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Ten Questions

June 21, 2011 4:19 pm

Ten Questions - Guliz Schaefer

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Guliz Schaefer

Guliz Schaefer: “Setbacks just help us to learn a new skill”

Guliz Schaefer is the head of internal communications for refining and marketing business at BP, the global energy group, where she has worked for 15 years. Before this she held a variety of operational, sales and marketing roles.

Ms Guliz grew up in Istanbul before moving to the UK. She has a degree in psychological counselling from Istanbul University and a degree in internal communications management from Kingston University in the UK. She recently attended a workshop for women leaders at Threshold, a company specialising in communication and behaviour change.

1. What academic achievement are you most proud of?

I had a gap year just after joining university and in order to re-enter, I had to pass 13 subjects. I passed 12 out of 13 but because I scored well they gave me a second chance and I passed the 13th. What I’m proud of is that I did this while taking care of my one-year-old baby. Then history almost repeated itself: I had my second child three years ago and did my post grad degree in internal communications management during my maternity leave!

2. What is the strangest thing you have ever done when studying?

I sat in on psychiatry classes for mentally ill patients at the medical school where we had to spend time with case studies. It was an amazing experience.

3. What is your biggest lesson learnt?

There is no such thing as ‘failure’. Setbacks just help us to learn a new skill and get stronger, so there’s no point in looking back and judging yourself or others from where you stand now.

4. What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher?

My first teacher was very keen to make sure we all learnt how to write well. She would say: ‘’you must make sure you write with great attention to detail. Punctuation and capital letters should always be used correctly! Don’t just watch what you say; watch how you say it too, even if you are writing on scrap paper. Every word will leave an impression on the person reading it.’’ It must have influenced me, because I even try to do this when typing text messages!

5. What advice would you give to women in business?

We should stop emphasising the differences between men and women. I sometimes feel that by focusing on this subject we are making things worse for ourselves. We all know male colleagues at work who are like us, who think like us, who agree with us. If we’re not choosing to be an engineer or tanker driver why moan about the disproportionate number of men and women in these roles?

At Threshold, I learnt that women should not have to behave more like men in business in order to succeed; they should use their own powerful instincts. However, if they feel that these can be further strengthened by adopting a few typically male characteristics, then go right ahead! I subscribe to this view.

6. How do you deal with male-dominated environments?

I was born in Turkey and came from quite a traditional family. However, I didn’t recognise or tolerate male authority and I was seen as a ‘rebel’ as a result. This is probably one of the reasons why I decided to move out of the country. There needs to be some basic rules, including respect, fair treatment and equal opportunity. If these are in place, then it is up to us.

7. What is the last book you read?

Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada

8. Where is your favourite place to study?

Istanbul of course! I would not change the morning trips on the Bosphorus to the university. Enjoying a cup of Turkish tea and a pastry for breakfast and reading my morning paper at the back of the ferry, while watching the sea gulls chasing the bread crumbs, watching other people and admiring the beautiful houses by the shore.

9. Are you studying for anything now?

I am learning German. What a language. Although it really is interesting, it is difficult. You can make a word from five different words. Apparently learning a new language at a later stage in life is a great exercise for keeping the brain active. Well, it is a bit like fitness - you have to do it.

10. What is your plan B?

If I’d listened to my dad when I was 18, I would have studied law and become a lawyer. But who knows I might still do it!

Compiled by Charlotte Clarke

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