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Meet Cem Yildirim: The Fast Interview

Cem Yildirim, Vice President of Engineering at Fast

Cem Yildirim

Role: Vice President of Engineering at Fast

Team: Engineering

Talk about your background leading up to Fast.

I worked in manufacturing and financial services companies earlier in my career until I went to MIT for graduate school. After graduation, I decided to focus on product and people in the next phase of my career. I wanted to make sure I was passionate about the products I work on and work with smart and motivated people. I worked at Apple building their identity products and Uber building their next generation of e-commerce and payment platforms and products.

How did you learn about Fast, and why did you say yes?

Fast reached out when I was trying to decide between a few big-tech director of engineering roles. Fast combines identity and e-commerce, and I had direct experience building products at scale in these domains. I saw the Fast Engineering Team was nine engineers at that time pre-launch, and I thought it was the right opportunity to build a high-performing engineering organization, which can build any engineering product.

Where did you grow up, and what were you like as a child?

I grew up in Turkey in a Turkish Air Force family, frequently moving to various Air Force bases. They used to call me "The Brave." I'd often get myself injured and sometimes even get myself stitched up at the Air Force Base infirmary because it would be closer than going home, and I'd be able to continue playing outside. After middle school, my father was stationed with U.S. military personnel in NATO. This was my first glance at the American way of life. I knew I was going to live in the U.S. after that.

What was your first job ever?

I was the Ground Operations Coordinator at Istanbul Airport the summer after I graduated from high school. I coordinated tower, maintenance, cleaning, check-in counter, and flight crews to safely land, park, onboard, and fly each flight. I loved aviation before that because of my father's job as a fighter pilot. I loved it even more after that summer. This was also the first time I was exposed to real-life engineering in action by performing load-balancing of passengers and cargo to ensure safe take-off of the Airbus A320s, which would wirelessly connect to pick up the load-balance sheets I prepared. I loved the intersection of engineering and operations.

What career path did you almost take?

I wanted to be an Air Force fighter pilot, just like my father, but he and his friends convinced me to become an engineer. My dad still tells me stories of how his dream was to become an engineer even before elementary school. He was accepted to Istanbul Technical University, but his family couldn't support him, and there was no scholarship program available, which is why he initially chose the military.

Which public figure do you admire most and why?

I love Mahatma Gandhi. His conviction and resolve to defend his country with passive resistance in the face of pure evil dominating and dividing his people are exemplary.

What app on your phone do you use the most?

Apple Music. I love the discovery experience and variety of curations Apple provides.

What food do you uncontrollably eat?

Indian food: Baingan bharta, MalaI kofta, garlic naan, and chai I make myself from scratch. Desert: Turkish green pistachio baklava.

Who’s your favorite TV or film character?

Christian Bale’s Batman because he puts the welfare of his community above everything. He is not afraid of fighting evil with personal skills and engineering innovation.

What was the last show you binged?

I hadn’t watched “Narcos” for a long time but recently caught up. I love the Latin music and the dramatization of historic events.

What personal goal would you like to achieve in the next five years?

I want to learn Russian.

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