• Hello. First of all we would like to thank you for setting time aside for us. Could you please provide some brief information about yourself?

It is my pleasure. My name is Hakkı Doğaner Sümerkan. In 2006, I was enrolled in the Computer Engineering undergraduate program of TOBB ETÜ. I graduated in 2011. Later on, I began my master’s studies at TOBB ETÜ, working with Assoc. Prof. Oğuz Ergin, one of the faculty members of our department. With 3 colleagues, we worked on projects we developed in coordination with a firm in the US. Later on, I spent 3.5 months as a researcher at Berlin Technical University, thanks to a scholarship offered by an organization. During that time frame, we completed the project and I had the opportunity to take a course as a guest student. Thereafter, on the basis of the recommendation by Assoc. Prof. Oğuz Ergin, I applied for a Ph.D. at New York University in the US, and the University of Notre Dame where Oğuz Ergin was a visiting professor at the time. I got accepted by the both, and I started with the combined Ph.D. program at the latter. After completing my master’s studies there, I returned to Turkey, and have been living here for 11 months.

  • You are a graduate of the Computer Engineering department, and you continue to work in this field. Could you please tell us why you chose this field?

During my days at the high school I was thinking of a career in civil engineering, for both my dad and older brother are civil engineers. But when I was actually choosing a department to enroll, I had a change of mind, and decided to go with computer engineering. If you lack the required infrastructure early on, computer engineering can be trying. But I am not one to get bored and give up easily. I tried to push my way, and I am happy I did.

  • You are from Trabzon. Trabzon is certainly not close to Ankara in terms of distance; and the two cities have different cultures. Did you have a difficult time in adjusting to Ankara? What would you recommend to your townsfolk from Trabzon, who intend to enroll in TOBB ETÜ?

Trabzon has a really unique culture, and you certainly feel the difference whenever you live somewhere else. Even if it can be difficult in the beginning, the differences actually contribute substantially to your life. I usually prefer to keep my own values while adjusting to new environments. I believe that students who live in Trabzon should venture out of the city and get to know different cultures, and get acquainted with different perspectives. They should not be afraid of cultural differences and consider them as values.

  • Could you please tell us about your current job?

I work at the firm SimBT. We work on computer-games-like simulation software for the defense industry. We develop simulation software on landscape plans and the use of military vehicles for enterprises such as ASELSAN, ROKETSAN, and HAVELSAN.

  • What advantages being a TOBB ETÜ graduate gave you during your master’s and Ph.D. education as well as your career afterwards?

I don’t think I would go for a master’s and Ph.D. if I hadn’t been a TOBB ETÜ graduate. In the earliest years of my undergraduate education, I didn’t intend to do so. But I had my master’s degree thanks to the direction provided by Professor Ergin, and again began my Ph.D. with his reference. I was a student with a sense of responsibility, and I made good use of the opportunities. I think I would not have such an academic career if I hadn’t met Professor Ergin. Perhaps there are similar professors at other universities as well, but ours is a small university where the relationship between the students and the academic staff is particularly strong. At larger universities you perhaps don’t get the chance to meet the academic staff. In contrast, here you can definitely establish very close relationships, and get the chance to consult them, ask questions to them, and work together. I believe that is a great advantage.

  • Could you tell us a bit about the joint trainings you had during your undergraduate program at TOBB ETÜ?

Back in our day, the system was a bit different compared to the current one. Back then, joint trainings took place at the end of the 1st, 2nd, and the 3rd year. Nowadays joint trainings are rather concentrated nearer to the 4th year. I think this latter system is more successful, for you attend the trainings with a larger set of knowledge. I had my first joint training In Istanbul, at the headquarters of Anadolu Insurance, by the end of the 1st year. I got the chance to get some practical perspective on matters I had not studied academically on yet. The 2nd one was at Siemens, where I later on worked on a part-time basis for 5 months. My 3rd joint training was at Kasırga Bilişim, where I took part in a joint R&D project with both academic and industrial foundations. I think the joint trainings were enjoyable and beneficial.

  • What was the contribution of your graduate education to your career?

During my undergraduate studies I took courses and worked on projects; but the knowledge I acquired was rather general in nature. In graduate studies, on the other hand, one tends to specialize, and get better equipped than a comparable employee who didn’t get a master’s degree, making it possible to cope with projects more easily. The academic and industrial life are often considered separate domains, but at TOBB ETÜ, graduate education has an inherent focus on the industrial domain, with projects being oriented towards both academic and and industrial goals.

  • Do you intend to have an academic career? What do your career plans look like?

I intend to continue working in the industrial domain. But I taught 2 courses at TOBB ETÜ. I look forward to similar experiences as well.

  • After your undergraduate and graduate studies at TOBB ETÜ, you spent some time in the US for a Ph.D. Could you tell us a bit about that process, and your education in the US?

We worked as part of a group with recognition worldwide, on 3D face recognition. Sensors gathering 3D data are used at airports and customs. We worked on the algorithms used for those sensors. I also served as an assistant, and got robust experience.

  • How do you spend your time outside work?

The weekdays are pretty hectic. Yet I try to see some movies in my spare time. Whenever I have the opportunity, I go paragliding. That is one of the most relaxing hobbies I have. It is crucial to have a hobby one truly loves. It allows you to get over the stress of the courses, projects, and the business life.

  • What would you say to summarize your university life?

At TOBB ETÜ, life is pretty busy. If you want to attend TOBB ETÜ, you better come with plans for the future. TOBB ETÜ is a school with a goal. It is a busy place with an inherent balance. It offers the chance to get 1 year’s worth of work experience, which makes education schedule more compact.

  • What would you like to say to the current students, upcoming graduates, and potential new students of TOBB ETÜ? What would be your recommendations?

First of all, join TOBB ETÜ with an awareness of the system, and what it entails. TOBB ETÜ offers you better things than some free time. You really get a good education. I can safely say that as I had the chance to observe the graduates of other universities in business. In return, you are expected to make some sacrifices, but you will feel they were worth it after graduation.

  • Thank you once again for your time. On behalf of Gazette ETÜ, we would like to wish you all the best in your career.

Interview: Merve İleri - TOBB ETÜ Psychology Undergraduate Program

Photo: Şule Demir - TOBB ETÜ Psychology Undergraduate Program