-Tell me about you brie -Tell me about you briefly Eda?
OK Well, I was born in Izmir and have bachelor degree in Textile Chemistry Engineering in Ege University between 1997-2002. I studied 1 year German Preparation Class to have technical German class in Uni.
- How is your German right now?
- I took German class for 5 years and plus did my intern in Germany for about 3 months which made my German quite fluent. I had awarded full-fee waiver scholarship from company and worked in several departments of SAHINLER GROUP EUROPE in Wurselen. However I didn't use my German in my recent positions so I may need time to practice and make it as it was.
- Why did you study Textile Engineering as you are doing something different now?
- As I have grown up as a daughter of respected tailor in between fabrics, buttons and fashion magazines in front of the mirror, I was thinking fashion is my destiny. With an engineering background, it was a perfect fit for me considering my Dad was a Chemistry Prof! In my last years in University, especially after my intern in Germany, I felt I am more good at business part of Textile so I got my major in Turkish Textile Investments in Foreign Countries.
- How did you met with your first employer NEXT?
- I met with NEXT in University Career Days and without even looking for a job, I began working in one of the UK's largest fashion and home retailer as soon as I graduated. And moved to Istanbul!
My main task was liaising with designer, adapting designs to suit production methods and developing initial samples accordingly.
As garment tech of related product group (womenswear, menswear etc)
• Undertook quality evaluation of the materials
• Checked the final product quality
• Communicated NEXT standards with the suppliers ( for ex. organized training sessions, made SWOT Analysis)
- What did you like about working in NEXT as you worked about 3.5 years?
- It was a hands on experience for me as a new graduate because it was a corporate environment which provided me challenging and rewarding working experience. What I liked most in working in NEXT was London Head Office Visits. It was a chance to observe how a big organisation operates in terms of consumer based merchandise and retail systems. I attended in many project based meetings (customer returns, production problems, fashion trends in specific product group) - all this experience gave me strategic thinking about sourcing.
- Why did you leave NEXT?
- When I was working in NEXT, Shaya had not opened NEXT Retail Stores in Turkey yet. So I was literally far away from end customer which I felt that I cannot experience the outcome of our endeavors. So I looked for a position which would enable me to communicate directly with the end customer and also give me an experience to work with a budget which means your success would be proportional to your product group's sale performance.
- So you accepted LC Waikiki's offer?
- Exactly! Tema Group`s (LCW) offer was more than a perfect fit for me because they offered me a position which was assistant product manager of a newly launched brand X-side.
My challenge was launching a start-up fashion brand in an already cluttered street fashion industry. So as well as working directly in product range planning, also assisted in launching comprehensive marketing plan to strategize the national launch.
To summarize what I did was;
• Worked with inhouse and outside designers to create new test designs, prepare collection inspired by trends, fashion fairs like Pret A Porter, Premier Vision in France.
• Worked in follow up production, on-time delivery, ensure quality
• Followed competition; Visited street and Mall stores, worked on prices.
A year later, Buying and Merchandising Director Philip Anthony Walker from Marks and Spencer was transfered to our company. All buying and merchandising team organisation was revised and I became Buyer of womenswear woven departmant in terms of sourcing and sales performance rather than a specific brand.
We had a matrix organization which means I was reporting to an Indian Sourcing Manager Mr.Vaira Moorthy about buying and sourcing strategy ( Far East, Sri Lanca, Bangladesh factories) and was reporting to an English Product Director Ms.Parveen Shaffiabout collection, design and customer issues.
I had a team of 5 people – garment technicians, fabric technicians, assistant buyers and designer/d.assistants.
-What did you like about working in LC Waikiki?
- What I liked most about LCW was to have chance to see the direct outcome of your work. We were managing three seasons at the same time but you witness one garment lifetime from being test design, through buying and sourcing and in store – most of the time you could watch a client wearing and commenting in front of the mirror of the fitting room of the store.
