Jan. 30, 2020

Designing Your Career with Burak Cakmak

Many people assume that to work in a particular field, you have to have a degree in that field. Well, sometimes this is true but not always.   

On this episode, we’re joined by Burak Cakmak who became Dean of Fashion at Parsons School of Design even though he didn't study fashion or have experience as a fashion designer. What he did have was a rich background in other aspects of the fashion business, especially supply chain and sustainability. Burak shares the deliberate actions he took to develop his expertise, gain exposure to all aspects of the industry, and build the credibility needed to rise to where he is today.

It's an unforgettable story loaded with wisdom that can be applied in any industry.

Meet the Guest

Burak Cakmak, Dean of Fashion at Parson School of Design, has extensive experience in forging strong partnerships as a business strategist and sustainability expert for some of the largest, most prestigious retail companies and luxury brands in the world.

He is focused on guiding the fashion programs at Parsons School of Design into a new era, where an emphasis on socially conscious and transformational design formulates the educational approach and training of the next generation of creators.

Prior to joining Parsons, Cakmak worked at Swarovski Group as the company’s first Vice President of Corporate Responsibility. Before that, he acted as General Manager of MADE-BY Benelux in the Netherlands. As the first Director of Corporate Sustainability for Kering, Cakmak spearheaded innovation-driven sustainability strategies. His career began at Gap Inc., where he served as the Senior Manager of Social Responsibility for eight years.

Links

Check out these links to learn more about Burak and Parsons School of Design:

To access the the publications Burak wrote for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, follow these links:

  • Biotrade designer’s toolkit 2 : yellow anaconda (Eunectes Notaeus) : sustainable materials for the fashion industry : biodiversity, ecosystems, community impact review
  • Biotrade designer’s toolkit 3 : Morelet’s crododile, Crocodylus moreletti : sustainable materials for the fashion industry : biodiversity, ecosystems, community impact review

Transcript

Beth Davies, host:        Many people assume that to work in a particular field you have to have a degree in that field. Well, this simply isn't true.

Welcome to Career Curves where we talk to people who have interesting careers and explore how they got where they are. I'm your host, Beth Davies.

Today we're joined by Burak Cakmak, who became Dean of Fashion at Parsons School of Design in July, 2015. His background though wasn't as a fashion designer and he didn't study fashion, so how did he get this role? I'm excited to have Burak here to tell you the story.

To get started, I'm really curious to know what you do in this role as the Dean of Fashion at Parsons.

 Burak Cakmak, guest:       There's so many things that's in my bucket and it's always changing. Part of it is because you're working with a lot of young talent. We are responsible for shaping the future designers of the industry. That means that we need to not only look at the curriculum you're teaching them, but also we need to support them throughout that journey, both during their time at the school as well as what do they do afterwards when they graduate. Hence, I spend a lot of time with our alumni as well as the current students all the way from sophomore to especially the senior year when they are struggling through their thesis projects. What they want to do for the future? But also nervous about what kind of a job they're going to get. If they want to build their own business, how are they going to become an entrepreneur and try to get as much information as possible before they go out into the industry?

 Beth:               I would have assumed that to have a role like the one you have, you would need a PhD in education.

 Burak:              Interestingly, not every role requires a PhD in academia and in some ways fashion design is an applied discipline, which means that knowledge in the industry actually helps you with understanding what needs to happen in the classroom.

 Beth:               So what I'd like to do now is go back in time and figure out how you got here. So can you tell me about your childhood, where you grew up, and tell me about your family?

 Burak:              I was born and raised in Ankara, in Turkey, and it was a very different world at that time. When I was growing up, it was a closed-market economy. One party rule. We had no access to foreign products. So it was a different reality to anybody that's growing up in U.S.

My dad was in the military, so we were raised in a military building. During my childhood, we went through a moment. There was a coup and we experienced a lot of turbulence in the country, which influenced my sense of security and understanding what is valuable and what's not in life at a very young age.

