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The Voices Behind the Words: Member Spotlight with Cenk Yalavac from El Turco

Welcome back to “The Voices Behind the Words: Member Spotlight” – our interview series shining a light on the diverse stories and experiences of our members. 

Our next interview is with Cenk Yalavac, CEO of El Turco covering everything from efficiency to Daft Punk!

  1. Can you please share three interesting facts about your company?

Let’s start with the name El Turco. It’s Spanish for “The Turk,” or, in other words, Mechanical Turk—a historical fake chess robot! For those who don’t know it, it’s an “invention” that was exhibited for 84 years from 1770 and appeared to be playing against the strongest players; while in fact it involved a hidden chess master inside the machine. This inspired me to name a company where automation plays an important role, but humans are the ones actually doing the job, regardless of what others think.

We built an NMT engine even before Google. Yes, that’s right! In 2016, we partnered with PragmaCraft, an NLP and Deep Learning (read: AI) R&D company and created the first commercial NMT engine in the world, days before GNMT’s launch. While our efforts to market it failed, it illuminated the way ahead to show that the tech was going to be at the centre of the language industry.

We have a lovely office at one of the most popular locations in Istanbul, but we only use it for gatherings and parties (yes, our team loves parties 🙂) Feel free to pop in to any of our parties!

  1. What aspect of your company do you believe sets it apart from others in the industry?

A few things: We are quality and efficiency freaks. Even though we are a relatively small team of 20 people, we have a dedicated quality manager who monitors everything quality on our dashboard and an automation engineer who helps our team streamline operations (fun fact: we deliver ~100K tasks/year). 

While these are all important, here is our secret sauce to success: Localization Ninja. It’s a free on-site training program for young talents, including senior students and fresh graduates, where we prepare them for the language services industry. We have different programs, but Bootcamp is well-known for locking incredibly brilliant people into the office for five days straight and trying to teach them everything we know, from project management to UI or game localization. All we want from them is to focus, work hard and at the end of 5 days, say: I know kung-fu! We don’t charge them for anything, no contract whatsoever. They can start working for a competitor right the next day, but so many of them have worked with or are still working with us. Localization Ninja not only helps us onboard great team members, but we also get the energy and innovative ideas of the new generation.

  1. What is something about your role that people might be surprised to learn?

People think being a CEO is all about meetings and strategy, but really, we are firefighters, putting out the daily workplace fires no one saw coming!

  1. If your job had a theme song, what would it be and why?

It’d be Daft Punk’s (the guys in robot helmets 😉) ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.’ Because who knew work was just one long remix of constant improvement? 

  1. If you could choose anyone as your mentor, who would it be and why?

James Hetfield of Metallica. The guy’s a rock legend, steering the band through every storm, exactly how you’d want to run your company – all about teamwork and pushing through the hard stuff. He shows how to keep rocking no matter what, which is perfect for the ultra-fast-paced world of localization.

  1. What is your view on the current state of the language industry?

The language industry is like a teenager—constantly growing, a bit unpredictable, and hooked on tech! AI and machine learning are the new gadgets everyone’s playing with, speeding things up and cutting costs. But as we all know, teens need guidance, and that’s where human experts come in. It’s our job to make sure this industry doesn’t forget its roots. The blend of old-school expertise with new-school tech is the name of the game, and it’s an exciting time to be in the business!

Company name: El Turco
Company website: www.eltur.co
Name: Cenk Yalavac
Job title: CEO

May 13, 2024 at 16:40 by admin ELIA, Industry, Member
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