Everything was going well except the long working hours but considering the amount of responsibility and satisfaction that comes with the job, it balanced out the negatives. Even I decided to receive MBA degree to develop a wider perspective about my career!
-What was your major during your MBA study?
-My major was Retail Merchandise Management. As I was graduated from engineering, most of MBA lessons like Accounting, Economy, Human Resources helped me a lot to develop myself and gave me a different perspective.
-Why did you leave LC Waikiki since you were so happy about your job description and the working environment?
-Yes, you are totally right. Every position that I worked so far is very much appreciated but LCW has always been special for me. I regard this company as Unilever , P&G or Ulker business model of textile sector in terms of diversity (multinational colleagues) and people investment strategy.
With this in mind, one day I got a telephone call from HR Manager of BGN who was offering me a position as “Retail Manager”. The level of responsibility I had given was huge and they told me they need my NEXT and LCW experience to settle down their retail system. Both of these companies were renown for their written system culture in Textile Sector.
I understood that I had the experience of the whole retail circle which lasted about 5 years – which is really precious for this sector.
-It would be your first “Manager” experience” right?
-Yes. They offered me a great salary as well as wonderful training opportunities for my career growth. During that time, BGN was a ten year old French based company who had achieved to take Turquality support from government. Brand had grown up mostly in wholesales in Russia & Ukraine and most franchise stores were not managed professionally so far. Turquality was meaning to open more stores abroad with %50 support from government.
My challenge was working with a professional consultant whilst settling retail system both in HO and stores. I had a team of 4-5 people. As BGN was operating in France, Poland and Turkey with its own stores, it would be my first internatonal retail management experience.
It looked like a chance but also risk of my lifetime. I had worked in big organizations and comparatively small Textile investments has always risks in terms of management culture. But as a great risk taker who wanted to taste to be a big fish in a small pond accepted the position.
-You worked in BGN about 1.5 years. What did you do there?
First 6 months passed hard but satisfying because I was so excited about my job description-launching a brand new organization set up. Started with preparing BGN Retail Manual- beginning from brand philosophy, brand history, job descriptions, retail operation procedures and system. ( HR Details to IT Systems)
As a member brand of Turquality, I worked with Deloitte on how to improve processes all over the company. There had been published a five year development plan. Not only Retail department but also other departments had many homeworks to do besides daily routine. Within the scope of this development plan, I had prioritized “Business Intelligence : Merchandising System Analysis” which means to show the development in numbers and understand the requirements in order to achieve sales targets. I decided to work with a consultant who was my colleague in LCW –Cemil Yildiz is an expert on below subjects :
• Developing Merchandise Management and Planning Systems, such as Allocation, Replenishment, Financial Planning, Assortment Planning, Item Planning
• Developing special forecast systems for fashion products.
• Developing store capacity management system based on linear meter methodology.
• Implementing Axapta ERP system for retail sector.
I published one of our presentations in linkedin. Besides Cemil Yildiz, I transferred one of my other colleagues from LCW – Ismail Hakki Tok to be a Country Manager of Poland. He moved to Poland with great motivation and excitement to succeed – he stayed with company for 3 years and achieved many countable results.
When you have projects growing on your fingertips and manage to enjoy every minute at work, it is not always easy to limit your office hours to a reasonable number. Sometimes you need to fight hard!
-You’ve mentioned `countable results`. Can you name any countable results which you achieved in BGN?
-Well, I can tell my three main focus areas which I can explain with numbers.
• Increased sales of company’s flagship store IstinyePark by %200 through training programs, new recruitments and new retail system implementations in Head Office coordinated by my team.
• Launced a new project for the stores with lowest turnover rates. A new concept of outlet for luxury brands as “Season-less Stores”
• Expanded district management responsibility from an initial 3 to 8 retail stores in Poland market despite global economic crisis.
-In line with retail management, did you take part in brand management – any brand activity?