That led to really changing my mind around what I want to do for the future. As I looked at what do I want to study, as I go into the university, I wanted to be part ultimately of the Foreign Service and become a diplomat for the Turkish government.

So I ended up studying International Relations in the capital in Turkey, which gave me a lot of insights around the political systems, ideologies and how the global system works, but more importantly, understand the role of humans in everything that we have created in our lives and how we can play a role as an individual to bring change to the world. That, in some ways, is very different than what I'm doing today, but I was very keen to find a way to use that to shape my future.

 Beth:               What was it that led you away from working in the Foreign Service and becoming a diplomat?

 Burak:              It was a moment in Turkey where the country opened up. It became a lot more capitalist, multi-party rule, much more democratic, access to a lot of foreign products and services. It made me even more excited to consider potentially doing something outside of the country.

As I was looking at what to do next, I had the choice to apply for going into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or potentially doing another degree and explore the world in a different way. I ended up deciding to get an MBA right after and it was my way of balancing my passion around politics, but also my natural interest around business and the industry, to be able to bring those things together and then look at what I really want to do as my career going forward.

 Beth:               So at this point, in terms of going into business, you just mentioned that the economy had opened up, and capitalism had opened up. Were you, at that point, thinking that you were going to go into business and stay in Turkey and take advantage of those opportunities?

 Burak:              Part of it is my dad ended up getting into business himself. Leaving the military, building his own business. Seeing his success definitely influenced me and shaped my thoughts around what else can I do in my life. In some ways I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to do, so an MBA allowed me to do a broad enough degree that gave me the insights into what does it mean to run a business day-to-day and understand the dynamics of a corporation without requiring me to be in one specific industry.

 Beth:               So how did you start to narrow that and identify what industries or what types of businesses you were going to be interested in going into upon graduation?

 Burak:              Part of it is your natural tendencies to things that you care about. The other part is obviously where you are and what's happening at that moment in time. The reality is I was in San Francisco at a moment when it was just the peak of the high tech boom – the first Silicon Valley boom – and that got me very excited.

Everybody around me was talking about it and as a result I ended up getting into a venture catalyst, which is basically a business that's brokering the relationships with the venture capitals and startups, and getting them ready to go for IPO.

 Beth:               Venture catalyst?

 Burak:              Yes.

 Beth:               I've never heard of this. I live in Silicon Valley. I've lived there for a long time. I've never even heard that term.

 Burak:              I guess it was a niche that this company found where they're identifying how to help IPOs to get ready to go for funding. But, unfortunately, that job was not long lived because it was pretty much the end of the boom and things were just coming apart.

 Beth:               Yes, nobody is going public. Nobody's getting to that point.

Question for you though. You mentioned that you happened to be in San Francisco. How did you get to San Francisco?

 Burak:              I first came to San Francisco to study and I didn't know what job I was going to get. There was a lot happening in San Francisco with the first high tech boom. It was an interesting place where there was a lot of buzz about what's happening in the region. So I thought why not be in the center of the action and have access to all of the new ways of thinking and ideas.

So, I guess that also shapes always my way of thinking around what I do and where do I go next. It's looking at what are those hot spots around the world at that moment in time so that you are basically part of the innovation and that new way of thinking, rather than being in a place where you have no access to innovators and masters and businesses.

 Beth:               So you joined Venture Catalysts, which was exactly where the action was in high tech and then, like you mentioned, the bubble burst. What options did you have then?

 Burak:              Sometimes when you have no option, you do what you need to do and you find opportunities to deal with the challenges. Of course, using my intuition, it was clear that it was important to look for a brick and mortar business that was a bit more stable and was larger scale. I literally just sent my CV to many of the companies that I knew existed in the Bay Area and one of them was Gap Inc.

Interestingly enough, there was an opportunity related to dealing with the supply chain issues and the challenges that Gap Inc. was facing at the moment. It was a perfect place for me to tap into both interests that I had and also be part of another kind of innovation within supply chain that nobody really dealt with until that time.

 Beth:               And what was that innovation?

