Needless to say, we're living in unprecedented times. The impact of the world's events on our daily life is real and tangible and can easily take us down a path of pessimism and helplessness.
But because we're on a mission to gain a higher perspective on things in order to solve them, we asked one of our most human-centric employees, Talent Acquisition Manager Tomris Özge Göksen, how to stay grounded when everything around us is shaking.
Spoiler alert: things are still looking up.
Q: What's your role at UP42, and how did you get there?
A: I'm a Talent Acquisition Manager at UP42. I joined a little over a year ago as a working student. At that time, I was completing my Master's in Leadership and Human Resource Management while looking for an opportunity to break into the industry. When I came across UP42, I fell in love with their HR team and didn't think twice about my choice. After seven months, my role became full-time, and I am very excited about my progress.
Q: Tell us a bit more about your background. Why did you choose a career in HR?
A: I'm actually a social scientist. I studied Political Science and International Relations and then moved to Budapest for my Master's in Sociology and Social Anthropology. I've always wanted to work with people and have tried different things, but finding my path wasn't easy. I worked with NGOs and for EU and UN-funded projects to help vulnerable people. I even worked in market research with a group of anthropologists, studying tea farmers on the Black Sea and presenting our insights to big brands. It was an interesting mix of experiences, but I eventually landed in HR, which is still very focused on humans.
Q: What made you feel so enthusiastic about our HR team?
A: Being the key team to grasp a company's culture, I found its members very authentic and transparent. During the interview, not only did they share what I could expect from the role but also my possible career development. As a working student, I wasn't very experienced, so that was eye-opening for me. Even from a product perspective, I could tell the connection to the company's purpose was strong. I remember being invited to a Friday celebration, where people usually share their achievements from the last two weeks: everyone was genuinely excited, asked curious questions about the projects, and seemed passionate about the product. I'd never seen anything so authentic. So REAL! I still feel the same today, which makes me very optimistic about our impact at UP42.
Q: Who or what influenced your professional development?
A: Growing up, I saw my mother, a social worker and somewhat workaholic, dedicate her life to children without families. I was raised to empathize with these children and developed my resilience. I have a fond admiration for those who are able to show vulnerability and make an impact at the same time. I'm someone who questions myself a lot, and I'd love to get to a point where I can preserve that side of me while showing a certain level of perseverance. I think it's related to the Zeitgeist -- this current movement that encourages us to reconsider our vulnerability as a strength rather than a weakness. At a macro level, this is the reason why we now feel comfortable with this mentality. Personally, my experience helped me a lot in this shift. I am not just Tomris: I am also a woman, an immigrant, and a late bloomer in my career. I'm over 30 now, but I've seen and done things that made me who I am today.
Q: How difficult is it for a woman to be vulnerable in the workplace?
A: I consider myself a woman in tech, even though my role is supporting those who work hands-on with the product. I help them grow in their field and become a part of this community. Sadly, ours is a very male-dominated industry. When I look at the numbers, I can see a problem. So I always try to keep that in mind when I interview a candidate. There are structural reasons at the root of this issue (opportunities, patriarchy), but from my personal experience, I know there's a very common phenomenon among women called "impostor syndrome." To put it bluntly, my experience working with men is very different from working with women. We tend to doubt our abilities and develop unhealthy language because of that. When something doesn't work out, our immediate reaction is, "What did I do wrong? How can I fix this?" Perhaps if more women acknowledged this issue more openly and tried to change that language collectively, the next generation would be better equipped to start their careers without this self-imposed obstacle.
Q: What challenges do you face in your current role, and how do you overcome them?
A: The market itself is a challenge. This is not just specific to UP42 but the entire corporate world. Covid has changed how we work, and what we thought was working before has been disrupted. Now, we're at a stage where it's not just the post-pandemic uncertainty that affects us. The impact of the war in Ukraine, the inflation, the general layoffs, the incoming recession: there's always something new that adds up. We must react quickly to adversity, even when we don't know what's ahead. I am learning how to be open and comfortable with such volatility. I try not to overthink what happens next because I simply don't know it. I am even disconnecting myself from social media and embracing a "going with the flow" mantra.
Q: What helps you stay grounded in all of this?
A: I recently found myself re-considering my values. They are the only things I can stick to with so much turmoil around me. When I'm about to react to an event too quickly, I go back to my values, my North Star, so to speak, and respond based on those, not on external forces. Personal integrity, I believe, is my strongest value. When making a decision, I try to ensure that my actions are consistent with my words and see if I've done the right thing.
Q: What would you say to job-seekers in light of the current situation?
A: Whatever happens, it's got nothing to do with you. You cannot control adverse events, but you can manage your reaction to them. And when you think you've missed out, there is where the opportunity lies. It may turn out to be a good thing for you in the long term. Looking back, I'm happy to have found an opportunity at UP42 where I know I'm making an impact on my team, the industry, and my own career.