-Yes. I had also chance to work with our marketing agency (IMAGE Public Relations) via our brand manager. We organized many brand activities to increase brand awareness and loyalty with the support of our French designer and trendsetter. For ex. Organizing trend presentations in Istinyepark Masa Restaurant, initiating BGN VIP Cards as a first step of CRM Activity.
-So you stayed with company for 1.5 years. What was the main reason of your leave?
-I can say Global Economic Crisis. Due to crisis, company began to lose money especially from wholesale – franchise business which effected long-term retail system investments. My team was concerned about their future career and some of them decided to leave.
My teamwork perception has always been like this : Each person owns the part of the business and has an influence in the overall decision process. This is not only inspiring but it motivates the get the best solutions. Even in these conditions, we managed to succeed in many projects from sales figures to brand activities in the trade.
When I felt that I am out of my depth,I decided to quit. I had faced steep learning curve which was really stressful at times. But I appreciate my BGN experience because I learned to cope with the stress and turn it into your advantage. You need to learn to work under pressure. It’s not a job for the weak spirited!
-So this is your last Textile company. You decided to quit this sector. Why?
- The moment of giving that decision, I was in contact with one of my colleague whom I regard as my mentor. He was working in Strategic Planning in Ulker at that time, now he is Director in Corporate Strategy Yildiz Holding. He was constantly advising me to pursue a career in Strategic Marketing and Consumer Insights. I quited BGN and began to invest in myself for a different subject. I started to read many books of Jack Trout & Al Ries ( for ex. 22 immutable ways of Marketing, The Warfare) Buyology by Martin Lindstrom, Why we Buy by Paco Underhill and Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers!
I became member of Marketing Turkey Magazine and attended a certificate program “Being Marketing Genius” by Egitisim Career Institute – accredited by European School of Economics. In this program, I met with many young professionals in Marketing Sector who broaded my vision about future and decided to quit Textile Sector and seek for my soul company who wants to add vitality to life by helping look good, feel good and get more out of life!
During this process, I was refusing job offer of different Textile Companies but helping PWC’s Textile Sector project as a freelance consultant.
-How did you start working in Altinbas? Why Jewellery Sector?
-It was not a planned company and sector, frankly speaking. I met with CEO of the company via Linkedin and he offered me a position to be a part of company’s transformation project. He was aiming to build a Retail System working professionally as Jewellery Store rather than a traditional store which is selling mostly via bargain. Altinbas had 15 stores owned by company and he wanted me to manage these stores while settling down a Retail System – these stores were called pilot stores and huge franchise system had been planned to run like pilot stores when system is settled down.
-I guess plan did not work?
-Unfortunately. Although jewellery sector is one step back in terms of corporate management culture considering Textile Sector, I had a big motivation. Because Altinbas was such a big group who was representing our country in various other competitive markets like NCTR,USA, Germany.Bulgaria, Romania and Macedonia with 60 years knowledge and experience. I was believing brands should bring innovative ideas to proactively drive jewellery sales in the same way all other luxury businesses do. To effectively sell diamond jewellery one must uphold certain standards of excellence. So I was looking forward to work with a mission to build such retail system to achieve this excellence!
But just my luck, after 2 months , CEO left the company. And my mission was disappeared in short period of time. It became a routine follow-up area management so I had to quit.
-So you proceeded to look for your soul company?
-Exactly. In the meantime, my sister had decided to study MBA in North Caroline/USA so it was a good time to support her and we went to USA. My sister Elcin Vardar had graduated from Economy in Bogazici University and had 3 years Deloitte experience as a Consultant. It was right time to start MBA for her career and right time for myself to look at my career from abroad and decide what to do!
-Is Gratis found you or you applied for a position?
-Actually I applied to Category Manager position. My interviews passed great, Category Director ( Saruhan Kaan Ekinci) requested me to join the company but with a different position. He adviced me to Deputy General Manager ( Aykut Demirci) who was responsible for Operations and I joined Gratis as a Area Manager responsible for sales management of 8 stores.