 Burak:              It was literally one of the first companies to understand the existing business model they were operating under and the challenges that it was posing to the company. Until then, supply chain was all about optimization and making sure that you maximize revenue. It was not necessarily the wrong thing to do, it's just the fact that it came with unintended consequences, especially at that time. It was linked to labor standards and asking the company to take responsibility for it.

 Beth:               So when we're talking about supply chain, for anybody who might not be familiar with what that means and what the work is, what you're really talking about is that a company like the Gap uses factories around the world to create the product, whether it's creating the fabric to actually making the product. And what was the Gap's responsibility around the practices in those companies? Am I getting that right?

 Burak:              That's correct. If you look at even the 19th century, most of the people were dressing themselves through going to a tailor. Everything was custom made. And ultimately, all the way to haute couture.

When it became a bit larger scale, much more of an industry, it was still not easily accessible to the wider public. Democratization of fashion obviously required things to become cheaper and made at scale, which meant that nobody was able to produce at scale in their own factories and had to outsource production, which meant that they didn't necessarily have visibility around all of the work that's happening in the factories. Just to put it in context, at the time I joined, I believe there were around 4,000 suppliers – with quite a lot of turnover as well because it depends on the type of product that you're ordering – in close to 50 countries. And suddenly the companies became the one that had to own up to what's happening on the ground and how do they deal with the supply chain issues.

 Beth:               So as you got into Gap, what did you find about the work for you personally?

 Burak:              What was amazing is to be able to take a job, which was not necessarily about the specific skills that I'm bringing, but more about my interest in international relations and politics, to do something that's directly engaging with people in communities all the way through the supply chain. And Gap was that perfect place where there was already a core team that understood the key challenges. They knew the system very well and they were also interested in bringing different perspectives.

I personally believe that me being Turkish and bringing that kind of perspective was an asset to the company. I became part of probably the most international team I ever worked in anywhere in my career and in any company that I've seen. Ultimately, at some point, we were probably over 150 people and I'm sure it was over 30-40 countries represented within that and really dispersed across the globe as well. That gave me so much motivation to learn about different cultures and points of view, and understand what does it mean to have diversity even within your team. How do you bring all of these ways of thinking into a discussion internally to make decisions around the future of a global company like Gap Inc?

It was one of the most complex structures to work in, but it definitely enriched the experience – my personal and professional career experiences as well. And really taught me how to pay attention to different perspectives and voices in everything I do.

 Beth:               During that time, I believe you also took some assignments that placed you living outside the U S, so you took jobs in other markets.

 Burak:              Sure.

 Beth:               How did those opportunities also help you learn and grow as a professional?

 Burak:              In some ways I always try to push my own career in certain directions and it was a great opportunity for me to also look at personally where I want it to be as well as professionally. And at that time I was very interested in being in Europe, closer to my family and my personal relationships. And I was able to work within the company to really envision what a role in London can look like and we actually shaped the role together. So, it was not applying for an existing role, but really rethinking my current role and what would it mean to transition into a new place and think about it differently.

As a result, I was able to evolve the role from San Francisco to London, really engaging with all of the stakeholders in Europe. And, to be honest, they were some of the most vocal ones. So it was even more front-facing with some of the key activist groups to be able to deal with some of these challenges. But, it also gave me a chance to represent the global point of view that comes from San Francisco in a region that matters a lot from a business perspective, and really see what else I can do and be a bit more entrepreneurial.

We ended up launching the first organic Baby line for Gap Inc. through a partnership with the production teams that were based in London and that Organic Lounge was one of the first companies to really create a product that was not only around the labor conditions, but also the environmental sustainability component embedded into it, to launch globally and pave the way for Gap to think differently not only on the production process, but also ultimately the product level and how they promote it to the direct consumer at the end.

 Beth:               I think what you're saying right there is really important, too, that some people could look at something like supply chain and see it as a support function. But you just described an instance where it really was a driver of the business. Do you think there's anything about the way you've approached work that takes you from what could look like a support role and causes you to have more impact in the organizations you're in?

