Ebru is a Turkish-born marketing professional who is currently at Accenture Middle East as its Chief Marketing Officer. With inherent entrepreneurial skills, Ebru is a natural leader and has no issue with rolling up her sleeves to do the necessary work. Let’s learn more about her on this segment of Women In Marketing.
LET’S GET PERSONAL
THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR WOMEN IN MARKETING SERIES, EBRU. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MEMORIES GROWING UP?
I was born in Adana, Turkey/Adana. I was a very social kid, always kept creating something new, brought new ideas and sought to beautify whatever I was doing or playing.
I had entrepreneurial skills even when I was small and always chased to start something new. I founded the school newspaper during my elementary years; in high school, I established a social club to help people who are in need. I had founded our school travel club and organized several trips to school.
I always loved exploring new places and enjoyed ‘organizing’ things very much, later this became ‘events’ and part of my job 🙂 I acted for about seven years and led a Drama Club in high school; acting and understanding body language helped my professional career.
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE IN YOUR HIGH SCHOOL/COLLEGE YEARS?
I was very hyper and was doing multiple things at the same time. I was very social, active in so many things. None of my teachers expected me to pass the university exam and go to university. Hence, I was ranked in the top 400 out of 1.5 million people and placed in my top University choice, Bogazici University and studied Political Science and International Relations.
My secret was studying very early mornings, between 3 and 5 am and doing whatever I liked during the day after school hours.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULD FEEL NO SHAME FOR NOT SHARING!
My favourite meal is ‘Sarma’, which is a Turkish meal, stuff rolled with leaves. I love it. That’s usually my first meal when I go back to Turkey and visit my family. The second choice would be Adana kebap – the kebap, which originates from the city I was born in.
IMAGINE WAKING UP $10 MILLION RICHER TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
Help the world to become a more sustainable place to live, contribute it to causes that help the world to improve climate change, less consume and create efficiencies to make our planet to survive. Travel around the world, explore new places and support humans in need.
WHAT IS THE ONE INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT WE WOULDN’T FIND ON YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE? ANY HIDDEN TALENTS PERHAPS? PREVIOUS WOMEN IN MARKETING CANDIDATE, ANASTASIA HAMEL SAYS THAT SHE CAN BREATHE FIRE!
I swim often. Swimming allows me the chance to recharge myself. Also, I have a golden retriever; my baby is nine years old 🙂
CAREER AND WORKPLACE
WHAT ENCOURAGED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN MARKETING? AFTER ALL, MOST OF US GREW UP WANTING TO BE DOCTORS, RIGHT?
I never wanted to be a doctor, with all my respect and appreciation to people in the health sector. My mom always had that desire. During high school, my mother even took me to several doctors (family and friends) to motivate me to take up the profession.
I always knew I would be involved in something that enabled me to create and bring new ideas to life. I love to read a lot and keep learning new things; that’s what fuels me. Then I apply those new ideas to my life, work and environment. I love challenges, breaking cliches, moving away from the old way of doing things and establishing something from zero; that’s also how my career developed.
When I started at Deloitte in Turkey, there was no marketing and communications department. Seven years later when Accenture recruited me in Turkey, the same happened. I established it from zero. I love exploring new ways of doing things, discovering new frontiers and applying them. It involves a lot of intellectual accumulation in your expertise area, senior leadership relationship building, ecosystem building and managing your stakeholders well on top of creativity and leadership skills.
GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
I am #teamTurkishcoffee 🙂
I wake up early, swim, walk/run or do yoga or breathing exercises. I am not a person who wakes up and leaves the house in 5 minutes. I need time for myself early in the morning to prepare my soul, body and thinking for the day. That’s why I wake up very early in the morning. I avoid early meetings for my well-being and give time to myself to prepare my day efficiently and focus on the things I have to lead.
I enjoy the mornings more than the rest of the day – of course, with the help of several Turkish coffee cups 🙂
THE PANDEMIC DISRUPTED OUR ROUTINES AND DAILY COMFORTS. HOW BEST DO YOU MAINTAIN A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
It was hard at the beginning because there were no boundaries when work started and ended. Once I adjusted to this new way of work, I established some ME rules and respected the work/life balance of my team members as well.
I tend not to take calls after 6 pm – we also established no meetings on Sunday (Sunday is the Monday of the Middle East, and for us, the weekend is Friday and Saturday:)). I am fortunate that my work environment syncs well with the work-from-home (WFH) style. Our efficiency and collaboration increased with WFH. The early days of the pandemic were full of calls; we had an adjustment period of having too many unnecessary calls that we could handle with an email period. As a leader, I have the responsibility to lead by example for my team and keep this principle in place. When we have the calls, try to keep them as effective as possible to respect everyone’s time.
WORKING FROM HOME/HYBRID MODEL OF WORKING MAY SOON BECOME A REALITY FOR MOST ORGANISATIONS GLOBALLY. WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON REMOTE WORK AND WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF YOUR CHALLENGES AS WELL AS WAYS YOU’VE MITIGATED THESE?
Remote work should be the majority methodology of work or at least create a hybrid option. I think the future of work will allow more people to work from anywhere around the world, any time you prefer within the boundaries of delivery time.
I am very flexible with this mindset; My opinion is, the companies who transform will be the winners.