I had no direct experience as a Category Manager in FMCG sector so I agreed with Saruhan bey’s preference and I now think that starting from area – close to client – was the greatest idea to learn FMCG Retail Business for myself. I had no direct experience in area management,too but I somehow broke new ground! After one year, I was ready to work in Head Office and looking forward to catch a chance!
-This chance came from Human Resources Departman rather than Category?
-Exactly. I was so eager to start working in HO so I didn’t place great importance on the position so I accepted to build Training Departman which ran mostly like Sales and Business Development. Coming from sales ground, I placed a high value on Product and Sales Attitude Trainings.
My motivation was to assert myself in companywise in business development issues. My Ex-Manager who is Deputy GM in Operations gave great support.
I organized many sales-focussed and effective Product Trainings with many suppliers like Unilever, P&G, Loreal, Max Factor, Henkel, Eczacibasi-Nivea etc. While determining the training calendar, I had to work closely with Category Management due to campaign timings. Knowing sales ground helps you come with genuine ideas about campaigns and running system.With support of Demir Sabanci, I worked with many consultants regarding Sales Training.
• Friedman Group, USA – Gold Star Selling Training by Yatish Chandrasekhar
• Gratis Selling Training based on Transactional Analysis by Prof.Dr. Azmi Varan, Ahmet Oztan
-How did your team named as Learning and Development?
-With the arrival of new Consultant Patricio Porras. He had worked with Demir Sabanci while founding Teknosa Academy. When he started to work with Gratis, me and my team started to report him and gained new responsibilities.
Because building Academy is a great project that focuses not only store people but also Head Office Staff including department managers. In one day, I had started to work like a consultant assistant. I had a comprehensive background and this new mission fits perfectly with me. Patricio was a great mentor and I learned not only professional tips but also lifetime lessons! Working in these positions is like walking on rope whose end is at the hand of the boss and his management culture.
On April, L&D Department was being decided to close by top management due to strategical reasons and I was offered to work with area sales team . It was a decision of organizational set up. Since this change meant backward step for my career, I decided to take my compensation and had to quit.
I appreciate my Gratis experience like my prior companies because it showed me once again that working with a professional team in a corporate company is extremely important asset which supports and strengthens the individual success!
-So you are now open to new challenges now?
-What inspires me for seeking different challenge now is knowing that I have more to offer and more to achieve! If you are looking for a all-in-one employee who can think out-of-box as she developed her brain by working multi-sectored, multi-positioned and multi-disciplinary so far, you’d better call me and hire me as soon as possible! Time is Cash!
EDIT. SEPT .2013
- Technology Sector? Wow you have a multi-sectored experience, why and how Apple?
- Actually Michael Page did it. I always advice young professionals to work with head hunters as new challenges can find you more easily. One day I got a phone call from my consultant and I met with my new bosses.
- Can you please explain us your new challenge?
- Sure. Pupa is Apple Premium Reseller which means a kind of Apple franchise. We have 12 stores; 4 in Istanbul 8 in other cities of Turkey. I'm mostly focussed on Program Management ; it is like being Apple Representative working in Pupa. You are a guarantee of Pupa store management cycle which should be in line with Apple procedures.
-What do you like about working in PUPA?
-Retail is detail. When the brand is Apple, this detail part is a lot more detailed. But all you need in my position to be successful is to do a good follow-up. You learn the dynamics and follow up the procedures ( or sometimes you build up procedures for our company). Pupa is founded in 2006 but for the last 2 years time, they began to invest in real corporate vision. Opening of Apple own stores is a big reason for this investment. So what I like in working Pupa is I saw that I have chance to use my retail experience even in a different sector. So I feel more confident that I was because I now can say I have multi-disciplinary point of view in business life.
As per my motto in business life, you don't get what you deserve in business life, you get what you negotiate. Hope I can negotiate this time, what I think I deserve!