‘During my studies, I was introduced to the wonderful world of computers. Eventually, I “acquired” my first computer: I built it from scratch by gathering different parts. However, it was after I learned to program that the real fun started, and I absolutely loved it. After my bachelor’s degree in Ankara, I moved to Istanbul to do my Masters in Information Technology. After graduating, I happily started my first job and, thus, life as a programmer.’
My first time abroad (ever)
‘When I came to Holland in 2003, my plan certainly wasn’t to still be here today. After my first few years as a programmer in Istanbul, I was craving a new experience. Despite never venturing outside Turkey before, I was eager to study abroad. I had my sights set on the United States or the United Kingdom since I ruled out non-English speaking countries. It wasn’t until someone brought an international Master’s program at the University of Amsterdam to my attention that I seriously started considering moving to Amsterdam. I applied, got accepted and off I went.’
Despite never venturing outside Turkey before, I was eager to study abroad.
‘I remember looking out of the plane window and seeing the beautiful Dutch landscape unfold below me like it was yesterday. It was a sunny day, and I was instantly amazed by the beauty of the green landscape and neatly organized farms and cities. From Schiphol, I took the train to Amsterdam Central Station, where I left my suitcases in a locker. I walked a dozen miles that day, getting lost but being in awe of my surroundings. For me, moving to the Netherlands has definitely been a life-changer.’
Every manager is different
‘One of the many ways in which Holland differs from Turkey is the number of women - both professional and students - in the technical field. In Turkey, there are significantly more women who choose this career path, but perhaps that’s because Turkish people tend to choose their studies more “strategically” so that they can secure a job that guarantees financial security.’
Have I ever felt that being a woman in a male-dominated world is a disadvantage? Never.
‘Have I ever felt that being a woman in a male-dominated world is a disadvantage? Never. Am I a different kind of manager because I am a woman? Not necessarily; I think every manager, male or female, is unique, simply because we all have a different style.’
Some weeks of loneliness
‘My first weeks in Amsterdam definitely weren’t the easiest. Due to a late arrival, I had missed the orientation days at university, so I struggled a bit to make friends. After that first, somewhat lonely period, I loved it here. While I initially had planned to only stay in Amsterdam for a year and write my Master’s thesis back home in Turkey, several things kept me in Amsterdam. Among them, the fact that I still had to finish one course at university and the possibility of doing a great internship at IBM presented itself. Of course, the parties and general fun also made it difficult to leave. In the longer term, meeting my now husband, Joost, clearly contributed to my decision to stay in the Netherlands, too.’
‘I applied for a job at Accenture in 2006. After graduating from the UvA, I found myself in a bit of a quandary: should I continue with my studies and do a Ph.D. or start looking for a job? I knew I wanted to create something that would impact lives, could be used by people, and some people I knew mentioned that perhaps I would thrive as a consultant. After a few interviews with a number of inspiring people at Accenture - some whom I still work with today - I started working in the company’s technology division.’
I knew I wanted to create something that would impact lives, could be used by people.
If things aren’t happening, it’s because you aren’t making them happen
‘The fact that I still work at Accenture - even still within the same division - is a testament to how much I enjoy my job. Of course, I have off days too, but the ups can’t exist without the downs. One of the reasons why I love working at Accenture is that this firm gives you the freedom to create your own opportunities. It can be the craziest idea, as long it makes business sense.'
'Employees are given the space to make things happen. It’s true: if you work for Accenture and find that things you would like to see happening aren’t happening, it’s mainly because you don’t really want them to happen. Because you would probably be given enough opportunity to drive and make that difference you would like to see.’
Family melting pot
‘I speak Turkish to my son Niek and daughter Sophie. They sometimes talk to me in Dutch, but I reply in Turkish - I want them to speak Turkish so they can communicate with my family in Turkey and simply because it’s part of their culture and who they are. My husband, Joost, speaks Dutch to them. Joost and I speak English to one another. Yes, it’s quite the melting pot of cultures at our house.’
It’s quite the melting pot of cultures at our house.
On stage, but not always in the spotlight
‘As a working mom of two, my life obviously changed a lot. After the kids were born, I was looking for a new hobby for a long time that fits my new schedule, a friend told me about a choir that mainly performs Turkish and Greek songs. I joined the choir and have loved it since day one. We rehearse once a week and, sometimes, perform at concerts. We’ve sung at the concert hall in Utrecht last year and at the Holland Festival.’
I love being on stage knowing I'm not the only one in the spotlight.
‘For me, singing is a fantastic way to relax. I love being on stage knowing I'm not the only one in the spotlight - it’s quite comforting. I love learning about music, making new friends and singing beautiful songs along the way. Obviously, I practice songs at home, too; recently, I heard Sophie singing a Greek song, even though she doesn’t speak any Greek at all!’
Gulyasemin Cakir (1975)
Studied: BSc Mathematics, Middle East Technical University (1999), MSc Information Technology, Istanbul Technical University (2001), MSc Computer Science, University of Amsterdam (2006)
Started working at Accenture: August 2006 (worked at Accenture in Singapore from 2008-2011)
Relationship status: Married to Joost, mother of Niek Kaan (9) and Sophie Ipek (6)
Loves: The sea (preferably the Mediterranean)
Gets annoyed by: People who say something then deny it afterwards; two-faced people
Favorite food: Italian food (no seafood though)
On my nightstand: A signed book by a well-known Turkish poet, Ataol Behramoglu
Listens to: Rock music, jazz (Ella Fitzgerald)
Last purchase: A Kapitein Onderbroek book that I bought as a birthday gift for Niek’s friend
Would like to sit next to on the plane: I would prefer to be alone and enjoy the idea of going somewhere new
Life-changing event: Becoming a mother
The best lesson life has taught me: Trust in yourself, don’t give up, balance your life... We learn in every situation and every lesson is important in its context so I can not really pick one.
What I learned last week: Your body only recovers itself during sleep between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. – so we really must go to bed on time!
Most beautiful place on earth: West coast of Turkey
Hobbies/passions: Singing, dancing and being in the sea
What nobody knows about me: "Umbrella" was the first English word I learned. When I was in primary school, my aunt told me I would get a gift on my birthday. I was so curious what it was and I constantly asked her about it. Eventually, she told me she would tell me what it was… in English. So, I knew the English word, but I had to wait until my birthday to find out what an “umbrella” actually was.
Life motto: Everything can change - for better or worse. Before you know it, your whole world can be turned upside down and then sort itself out again. The point is not to stress too much about the negatives nor boast about the positives: just take it as it comes.
Who are the people behind Accenture? What drives Lisette Draasima and inspires her on a daily basis? How has Renée van Brummelen's life, career, ambitions and dreams developed over the years? What difficult choices did Tu Ngo have to make in her life? Through a series of portraits, we answer these questions and introduce you to our people: those who make Accenture the thriving company that it is.