Jan 3, 2020

Establishing a North American market for Turkey-based manufacturer Heper Lighting was a welcome challenge for the COO of the group’s new U.S. subsidiary

Mertcan Erdogan
Mertcan Erdogan, Heper Lighting
Why lighting?
How I got into lighting was mostly coincidental. After working as an R&D engineer for over three years, I sought a role where I could combine my social and technical skills so I started looking for technical marketing jobs. When it came to choosing from a lighting company and a piping company, lighting just seemed more fun.

I must confess though, embarrassingly, I did not know much about lighting when I first started working. However, at Heper Lighting— a manufacturer of outdoor lighting products for road, tunnel, landscape and façade applications—I had the good fortune to be trained by lighting professionals who showed me the beauty and importance of the design and correct use of light. After working as the brand manager for over two years, I was assigned as the COO of the group’s U.S. subsidiary, Heper USA.

Favorite project?
My favorite project is quite recent. It is a park project in Florida, and was the first project we were awarded in the U.S. After years of work developing and preparing for the market, it was a sign for me that there is a good chance I am on the right path.

Best part of your job?
Even though it can be exhausting, traveling is a huge plus for me. I constantly have the chance to meet and exchange ideas with people all around the world, learn about different countries, cities and cultures, and see new places. Also, the learning opportunities. Lighting has a perfect balance of technicality and artistry, and that is why it is such an absorbing subject to me. I truly enjoy learning from industry publications, doing research for new products, attending conferences, and so on.

Biggest obstacle you’ve encountered?
Luckily, my biggest obstacles and the best parts of my jobs are closely related. In my current role, expectations are high, which can be stressful. After conducting business development activities in the North American market, we decided to establish a presence in the U.S. and I was assigned to take care of pretty much everything. I needed to do countless hours of research, visits and phone calls to make the right decisions. I needed to learn about different business types, the U.S. tax system, accounting, immigration law, etc. Not only did I need to prepare market research, but I also needed to use that information to plan the future of the company. In a way, this was going to be my “baby” and I did not know at the time if I was up for the task. However, I was also lucky enough to be guided by strong people who had faith in me and I am proud of what I have managed so far.

Most important thing for the future of the lighting industry?
Education. Not only deep technical-level education, but I think everybody inside and outside of the industry should have a better understanding about the importance of the right use of light. If this is managed, end users would have a better appreciation of what is right for them, contractors would respect the specifications more, distributors would carry better products, reps would be faster and more flexible to solve specifiers’ needs, manufacturers would focus on optics more and lighting designers would come up with even more brilliant projects.

Dream job?
This job, as I picture it in my head a year from now—starting to gain momentum in our sales, working with brilliant, fun employees and vendors, traveling throughout the States, constantly being in touch with lighting designers, and always learning more about lighting and business management.