A new employee story from the Dutch office has arrived. This time we had an amazing talk with Cem Yildiz, Amsterdam’s Country Commercial Director.
“It is important to be who you are, be genuine, and be authentic, people will feel that.”
In this interview, Cem shares some career tips, what made him get into the company, and more
Could you introduce yourself shortly?
My name is Cem Yildiz, I’m the Country Commercial Director at Monstarlab in Amsterdam. I joined in April 2020, so I have been here for more than 2 and a half years now. My responsibilities are to engage with our clients, grow the business and run our office. On top of that, I also collaborate with our other international teams and offices.
Could you tell us a little about your background, what did you do before joining us?
Prior to joining Monstarlab, I worked at several different consultancies and agencies, including Valtech, where I was an Account Director for almost 3 years. Before Valtech, I worked at Dept agency in a similar role. And before that, I worked in the video gaming industry at Ubisoft, where I was leading strategic partnerships.
What made you make the switch from the video gaming industry to digital consultancy?
Well, I worked in the gaming industry for almost 9 years, and I felt like it was time for a change. I wanted to do something different, learn new things, and experience new industries. And although there are differences between these sectors, there are also a lot of similarities. You still deal with technology, creative ideas, concepts, and solutions. So in the end, whether you develop a game and tell a story or build a digital concept for a company, it’s not a massive change in my opinion. It might have a different purpose, but there is definitely a similarity, being that you create a solution powered by technology.
You just explained the similarities, but what would be the biggest difference between the industries?
The biggest difference is that I now partner with clients – to meet their digital B2B needs and priorities – and those clients then deliver the solutions and experiences to the consumers. Whereas during my role in the gaming industry, of course, I was directly involved in delivering services to the end consumer. They are the ones that have to be interested in the games in order to play and purchase them. The gaming industry used to have a big B2B focus too, as you had retailers being the ones selling the game, so they needed to support the game to get exposure and distribution, but nowadays you can directly purchase games digitally, via, for instance, the PlayStation Store or the publishers themselves. So the role of those retail channels and the B2B channels has shifted greatly. In our case, we deal with clients. These clients spend time and money and we have to deliver and help them. So that is the different focus.
Can you tell me about your role as a Country Commercial Director and what specific skills you need to be able to do your role?
So, you definitely need to have experience with commercial agreements and proposals. A key part is to understand a client’s needs and then translate that into an approach. You have to listen carefully and understand what the client is asking, and sometimes even when the client is not asking something specifically, you should be able to translate their concerns or challenges into the problems with the necessary solutions. Another skill is that you have to connect easily with people, because you will need internal support as well. The role necessitates that you collaborate, and reach out to multiple stakeholders. And I think overall, this maybe depends on your personality, but you have to have some kind of drive, energy and excitement. Because usually, only listening well and then proposing a solution is not enough. You have to be able to show excitement, passion, eagerness and willingness to help and tell stories in order to engage with the client well.
Do you think the international collaboration within the company works well?
I think it works extremely well within Monstarlab, we truly are a borderless company and we can see this on a daily basis. For all our projects we work with people from other offices and countries, so we always have multidisciplinary teams with people from other locations, and together we act as one team. So I think that is literally what we at Monstarlab do, I think that is what we are good at, and I also think that is a sustainable model as it allows us to work with the best talent regardless of location. But of course, practical things, like time zones, do have to be taken into consideration. So for a client in Amsterdam, we would look at people from Europe, not from Asia or the Americas, so that the time difference is not an issue.
You answered the question from a team perspective, but how do you personally like working online?
Actually, I think it is funny, because for the longest time, I had only met several colleagues via videocalls, and when we finally met face to face it felt like we already knew each other. So I do think that working remotely and connecting with colleagues virtually can help build relationships. But of course – nothing beats in person meetings and connections!
So in my view – it is all about balance, and finding the right mix of virtual vs. in person meetings. At the moment, we have not reached that perfect balance yet as ideally I prefer meeting people more, but I’m sure we will get there eventually.
What does a workday look like for you?
The day starts with opening my emails, my slack channels, and also checking my phone for WhatsApp messages. After that I look at the top priorities for clients, because there are always projects, issues or things that need attention and need to be resolved, so I take a look at all the different projects and clients to see if there is anything blocked or if there is anything unclear, and then I reach out to the project teams, the delivery consultants, and check with them what the most important things are that we have to focus on that day.
Then of course I engage with our current clients, so we have calls in which I give them an update on where we are, we discuss new projects, and we evaluate projects that are finished. We also have calls and meetings with potential clients several times a week, where we present Monstarlab and our offerings. So that usually involves creating a presentation and presenting to them as well as listening to them and asking them questions. And then we have a lot of internal meetings, so we connect with other international teams, we share best practices, we look at financial numbers, etc.
I’m in the office four days a week, At lunch time it is always nice to go out to eat with the team. I think our office is beautiful and we are in a really nice location, so it is very nice to go outside and have a walk. And I think I can safely say that no day is the same here!
You have been with Monstarlab for over two years now, what attracted you to start here?
Initially it was the focus on mobile, that’s interesting and exciting to me as it is the most used device worldwide and it’s how people consume digital products and experiences mostly. Monstarlab’s track record and their experience with building amazing mobile apps is what mainly triggered me. Then, it was also the very first conversations that I had with the founders and the team members over here, they convinced me that this could be a nice and exciting opportunity. Another reason is that the Amsterdam office was relatively small and I used to work in bigger organisations so for me it was very interesting and challenging working in a smaller set-up and building our team here from the ground up. We are not there yet but we are definitely making big steps.
What has been your professional highlight while working at Monstarlab?
Some of the clients and projects I have won were definitely a highlight, sadly I cannot name them due to confidentiality. But bringing them in and doing the work for them was great. To me, another highlight is to connect with so many people from different locations, cultures and backgrounds. The diversity in the company is enormous and I have not experienced this on such a level before. It feels like we are all one family, which gives me a lot of energy and motivation and makes me proud to be part of it.
Do you have any career tips for anyone interested in starting in the same position?
Yes, I think what really helps is to have a lot of contact with companies and leads, through cold calling or reach outs. By getting experienced in connecting with them at a younger age, you will gain the confidence to start up conversations which will help you tell stories and listen carefully which is super important for this role. It is also definitely good to start creating proposals as soon as possible, you should start writing, drafting, and creating presentations, and just get into that whole flow of being able to create these kinds of documents, that will be super helpful and those skills will come in handy.
Make sure to set up a strong LinkedIn profile, connect with people, go to events, and network. And don’t focus too much on your ego, don’t walk away from challenges or difficult situations. At the time it might feel stressful but facing this will help you grow. Because later on in your career when you face these challenges and escalations it will be much easier for you to stay calm and then it will be your superpower.
What does Monstarlab stand for according to you?
Monstarlab stands for teamwork, delivering value to clients, a huge range of experience and skills, and connectedness. This is very subjective of course, but these are just the very first thoughts that come up in my mind when I think about it.
What do you hope to achieve both professionally and personally?
Professionally, I hope that we build up our Amsterdam office into a much bigger team, with whom we serve many global clients from here. My personal goal is to continue to have a lot of fun while doing the work, and one day hopefully visit Japan.
What do you enjoy the most about Monstarlab?
The people definitely! We don’t have a traditional hierarchy, so everyone is super willing to help and listen which is something I feel daily. It is very easy to connect with people, but also to share your thoughts and ideas. I don’t have to worry about hierarchy or political things. We are a very friendly and open, positive company.
You can contact Cem on his LinkedIn or his email: firstname.lastname@example.org.