Güven Soydan, Product Manager on Music & Singing

There’s an elevation that I feel only when I sing – the expression of my inner being, my values, my hatred and my love without being veiled behind the fog of social constructs. Lyrics I say don’t have to be within my meaning. When I sing, I feel like I say something I really want to say, even when I hide behind the music. It’s the only time I open my mouth and the voices that come out are not filtered by my superego. That’s everything.

My name is Güven Soydan and I’m a product manager for a game publishing company. I’m an engineer by training, but I but never had the “cultural fit” to any of the companies that I was interviewing with, such as Henkel, Bosch, or Allianz. I ended up working in digital advertising because there was a lot of space for people that can work with data. I started designing good-looking ads, and then I moved over to Search Advertising as it was eating the world. One thing led to another and I was offered a product management job in Germany.

I moved to Berlin after getting the job offer from the German company that acquired us (by “us”, I mean the company that we worked for. They didn’t buy “us”, really. But at the same time … they kind of did. Huh). I was looking for an excuse to leave Istanbul after living there for 27 years. I ended up in Berlin and got stuck here (maybe “stuck” is not the right word – stranded. Yup. That’s it).

Outside of my job, I love music and singing. I like to sing soft-rock or rock songs most of the time (when it’s karaoke time, things might get weirder). I first became interested in music when I was five or six years old – we were living in an apartment that was heated with a metal stove. I used to wear knitted cardigans (thinking about it now, I was pretty much Kurt Cobain, but a child. Also, with dark skin. Also, without any talent. And I peed myself.). Anyway, I had cardigans. I remember singing a Turkish arabesque singer’s songs with a banana as a microphone in my hand. Around the same time, I had my first stage experience with a guitar without strings. I was basically imitating another Turkish singer – the classic guitar pop-singer craze was starting in Turkey. People thought I was hilarious back then; I thought I sounded like an angel.

I actually became interested in “music” way later than that when I was in high school. I was what you would call an annoying nerd – as you know, nerds are most of the time just there and waiting for the verbal abuse to come their way. I was more of an active nerd, the type that likes to be in people’s faces about it. So it caused my absolute exclusion from the groups. I was a weak and slender boy, so it meant I was a no-no with the big dudes that listened to Arabesque-Turkish pop; alternative kids were too cool and too educated in western culture; and there were no classical/jazz kids around. So yeah … I ended up listening to Megadeth, Dream Theater, Opeth, In Flames, and so on as time passed and I found my place.

Every single song I listened to was a fascinating thing to me. I remember coming musically online for the first time when I listened to Dream Theater’s ‘Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence’. Around the same time, I went to a show of a tango-flamenco music and dance ensemble in Istanbul, with the invitation from my chemistry teacher. That was the moment I got mesmerised by “live music”.

There are a lot of musicians that I admire. I always had a soft spot for Maynard James Keenan – his voice and style is unmatched. Charles Bradley is one of the people that I cannot get enough of because he has “performing” in his sound. He’s maybe one of the few “method singers” I can count – he lives the songs he sings (Bill Callahan does too). I have lots of other musicians in mind, but I think the people that changed my life were John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater. Ketil Björnstadt and Nik Bartsch and their friends have been the cause of the second leap of music in my heart.

I was a member of the company Bands Berlin, a rock band workshop started by my friend Avisar Lev (Free plug – https://www.bandsberlin.com/). Avisar said I should pay him so he can make both his and my dream come true. Then he said that “this is your band and we’ll meet here every week.” Somehow, it worked out for quite some time. When something is weekly but not daily, it becomes easier to sustain in your day-to-day run around.

I have had some unforgettable experiences with my music and singing. I used to make my grandma cry by singing the same song when I was a child. I learned that this song reminded her of her late husband, my grandfather that I never got to meet, and I took a sadistic pleasure from seeing the effect of my voice on an adult – it was like a superpower. But in regards to “real life” experiences, I’d say the best moment was when I got about 4-5 bras thrown on me at the end of a concert. They were all from the same woman – my girlfriend.

I don’t do much singing nowadays. I was on the verge of moving cities and changing my life. The obligation to leave my band (Bad Guys From Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which was a part of Bands Berlin) has left a big emotional hole in me that I had to fill in by just standing up to the things that “we have to” and using willpower to direct my life. So I’m not moving anymore and am staying in Berlin, my home. This means my future goal is to convince the band to take me back, I guess. I’ll see where we go from there. I also really hope to get on stage again. And make some old ladies cry.

I absolutely think music has been a benefit to my technological career, especially when it comes to working with teams filled with talented and specific personalities. Becoming an actual team (or a band) flows through the elevated soul state of pure acceptance and togetherness. As the whole overcrowded, over-noisy movement of private self-mental health (that we can generlise under “mindfulness” and “meditation”) keeps trying to deal with a person’s capability to fit into very narrow spaces in society, making music with a band showed me that whoever you are, there needs to be a common purpose for people to be happy together. Making music is such a beautiful common purpose that it is sometimes the only place I want to be. It’s my happy place – we just want to make some music and have a good time with other people by putting work into it. This is what I want to achieve in my professional life as well.

My advice to anyone interested in singing or joining a music band is to find the reasons that pull you back and then find the reasons behind those reasons. Dig deep enough. Then get out of that ditch that you just dug and join Bands Berlin or go write on a forum (or ten of them). There are always a bunch of weirdos that will love you unconditionally.

There is always more than tech. Doing something outside of this small world of ours brings back the things that actually make us similar. It makes us better people. It’s great if we do things that awaken some kind of “passion” within us, especially with our colleagues. It can really change the dynamics and the level of communication within a team, even within a company.

When I was 5 years old, I was singing into a banana. The only technology I need to be a happy person is a couple of amplifiers and a microphone. Full hardware; no software needed.

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