Family matters: for three siblings, a teasing rivalry gave way to camaraderie at the same company
Two brothers sat at their Commodore 64, eyes fixated on the screen. Fifteen-year-old Aydin Aslaner had caught computer fever; as he showed his 2-year-old brother Milad Aslaner what the magical, boxy, beige machine with the black and green screen was all about, Milad got hooked, too.
“I literally could not go to school some days because I loved our computer so much,” said Aydin. “Windows 3.1 in 1995,” he said, “it was my life.”
Fast forward 20 years to their mother’s dinner table: Aydin was bantering with Milad about whose company was better, Apple or Microsoft. Their middle sibling, sister Aylin Aslaner-Chahin, a civil engineer, passing the potatoes to her mother, amused at her spirited, competitive brothers.
The three siblings had no idea then how their three careers would one day intersect.
After Aydin finished his computer science degree, he spent the following years in various technical positions in Germany before he decided that he wanted to go into business for himself. At the time, Milad had just graduated from high school, so Aydin asked Milad to open a consultancy/PC store with him.
“As crazy as it sounded, I agreed. So there I was, 18 years old, following my big brother to build our own business,” recalled Milad.
But two weeks before the store was scheduled to open, Aydin got a phone call that changed the trajectory of all three Aslaner careers forever.
It was Microsoft, where Aydin had dreamed about working. He didn’t feel like he could pass up the opportunity. Taking the job would mean leaving Milad to open the store on his own, which the younger brother was less than thrilled about.
“As selfish as it sounds, I was against it,” recalled Milad. “How was I supposed to run a business without my brother? I’m happy he went for it, but for me it sounded crazy.”
Aydin joined Microsoft, and Milad opened the doors and ran the business solo. He did well enough for several years, but he grew restless. He sold the business and eventually landed at Apple’s Ireland offices.
Meanwhile, their sister, Aylin, was well into her career as a civil engineer. Family dinners were interesting, she recalled. Aydin raved about Microsoft, Milad praised Apple, and there she was between them, absorbing it all.
It reminded her a lot of when the siblings were young, how the adventurous Milad was always ready to jump into something new but also looked up to the steady Aydin, who was forging the path ahead. And how she was always somewhere in the middle, happily holding it all together, observing them and quietly plotting her own path but rarely quick to leap into her brothers’ schemes.
Though she didn’t see a future for herself at a technology company back then, she did remember being impressed with the way her oldest brother spoke about Microsoft.
“I was learning so much at my job and at the company—it was the best thing that ever happened to me, and I wanted my siblings to have the same experiences,” Aydin said.
His persuasion plan had begun.
Dinner table recruiting
A few years went by. Milad was happy at Apple, and Aylin was thriving in her work with a company in Germany. But their brother was relentlessly talking up Microsoft. Aydin was not hiding his enthusiasm and wanted both of his siblings to work at the company.
“I knew if Milad made the jump to Microsoft he’d have a lot more options to grow,” said Aydin.
One day while home for vacation, Milad visited his brother at work. He was struck by the feeling of camaraderie in the office.
“I was just blown away by the working culture and how everyone was helping each other,” he said. Something shifted for him that day. Finally ready to apply, Milad asked his older brother how he should prepare. Aydin handed him a manual about computer networking and told him to study it. Meanwhile, he would act as a reference.
“Aydin gave me the book, but to this day, I’ve never read it,” Milad said, laughing. “And I still managed to get a job at Microsoft. I mess around with Aydin about that as much as I can.”
For several years, the brothers worked in the same department. And dinners at their mother’s house changed.
“We always used to have Apple versus Microsoft conversations at the dinner table, ” Milad said. “Now we gushed about Microsoft.”
But there was still Aylin.
Escalating to Mom
The two brothers quickly joined forces to recruit their sister. But she was skeptical.
“I like to plan everything to the end,” said Aylin. “I’m the opposite of Milad—whom Aydin and I both admire for taking big risks. But it’s really hard for me to accept fast changes.”
Plus, she wondered what in the world a civil engineer could possibly do at Microsoft. Milad and Aydin were convinced that it would be a good fit, considering Aylin’s passion for customer management in the civil engineering space.
“I would visit her office and look at what she was doing, and I thought that she could do way more with her talent,” said Milad.
Aylin felt like she was making a bit of an impact, but she was worried that her work didn’t have enough meaning. She didn’t want to just make products, ship products, and support products for the products’ sake. She wanted to start with people first. And the way Milad spoke about Microsoft’s breakthrough technologies to help people in the private sector, in government, and for consumers finally got to her.
She applied to Microsoft and figured that would be enough to satisfy her brothers’ pestering; she did not think she’d get a call back. But then Microsoft reached out and eventually hired her, eager to make use of Aylin’s people and project management skills.
Suddenly, it was all in the family.
For the first few years, the siblings worked in Dubai and Hamburg in the same organization, Milad as a premier field engineer, Aylin as a technical account manager, and Aydin as a support architect, all under Microsoft’s services group. They joke about those days, when Aylin as the project manager would dispatch Milad to a customer, and if he didn’t go, she’d escalate . . . to their mother.
“It was effective,” Milad said, laughing.
At the dinner table, the trio suddenly developed a private language almost like twin speak. Acronyms flew across the table as their mother’s and other family members’ eyes glazed over.
“I’m sure we were intolerable,” Aylin laughed.
But they all soon found that the ability to talk to each other both as coworkers and as siblings enriched their perspective of work. Aylin said that she can go to Milad with a problem she’s stuck on and get his out-of-the-box ideas, while she goes to Aydin for his dependable experience and support. Milad relies on Aylin’s ability to hold everything together and see the big picture. And Aydin admires both of his younger siblings for the way they’ve embraced the sudden and sometimes challenging changes in their careers.
They no longer work in the same organization—Aydin is in the support organization responsible for partner innovation, based in Dubai; Milad is part of the new experiences and devices organization, responsible for Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection as a program manager in Hamburg; and Aylin is a segment leader for higher education and university clinics, also in Hamburg. But they still share their passion for Microsoft.
The family-style recruiting hasn’t stopped there. Aylin and Aydin both have children who are also enthusiastic about Microsoft, down to planning their careers at the company that their family is so fond of.
“For us, Microsoft events are a family reunion,” Milad said. And a few years ago, all three siblings presented together on stage at Microsoft’s free technical learning event.
“I love how Microsoft changes,” said Aylin. “That’s not something I saw in other companies I worked for. I feel at home.”
“Our mother is so proud,” said Aydin. “We feel really lucky to be here all together.”