ACCORDING TO A REPORT COMPILED BY MCKINSEY, THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC HAS HAD A NEGATIVE EFFECT ON WOMEN IN THE WORKPLACE. THE REPORT FURTHER ILLUSTRATES THAT WOMEN HAVE INCREASINGLY BECOME MORE EXHAUSTED AND SUFFER FROM BURNOUT AS COMPARED TO THEIR MALE COUNTERPARTS. IN YOUR OPINION, HOW CAN ORGANISATIONS PROVIDE THE NECESSARY SUPPORT FOR WOMEN AS WELL AS MOTHERS?
Organizations need to offer more flexible working hours for women, especially those that need to attend to children. This way of working relies on the leaders in the company to develop that empathy and have that understanding.
On the other hand, women need to make the best use of this opportunity of working from home and have that conversation with their leaders transparently, have common ground on what is achievable, set realistic targets to achieve it together. Having that open conversation is very crucial; women tend to avoid having those conversations and share their situations. Companies need to set that flexible mindset across the practice, encourage their leaders to lead by example and recognize the ones that are applying these principles.
2021 AND BEYOND
ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, HOW HAVE YOU BEEN SINCE THE START OF THE PANDEMIC? ANY PIVOTAL MOMENTS IN YOUR PERSONAL OR PROFESSIONAL LIFE YOU CAN SHARE WITH US?
I have to admit that it wasn’t a transition. In the beginning, it was more about not knowing what might happen, how the situation will evolve. I am living in Dubai, the city got locked down and found ourselves not going out for about four months.
UAE managed the situation very well and was one of the early countries that provided vaccines to its residents early. Having the opportunity to get vaccinated increased morale a little bit. I was lucky that my work helped me to work from home and put human health at the centre.
WFH increased our creativity and efficiency in my team. We provided several social virtual gatherings and held virtual cooking sessions, DIY (do it yourself) sessions, gaming sessions, painting classes, and coffee gatherings. We also took some Master Class and Cannes Lions virtual training.
Pandemic allowed us to spare time that we wouldn’t in the pre-pandemic world. Ramadan during the pandemic also allowed us to pray for the things we have, be grateful for our lives, and made us think about how life is simple and can be joyful with little things we have in hand.
KNOWING WHAT YOU KNOW TODAY AND IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
Don’t rush, don’t get stressed, everything will be okay and enjoy every moment of it. No matter how hard you try to achieve things. There is a rhythm of life; everything will happen when it is the right time for you.
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS?
Travel around the world, explore more new places, don’t push it for next time, do it when you want and feel the right time for you.
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR SHEROES?
There is no one person. I can tell that the pandemic proved that all the women nurses and doctors are the Sheroes of our lifetime. I admire their commitment and putting other people’s lives in front of theirs is a very noble and kind act.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?
I am currently reading ‘The Culture Map‘ by Erin Meyer. I read both paper and digital. I also follow blogs, posts of several key influencers in the marketing and leadership world: Scott Galloway, NYU Clinical Professor of Marketing; Bill George, HBS Professor on Leadership; Jim Stengel, former CMO of P&G and Cannes Lions CMO Accelerator Program Host and Curator; and Madonna Badger, CCO and started the act of ‘Women Not Objects’.
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
I love mystery-solving, detective-type series like Blacklist, Suits, How to get away with Murder, and Homeland.
WHAT WOULD YOU COME BACK AS IN THE NEXT LIFETIME CAREER-WISE? DO YOU THINK YOU MISSED A CALLING?
A travel blogger/vlogger or destination wedding planner 🙂
WE ABSOLUTELY LOVE HOW FORBES CURATES THEIR MARKETING-CENTRIC CONTENT. HAVE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO READ THROUGH THEIR CMO NEXT 2021 FEATURE? WHILST ON THE TOPIC OF GREAT MARKETEERS, WHEN YOU RETIRE ONE DAY, HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED AS A PROFESSIONAL?
During a decade at Accenture, Ebru established marketing and communications in Turkey, became among the top 50 CMO, led to being ranked top consulting company, excelled in the Middle East, Russia and Africa in digital and technology marketing.
She led brand and thought leadership programs in global organizations like B20, G20 Young Entrepreneurs, World Government Summit, Accenture CEO Summit with Harvard Business Review and hosted global CEOs and HBS professors to inspire and innovate the business leaders. She is one of the founding members of the “Women Board of Directors” in Turkey.
She enabled the WEConnect International Turkey Chapter – gathering women entrepreneurs with international firms and had activated the support by Accenture. Ebru is a woman member of Accenture’s Middle East Executive Board and various women business associations, supports Women20 (W20) and next-generation women leaders.
She is selected among the Middle East’s Women Leaders by World Women Leadership Congress and Women Top Leaders by MarTech Vibe Awards.Her interviews on digital marketing trends and women empowerment have been published in several magazines and newspapers, like Campaign Magazine, Digital Age and lately in Khaleej Times.
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
My old mentor
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AMAZING WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO GET IN TOUCH WITH?
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
Be curious, keep developing yourself, always read more, explore, watch, get inspired. Work hard, play hard. Enjoy every moment of your career journey. Stay humble, respect all the individuals around you, you never know whom you will learn next from whom.
Don’t underestimate whatever task you need to do. Try to understand how that serves the bigger picture and big idea.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME EBRU. WE HOPE THIS INTERVIEW WILL INSPIRE FUTURE LEADERS AND OTHER WOMEN IN MARKETING. HOW CAN PEOPLE FOLLOW YOU AND YOUR COMPANY ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
Many thanks for providing this opportunity. I enjoyed the questions very much, and loved this platform!