Breaking the ground, one word at a time

Turkish developer Neslihan Aydınoğlu on the art of self-invention.

Women in the tech industry have been raising their voices for quite a while, and the App Store has its fair share of empowering tales of success and leadership. Someone to watch from Turkey is Neslihan Aydınoğlu, the co-founder of He2 Apps.

Developed by Neslihan and Deniz Aydınoğlu, the duo behind the Istanbul-based studio, Kelimelik is a word-puzzle game that has rightfully reached legendary status in Turkey. Since going live in the App Store five years ago, it has entered the lives of 11 million people, a milestone rarely achieved by a local developer.

Neslihan’s love affair with coding started in her undergrad years when she studied Statistics and from then on it only grew stronger: “I worked in 3D visual programming and simulation departments at various companies for a decade. Meanwhile, I never lost my enthusiasm for developing games and improved my programming skills whenever I had time.”

Prior to the start of her iOS journey, which would lead to the chart-topping success Kelimelik, Neslihan still remembers what ignited the spark in her to transform this into her full time gig: “Both the widespread usage of mobile devices and the rise of the App Store truly excited us, as there was this huge opportunity to develop something at home that could be on the screens of millions of users.”

In the early days, she admits that there were people who knowingly or unknowingly discouraged her. But Neslihan eventually learned to let things roll off her like water off a duck's back: “Perhaps when you know what you want, you don’t give up on it easily; regardless of any negative feedback you may receive. At least this is what happened to me: I have had faith in myself, put everyone else on mute and worked hard. And I am still doing it.”

Being a woman in the developer community is not considered an exception anymore, although we still have a long way to go to expand the dialogues on gender equality, inclusion, and diversity.

Neslihan thinks this has something to do with the changing demographics of mobile gamers as well as the evolving dynamics of society: “For quite a while, game developers and players were considered a male-dominated group, almost like a gentlemen’s club. Thanks to the staggering rise of mobile in the past decade, this demographic has been subject to a dramatic change,” says Neslihan, putting a special emphasis on the change triggered by the app culture: “Female gamers are no longer a minority. There are some game categories where women players outnumber men, which is incredible!”

Neslihan has some golden advice for those who want to make it big in the tech industry against all odds: “What you already know is far less than what you're yet to learn. Stay hungry for more. Knowledge is power and no obstacle can stand in front of a person who is good at what they're doing. Through this, you can overcome being a minority, wherever you may be.”

What does the future hold for He2 Apps? Here's a sneak peek: The studio, known for the success of their hyper-local games, are ready to take the whole world by storm with a global title.

If history is any indication, this mission is most likely to be accomplished, too. 💪🏼