 Burak:              I really believe that every individual has the power to be able to bring change to any organization that they're part of. And the way to do that is number one, understanding the business structure, the key players and building the key networks within the organization. Through those personal relationships, and understanding what people care about, and having a clear point of view of what the future of the organization is, allows any individual – and in this case myself – to be able to push in that direction until we achieve that result.

 Beth:               So you're having this experience at the Gap where you're working with the most international group you've ever worked with, you're directly yourself impacting the business, learning, and growing. And at some point you do decide to leave that organization. Tell me about why you ultimately did decide to leave the Gap.

 Burak:              Yeah, I think, Gap also taught me that life is all about taking new challenges and really pushing yourself to see how you bring change in the way you want into any thing that you're part of.

Hence, I was at a point where I was looking at where else I can go to do something new. I always pushed myself to be part of all of the networks and engage with people through conferences, events, and initiatives, which led to a natural conversation with companies. And one of them at that time was called PPR, which owned these luxury brands under an umbrella called Gucci Group. Today the company's Kering and they were very keen to do something in their luxury space to address sustainability issues.

Until then, luxury brands have never really done anything public around their position on sustainability. They assume that people perceive them as doing everything right because it's made in Italy, and it's some of the most expensive products you can buy, and people don't question it.

But, it was a moment where you started having challenges because we were seeing a lot of Chinese factories that were being built, especially in Prato outside of Florence. And more and more there was some coverage, especially through some of these activist groups, highlighting what's happening and the conditions in these factories, literally in the heart of Italy. I think it was a good moment to push them to say they really need to take it more seriously. How to manage their supply chains, but also how to message who they are to their public in a different way, beyond saying that the price commands the trust of the customer.

So we started a conversation and interestingly, they initially reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in focusing on the supply chain for the Gucci brand because it was their largest brand and it would basically allow them to manage the biggest risk for them.

But personally, in some ways, this is another one of those learning moments for me. I looked at the company's structure, how Gucci's positioned, where it's positioned. I felt like it's risky to take a job that's very narrowly defined in terms of how they operate. I felt like there was an opportunity to work at a different level and reviewing their organizational structure, I went back and did a proposal saying that I would love to be part of this organization, but I feel like our efforts will be at risk if we don't do it for all of your brands. So I proposed that it becomes a group level role and as a result I ended up basically convincing them that the role should sit in London, in the head office and should work with all of their eight luxury brands, which allowed me to really work on a comprehensive strategy in partnership with the holding company in Paris, align with their overall values, but also relevant to each of the needs of the individual brands, and help me build initiatives as well as teams across all of the brands on the Gucci group at that time.

 Beth:               You created an enormous role for yourself.

I've have question for you. This is the second time you talked about you designing the role that you then moved into. So you did it once at Gap with the role in London and now with this role. What advice do you have for somebody who wants to pitch a role?

 Burak:              I feel like the best way to go into a role is through really take a step back, look at it and understand where we see the main challenges and kind of create an outline around what is the best fit, not only personally for yourself, but also for the organization itself.

The other part is obviously having gained the trust of the individuals that you're talking to so that you can convince them that this is what the real need is. Because if they don't know you, it's very hard to convince anybody.

At the same time, everybody's busy with their day-to-day job. You also need to do all of the work yourself and be able to provide something for people to say yes or no to, rather than having to do a lot of work on your behalf. If you expect that nothing will move forward.

So I had to do a lot of thinking behind the scenes, be able to put things together and make sure that I'm talking to the individuals that trust my judgment and understand that what I'm bringing to the table make sense. And 90% of the work is that, and the rest is basically, in some ways, sheer luck based on, "Is it possible to move people around or rewrite the job description? Whose approval is needed?" If those things come into place, there's no reason for something like this not to happen.

 Beth:               So you pitched this role with what is now Kering that has you leave Gap and all these relationships that you had built and people that you had cared about. How did you strategize your exit conversations with them?

