Leaders in Tech: Dr. Ali Yildirim

Welcome to the next feature of our Leaders in Tech editorial series. Speaking to leaders in the industry to capture their stories, career highs and lows, their trials and successes, their current company and their role, most recent projects, advice to others, and the individuals who they most look up to in the industry.

Today, we talked to Dr. Ali Yildirim, EHR Software Test Lead at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, to find out more about why he joined the tech industry, what his role entails, what are the challenges he faces, and his advice to aspiring engineers and testers.


What is your current role and responsibilities?

Currently, I am working as an Electronic Health Record (EHR)Software Test Lead at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust. My primary responsibilities are managing and facilitating Software testing activities of clinical systems, EHR, and Electronic prescribing and medicines administration (EPMA).

What was your journey like?

I have graduated as Speech and language therapist(SLT) and worked as SLT for a couple of years. Then, I have completed a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Health Studies. During my Ph.D., I have worked with developers to develop an App for children with special needs. By that time, I have started to learn Java and coding and worked as an IT project manager and Software developer in Test in a private company. While I was working, I have done a post-doctoral research project at the University of Oxford and a research project at Harvard University.

Currently, I am doing a part-time MSc in Translation Health at Oxford University and working as a software test lead in NHS. Also, I have a start-up on Health-Tech developing AI-based healthcare Apps and Software.

What drew you to the tech industry?

While I was doing my Ph.D. having experience in app development and learn coding drew me into the tech industry. I mainly focused on healthcare domains as my clinical experience gave me another perspective on the development process.

Who do you look up to for inspiration or mentorship?

My supervisors during my research have taught me the importance of interprofessional working etc. They always encouraged me to work cross-discipline. In the industry, I was inspired by my close friend Fatih Haltas, CEO of Oak Tech, who supports me on the leadership and business side of tech.

How do you keep your team motivated despite conflicts and obstacles?

My team working approach is the human-centered approach. Before our work identity, all of us are humans. Humans are social creators, and in social life, there are always some conflicts. The important thing for me in a conflict situation is listening and communication. Having shared goals shared decisions, and leadership as a team would help you to deal with any obstacles which you have got in your work life.

What are your current goals?

My main goals are more focusing on Artificial intelligence and machine learning. How can we test more intelligent systems and technologies with deep learning and machine learning algorithms? Using some of my developers and tester knowledge to improve my skills and abilities on Al-based Healthcare systems and their testings.

What are you the proudest of in your career so far?

The proudest moment in my career is working in NHS during these challenging times, being part of that big family, and support clinicians with relevant software and Apps. As a team, we are currently developing and testing dozens of COVID-related IT systems and clinical systems, which will help clinicians during the pandemic. 

What is the favorite part of your job?

The favorite part of my job is working closes with the clinician and being able to see how your work, directly and indirectly, affects patient life. It’s obviously the most stressful and also most reword part of it.

What has been your greatest challenge as a tech leader?

The greatest challenge for as a tech lead is during this pandemic time online working. As I am a people person. Who loves to be with the team, do some activities, have some coffees spent some time with colleagues.

What’s the most important risk you took in your career?

The most important risk which I have taken in my career is leaving my clinical career and focusing on IT and technology. As I mentioned before, I am a people person dealing with machines will not give me that joy. However, working in NHS helped me to get both at the same time.

What have you learned from your experience so far?

One of the most interesting things I have learned during my IT career is how human dynamics affect productivity in IT. For me, human communication is one of the most important topics for IT professionals. I think IT professionals need more social science, human behaviors, and communication courses. That will improve productivity and team performance gradually.

Do you have a memorable story or an anecdote from your experience you’d like to tell?

I am a trustee in a refugee charity here in Oxford. During my spare time, I am doing some voluntary works there. We are working on a mobile app to provide digital services for refugees and asylum seekers.

During a session, the designer asked us a question on colours preference. He said that what is the colour of being refugee or asylum seekers. I felt a bit uncomfortable during a meeting, never thought before “the colour of being refugees”. Nowadays, I am asking myself this question: what is the colour of being a human being or being professional. I still have not got the answers.

Finally, do you have any advice for aspiring testers and engineers who want to grow in the tech industry?

Be human first, then use your professional mask. Do not forget we are all human, and humans can make mistakes. Give yourself a chance to make a mistake. Learn from your mistake.

Learn new technologies, focus on data science and machine learning. Read some human behaviors and organizational phycology books which will help you to understand humans.

Life is to give yourself short breaks to relax.