend time in nature.


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