 Burak:              The truth is it's best to just honestly talk about what the opportunities is, because it's clear that it's a great career move. And it's incredible to see, I'm still in touch with everybody that I had been working there over 15 to 20 years ago, which says something about the type of organization that was.

 Beth:               So now you do go into this role. Tell me about the career journey that you have with what is now Kering.

 Burak:              It was really a wild ride for me because it's incredible to be suddenly in a place where you're working with some of the best brands in the world, that are incredibly desirable, and there's no structure in place to address the issues that I need to face.

So I remember going to work on my first day. Beautiful office. Nice orchid on my table. And it was quite fascinating because I was basically just shown, "Here's your computer. Here's your mobile phone. Here's a bunch of emails we received around this issue. Good luck and talk to you later."

There was no existing structures or processes or a team in place, which made it incredibly complex. So I just had to figure out my way through it and that's when being an entrepreneur comes in play. I basically reached out to everybody I need to talk to. So first, immediately I met everybody that's in the office that I was working in but also getting names of people that I need to talk to.

So I ended up with a couple of hundred names across maybe five, six countries, and then started reaching out and traveling to all of the head offices, all of the brands. Talking to every single function that I felt needed to take part in the conversation around what does it mean to become a more sustainable brand. Everyone from material sourcing to production to logistics to store management to marketing to communication, to design teams. And then understanding their existing initiatives, what challenges that I see, where their personal interests are. So it was incredibly deep work around investigating what are the potential opportunities, low hanging fruits out there for me to do something to show some success, but in the longterm what are the key risks?

And then really leveraged the relationships I started building to start implementing things because everything was through consensus and nothing was forced on any of the brands, which meant that it was all about the relationship building and getting people's buy-in and personal interest to lead the work rather than being told to do so.

 Beth:               So absent influence, you really didn't have any power in spite of the fact that you had this enormous job.

 Burak:              Yes.

 Beth:               You were with Kering for about three years.

 Burak:              Yes, just over three years, three to four years.

 Beth:               And why did you decide to leave that organization?

 Burak:              It was a moment where things were shifting also in Europe and interestingly Kering decided to move their head office to Paris. Because they wanted to move everything to Paris, I have to make a decision: do I want to move to Paris to continue this job, which I loved, or do I stay and take a risk to do something else?

Obviously, personal reasons is one of the reasons we make decisions in a different way. And ultimately, I was at a moment where I was getting my residency in UK. So, if I decided to move to Paris, I would have lost that opportunity for a job and I decided that that's a priority as a personal goal to get my residency. I'd been there already long enough. It doesn't make sense to leave it behind. So I basically said thank you for offering me to come to Paris, but I'm going to stay because I need to put my personal life as a priority.

 Beth:               And what did you find then on the career side?

 Burak:              It was very scary to leave something that you really enjoy doing and it was a really good job to be in. Through my network, talking to several people, there was a nonprofit that I knew and I engaged with in the past called Made-By, that was operating out of London and Amsterdam. And they were basically working on issues of sustainable fashion with the brands that are operating across Europe. And I ended up basically becoming their general manager for their Benelux and Nordic countries, working with close to 10 brands in the region.

This was a great way of transitioning out of a corporate role, taking on a management role in a nonprofit, looking at how to bring change to the industry. So it was another angle into the areas that I always worked in, but wearing a very different hat to be able to do so.

 Beth:               As I think about where you are now, without a doubt, having this experience in everything from venture catalyst to large brand like Gap to luxury brands and now to nonprofit is going to help you in this education role where you're combining all these. Did you have in your mind at all, at this point, that you were going to be putting these pieces together at some point around education?

 Burak:              It naturally evolved to that direction, partly because it's our personal passions that kind of direct us in the direction we need to go. One thing that I've done, especially starting with the time I was at Gucci, I started teaching as a visiting professor. As a matter of fact, it was not required or requested by the company. I was taking personal vacation time and I was doing intensives for a week in Shanghai as well as in south of France.

 Beth:               Why? Why did you decide to use your own personal time to do this?

