Employee Spotlight: Mesut Celik

Zapata Employee Spotlight: Mesut Celik

Today, our Orquestra® platform supports the entire lifecycle of building quantum-ready applications® for enterprises, from research through development to deployment. But that wasn’t always the case.  

Before it was a unified quantum software platform for enterprises, Orquestra was a collaboration space for our own quantum scientists. We needed a way to run large workflows across various quantum devices and HPC backends, integrate cloud environments, manage data, organize outputs, and control development environments and dependencies. Before long, we saw the value in making the platform available for enterprise customers to build, orchestrate, and deploy their own applications. A few years later and Orquestra is now actively used by customers from Andretti Autosport to the University of Hull. 

Orquestra’s transformation from an internal tool to an enterprise-grade software development platform was made possible in no small part by Mesut Celik. 

Building a platform is a hard job; you need a dedicated team to implement the features desired by customers and application developers. As Zapata’s Quantum Platform Engineering Manager, Mesut’s primary responsibility for the last two years has been to build this platform team. When he joined there were only 2-3 other engineers on the platform team. A year and a half later, Mesut has grown his team to 11 engineers across three divisions: platform, cloud, and front-end. The team is spread out around the world, with engineers in Europe, the US, and South Africa. 

Fittingly, Mesut is a global leader for his global team. Born and raised in Istanbul, he studied computer engineering at Ege University before taking a job at Turkcell, the largest telecom operator in Turkey. Mesut then moved to Belgium, where he spent the next nine years working as a software engineer and consultant for various sectors and companies. When Mesut saw an opportunity to move to the US for work, he jumped at it, settling in North Carolina to be close to family. 

Before working at Zapata, Mesut was focused on the infrastructure side of software development, particularly open-source integration and cloud native deployment. He was interested in quantum computing at the time, so when he saw the opportunity to help build the Orquestra platform at Zapata, he applied. It was meant to be. Eric Reuthe, the VP of Engineering at Zapata, was one of the first customers at Hazelcast, a distributed caching open-source platform where Mesut was leading the cloud strategy. Impressed by his background, he hired Mesut in July 2021. 

Mesut is proactive about looking for ways to improve the functioning of the team and make our work easier

AJ Roeth, Quantum Platform Engineer

Since joining, Mesut’s first goal has been to build an environment where engineers enjoy what they do and create things they care about, which he sees as essential to managing a high-performance team. But managing a global team comes with its challenges. “It took time to build the team culture and processes necessary to build and ship high-quality, robust software,” said Mesut. “We had to build an environment that would allow a global team to work efficiently together across different time zones and cultures. Keeping everybody on the same page is a hard task.” 

Two years in, Mesut is proud of the team he’s built. “My favorite part of the job is spending time with very skilled engineers,” said Mesut, “It’s a good feeling not to be the smartest person in the room, you learn something new all the time.” 

The appreciation goes both ways: “Mesut is proactive about looking for ways to improve the functioning of the team and make our work easier,” said Quantum Platform Engineer AJ Roeth. “He can keep track of both the big picture of the product while also jumping into a detailed technical discussion or troubleshooting.” 

Mesut’s biggest piece of advice for new engineers is to learn the fundamentals and stay hungry to learn more — even though it can be hard to stay motivated in a remote environment. He encourages new engineers not to get discouraged if they don’t see improvement, but also to lean on more senior engineers and use them as a resource. Ask lots of questions, be proactive, and don’t be afraid to work as a team. 

It’s a good feeling not to be the smartest person in the room, you learn something new all the time.

Mesut Celik, Quantum Platform Engineering Manager

Looking forward to 2023, Mesut’s goal for the year is to integrate as many quantum hardware options as possible with Orquestra, and to make Orquestra available on different cloud platforms, such AWS and Azure, as well as on-premises. Another priority is to run the platform on HPC environments, further integrating quantum computing within the framework of Big Compute 

A technologist at heart, Mesut spends much of his free time tinkering with new technologies. He’s also a prolific public speaker, having given talks at multiple international conferences on topics ranging from distributed caching to Kubernetes and open-source software. Mesut also enjoys watching soccer, whether it’s his favorite team, the Turkish club Fenerbahçe, or the heavyweights in the Premier League. Hiking is another hobby, and he likes to take his kids to the nearby Smokey Mountains and other national parks when he can.