Alara Keskil SIGGRAPH Member Profile

Member Profile: Alara Keskil

1. What do you do, and how long have you been doing it?

I’m currently a Pipeline Technical Director at Encore VFX, and I’ve been here for around one and a half years. Basically, a glorified software engineer, helping our brilliant artists create pretty images, through scripting tools and troubleshooting visual effects workflows.

2. What was your first job?

I interned at a small company manufacturing circuit boards for sensor systems for the military, in the summer break after my Junior year in High School. I’ve probably said (and bragged to my friends) I worked on missiles at that time, but all boards I worked on were faulty ones that I was just practicing soldering on that got discarded, so I can now proudly state that I’ve not actually contributed to any military equipment.

On a more positive note, the first money I ever earned was on a couple of pastel paintings I had made and sold around when I was 8!

3. Where did you complete your formal education?

I got my Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from UCLA in June 2021. I also had a minor in Cognitive Science and completed a year of my degree at Imperial College London. I tend to say that I had 2 years at UCLA, as I spent one in London and one at home because of Covid.

4. How did you first get involved with ACM SIGGRAPH?

I realized my passion for Computer Graphics quite recently, towards the end of my degree, after meeting some fantastic people in the industry through my experiences in Los Angeles. I only learned of SIGGRAPH in 2019, seeing a friend from college attending as a student volunteer. I attended the two virtual conferences in 2020 and 2021, and I applied to be a volunteer after graduating with the Conference Apprentice Program in 2022. I worked as a Production Coordinator in the Rowing Reporter Team in Vancouver then and am currently a member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team. I hope to become one of the many inspiring lifetime volunteers I had the chance to meet over the last year!

5. What is your favorite memory of a SIGGRAPH conference?

It was absolutely wonderful attending and volunteering for my first in-person SIGGRAPH in Vancouver 2022! I had an incredible experience meeting more people than my limited memory space for names could handle, and feeling so inspired to contribute to this community of immensely accomplished professionals. Though, if I had to pick a particular favorite moment, it would definitely be meeting CorgiCam in the Experience Hall and getting puppy kisses all over my face.

6. Describe a project that you would like to share with the ACM SIGGRAPH community.

I’ve had the great opportunity of working with one of my professors from UCLA as a Chief Technical Officer for the startup XYLO Academy. In XYLO, we worked on a curriculum for high school students that are underserved and underrepresented in the tech industry, focusing on disruptive innovations in Artificial Intelligence and robotics, biotech, etc., in an animated storytelling format. I no longer work at XYLO as I prioritize other objectives in my career. Still, their work to increase diversity in technical professions is absolutely amazing, and you should check it out at!

7. If you could have dinner with one living or non-living person, who would it be and why?

This will be no surprise for anyone also from Turkey, but I would definitely choose to have dinner with Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Having learned about him from a very early age, his emphasis on education, women’s rights, and democracy have inherently helped shape my own beliefs about what I want to achieve in this world, and motivates me each day to strive to do better. I do believe that true visionaries are found once in a century, and he is one of them; sitting for a dinner with him would not be inspiring just for the opportunity to gain insights into his decision-making and leadership, but also to feel a connection with a person who has had a significant impact on our national and my personal identity.

8. What is something most people don’t know about you?

Fun fact: I am one of those people that dread their turn on the first day of a club meeting when you’re supposed to say a fun fact about yourself.

I tend to broadcast my personality in a way people didn’t ask for, so I don’t have much that people don’t know about me? Not sure. One could be that I’ve lately had a weird habit of shedding a couple of tears in the movies when there is nothing sad going on – but when the imagery looks so beautiful, I feel like crying.

9. From which single individual have you learned the most in your life? What did they teach you?

Definitely another cliche answer, but I have to say my parents. Mom taught me resilience and compassion; she is the primary reason I try every day to be more caring and considerate than the last, and to learn from my mistakes as much as possible. Dad taught me that there are no limits to what I can create or achieve, just like there are no limits to bettering myself in any area I put my mind to. I grew up with daily homemade science experiments with my dad, learning English through TV and songs we blasted in the car with my mom. If my mom hadn’t let me watch the Oscars every year from 2am to 7am on a school night, or if my dad hadn’t bought origami books and made millions of paper planes with me before I could even read, I would not be where I am today. They taught me that the most beautiful things come from imperfect yet tireless experimentation which you put your heart into, and I will be forever grateful for their endless support.

10. Is there someone in particular who has influenced your decision to work with ACM SIGGRAPH?

Alex Bryant, for sure! I had the wonderful opportunity to work with the living legend in the Rowing Reporter team in Vancouver 22. He introduced me to many amazing people in the organization and told me about his work on the DEI Committee, and I knew I wanted to get involved as much as possible.

11. What can you point to in your career as your proudest moment?

Being only 1.5 years into my career so far, any ‘proudest moment’ I choose will for sure fade in comparison to all of the incredible things people in SIGGRAPH have accomplished. However, I did just get my first on-screen credit on a movie, which was definitely a highlight. I’m looking forward to what the future holds!