 Burak:              It was quite exciting to see how the new generation think, but also it was a way for me to stay current because I realized that being in one brand and every person in any brand position faces this challenge, that you're so immersed in your activities within that own brand that you're not necessarily having the time to look around at what's happening. The minute you're in front of a classroom of students, especially if they are doing a master's in the case of what I was teaching, in their late 20s, very well connected, they're aware of what's happening. There's no hiding. Everything you say, they already know if it's true or not or if it's current or if it's something that's innovative. So it really pushed me to do my homework, be able to bring them new ways of thinking and then really challenged them on even the business models on the projects that they were doing, helped me back in the job that I was doing.

 Beth:               So from Made-By, you do eventually come to Parsons. Tell me how…

 Burak:              What happened in between?

 Beth:               Yeah, what happens in between?

 Burak:              So I forgot to mention while I was at Made-By, I was also doing freelance work for a UN agency. It's called UNCTAD, which is the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, which is an agency working on issues around biodiversity and trade. They actually commissioned me to do a publication on conservation of species through trading in biodiversity. It was looking at issues related to how do you use certain species without endangering them to conserve parts of the world that needs conservation and provides income to local communities.

So, it was very interesting and really forced me to be incredibly academic and very detailed in doing a publication that had to sit on a UN website, of course. But through all this journey, obviously, I was having conversations with many other people in my network and I was, at some point, introduced to somebody from the Swarovski family. So they reached out to me and they said, "We care about sustainability and we would love to implement this across our business. Are you interested in helping us do that?"

Since I've just went through similar journey with Kering, it was a great time for me to say, "Yes, I would love to build the structure for the company." But also I was quite excited to finally work for a brand that was really a heritage brand that was still operating under the same values that it was built on over 200 years ago. They still had the manufacturing facility that the great, great, great grandfather built in Austria in the Alps, and also had one core product, which was a product that was an ingredient to a lot of creative businesses, but also it was a consumer-facing product that you can buy from a store that they operated themselves. In addition to that, they had…

 Beth:               Which is their crystals?

 Burak:              Yes, it is the crystals, but also they had many other B2B businesses as well. They had a division focused on gemstones as well as synthetic gemstones. So it was quite fascinating to go into another side of the creative industry, but also be able to work with a B2B, B2C brand that allowed me to really work closely with, not only manufacturing but also even with the founders, with the whole family, to think about the future of the brand. As a result, it's more about taking the voice of the brand and using it for good beyond just highlighting what they're doing in their supply chain.

 Beth:               It's really quite fascinating how you been in all of these different types of organizations that are in consumer brands. Like you just said, a family owned, a big company like the Gap, a conglomerate, nonprofit. How do you personally learn to get yourself ready for all of these different roles?

 Burak:              I mean, there's no way of preparing what you're going to get into. So, it's more about trusting your gut based on your experience in the past and using that as a way of going in the right direction. Intuition is so important in all the decisions I personally make and obviously it gets better and better in time because we are exposed to a lot of things in our lives. But part of it is also forcing ourselves to have as many experiences as possible so that our intuition and the gut feeling improves.

Through that I started being able to also judge what is the right next thing to do and always reflect back everything that I've done and if it is a natural progression or not, even if it doesn't immediately seem so. Finding those threads around the core things – expertise, skills, and values – that I care about and if I can find connections to whatever I'm going to do next to all of these things that I bring from my past.

So in some ways going into education happened because of that. Naturally people may feel like, "Okay, how does it happen from the industry? Jump into a role like this?" But it was very natural to me because I engaged with the creative industry from every angle, from design to production to materials to all the way to consumers. And when Parsons reached out saying, would I be interested in applying for the role? I said, "I've never thought about it, but I guess it makes sense. I would love to go forward and then learn what the role is about. Also challenge myself on how I can do it better than whoever was in the role before."

As I got into it, it was probably the most rigorous interview process that I had to go through. Quickly learned that I had to do a thing called a "job talk." Basically you're doing a public talk as part of your interview process to all of the faculty in the school and explaining why you're the right fit for the role and then everybody has opportunity to give feedback on it that goes into the review process with the committee.

