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  • Zeynep Saka, Founder www.newshifts.com, Dubai

    I’m a civil engineer by profession and worked as a procurement executive in construction industry for the most part of my professional career in Turkey, Georgia and UAE. My last role was Head of Procurement, setting up and managing a team of 50 as well as the spending of $2 billion in 2 years. It may not be difficult to guess that I have been mostly the only woman in the rooms of influence and decision-making. As much as it sounds negative, it has also been the reason of my drive: to prove the normality of my presence as an executive in construction.

    Once I felt that it was time for me to take up a new challenge in a different industry, I quit my well-paid senior role, the offers of promotion, and set up my own company in the tech industry. www.newshifts.com

    I have also held a few other “odd jobs” in my past. One of them was, spending two summers at the age 20-21 in the States working in the games on the fairgrounds in various states. That means, I was one of the people calling the visitors to throw the mini basketball through the hoop, or spill the milk bottles with a ball. People who do those jobs are mostly considered losers and crooks I suppose, but contrary to the prejudice against the environment, it was a great experience for learning to read random people and understand how to entertain them.

    Volunteering has also been an important part of my life. I worked at German Red Cross for a few months after a big disaster in western Turkey, and then at few different projects in Africa, as business consultant, teacher and habitat protection researcher. They all gave me the opportunity to look at life from a different perspective and learn to listen.

    Also, I love to give breaks of a couple of months every 3-4 years and travel to a new destination on my own. The reason I love this is because it significantly contributes to self-discovery, digesting the hectic years before and as a lone traveller one truly gets to know the places and the people of those places. So far I have been to 50 countries in 5 continents.

    To summarize my approach towards life, I can say it has mostly been about challenging the assumptions for why something cannot be done and looking for ways of how they can be done.

    How can I grow my career in an environment where my presence is not natural? How can I be a lone female traveller anywhere in the world despite the general belief that it’s neither safe nor fun?

    Assumptions are useful to keep in mind but in my experience they are not always the best way to reach a goal, or be a part of a good story.

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