"The water made
me headstrong!"

Interview with PUMA employee and ex-water polo professional Derya Ozkok about his passion for water and his work-life balance

February 16, 2023

Interview with PUMA employee and ex-water polo professional Derya Ozkok about his passion for water and his work-life balance

February 16, 2023

Meet Derya Ozkok! Our colleague from Turkey works as Junior Manager VM & Strategic Accounts in Istanbul. He used to be a professional water polo athlete and competed for instance in the European Championships. After a shoulder injury he stepped down, plays today in the second league in Turkey and also found fulfilment in open sea swimming.

CATch Up talked to him about his work-life balance, his motivation and about his learnings from being a professional athlete.

Derya, why did you decide to join PUMA as an (former) professional athlete?

DERYAI am very passionate about sports in general and had a great connection to the brand even before I joined PUMA. I started with swimming before I played water polo. Here, I even played European Championships. Unfortunately, I injured my shoulder and wasn´t able to play on this high level anymore. Today, I play water polo in the second league in Turkey and start to race in the open water swimming. It is a great balance to my job at PUMA. I am part of the PUMA family for seven years.


When did you start with water polo and how did it come about?

DERYA: I started with water polo when I was about five years old. My former coach told me that water polo is more fun compared to indoor swimming (at that age). I followed his advice and never regrated it. I even played European Championships with the national team of Turkey for five years.


I there something you learned from your sport career that you can implement at your work at PUMA?

DERYA: Yes, absolutely. The team spirit for instance is something I gained from my time as a water polo athlete. Teams support each other to win the big picture, not just the one game. That is an attitude, a spirit, I want to spread within my PUMA team. From swimming, which is a very self-focused sport, a one man show – I learned to really focus on things and also to be mentally strong. I am also very eager on outdoor swimming these days. Swimming in the open water has something medical to it. Each time it is different, and you can´t predict it. It is the beauty of nature. Sometime there is a powerful wind, or the water goes up, one or even two meters and there are waves. On the water I just have to deal with these different conditions. This skill to deal with new challenges I can benefit from in my daily life and job. The water made me headstrong. 

Derya competed in the Bosphorus Cross-continental Swimming Race. The world-famous swim sees swimmers from around the world competing in a gruelling race from Kanlıca on the Asian side of Istanbul to Kuruçeşme Cemil Topuzlu Park on the European side. It takes 6.5 km. Derya finished 7th in the age group ranking, 3rd in the Turkish competitor rankings, and 100th in the general ranking.

In the 35th Çanakkale Strait Swimming Race, the 6.5 km track that takes off at Maydos Beach in Eceabat District in Europe and ends at Çanakkale Naval Museum Beach in Asia, Derya  came in 1st in his age group and  ranked15th among 868 competitors in the general ranking.

How do you manage to balance your job and sports (open water and water polo)?

DERYA: Training in the pool comes before open water training. Depending on my training schedule, I train in the morning before work and in the evening after work. This gives me the opportunity to do what feels best for me. I separate the individual tasks from each other. That’s my motto, which I also follow in my family, at work and in sports. That’s how I have focus.


Do you have any favorite PUMA athlete or someone who inspires you?

DERYAPUMA has many great athletes and ambassadors. Especially in football and athletics I follow some of them. I don´t have role models though. I always try to focus on myself. In my head I collect certain attributes and things I like and learned from professional athletes or ambassadors. Then I collect everything and find one thing for myself.



Thank you very much for the chat, Derya!

More featured

Always stay
up to date


I agree that the PUMA group may use my personal data (including my e-mail address) for promotional and marketing purposes in accordance with the PUMA privacy policy and send information about products of the PUMA group to my e-mail address. I can withdraw my consent at any time in the future by sending an e-mail to catchup@puma.com or via the link in each e-mail.