So it was the longest interview process I had. I was at the school from 7:00 AM until 7:00 PM. I probably, overall, talked to or engaged with over a hundred people and I didn't know what was going to come out of it. But it was a great experience for me to push myself to convince people why I think I was the right person, which led me to really say that I can play a role in changing the curriculum with our faculty, bringing different partners, encouraging designers to think differently. Also incentivize them to do good in a different way using design.

 Beth:               The impact you're having is really quite different. Before you were impacting directly a business. Now you're impacting individuals, planting seeds that hopefully are going to go lots of places. How for you, has that transition been around changing the way your work has impact?

 Burak:              More than anything, I'm still a catalyst. If I look at it from day one until now, we always have to play a catalyst role. Nobody knows everything 100% and one thing I learned in the industry, especially in sustainability roles, that you also never want to be the face of the initiatives. It's not about taking credit, but it's about enabling people to do what they need to do.

And in some ways this is the perfect role to be able to do that because I am working with hundreds and hundreds of designers graduating every year, so I am in a position where I'm trying to help give visibility, access, support, and connections to all of these ideas to enable them to become reality. If I can play a small role in any one of these things, I will be satisfied, but ultimately it's their success is not my success.

 Beth:               Do you give any thought to where you might go next?

 Burak:              I see a new kind of ecosystem being created for the creative industries and I'm quite excited to be part of that in any shape or form. It can even include education as a permanent part of it, but at the same time working with startups. Working on new projects. Bringing people together. Bringing nonprofits, for-profits, multinational organizations together to bring change and still make a living out of that kind of engagement. The world is ripe for that. It is the right moment because technology as well as the flexibility of work enables us to do it in this way.

 Beth:               This goes back to something you said when we were just starting: that you always keep an eye out for what's happening. Where is the activity? Where can I go? Where will it have the most impact? And so you still very much are keeping your finger on the pulse of what's happening in this whole world that may say, what's the right way for you to keep playing in it?

 Burak:              Indeed.

 Beth:               I have just a few last questions for you. What would you say is the smartest career move that you made whether intentionally or by accident?

 Burak:              When I look at my decision of why I wanted to stay in London, I think that was the smart career move because it forced me to think about what I value first. It was the first time I was able to dare to take that kind of a step, which was very scary, but ended up having me work with the United Nations, run a small nonprofit, ultimately led to work with other businesses that really pushed me out of my box.

 Beth:               If you could have one do over, what would it be and why?

 Burak:              I live by one rule. You should never regret any decision you made no matter what the result was.

 Beth:               So even if it's a mistake?

 Burak:              Even if it's a mistake. So it's hard for me to say that I want to do over anything because it would lead me to admit that I made a mistake.

 Beth:               Or that you didn't learn something from that mistake.

 Burak:              Yes.

 Beth:               If you could go back in time to the younger you, even though you really were growing up in a different world, but if you could give your younger you one piece of advice, what would it be?

 Burak:              Clearly, one thing I learned later in life is that don't be afraid to take risk. I pushed myself from day one, but sometimes I was forced into it, but there were a lot of fearful moments. So less fear, more excitement and opportunity.

Today I always tell myself, "If you can feed yourself, if you have a shelter, what else do you need in life? If you secure those things, then there's nothing to be afraid of."

 Beth:               Go ahead and take the risks.

 Burak:              Yes.

 Beth:               And last question. How do you define success?

 Burak:              Well, it's hard to define it, but for me, success is feeling satisfied with what I'm doing. And it's not looking at anybody else's assessment of it.

 Beth:               That's perfect. I've so enjoyed getting to know you. Thank you so much for sharing your story and giving us this time.

 Burak:              Thank you so much.

 Beth:               We hope you’ve enjoyed Burak’s story. We’ve put links to the two publications Burak wrote for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development on our website, careercurves.com, where you also can find a full transcript of this episode, past episodes, and resources to help you in your career.

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