Dilek Akca can’t help but come back to consultancy, but as she tells Rob Sandall, her reasons for doing so are as varied as the roles she has undertaken.
Dilek is sounding cheery and chatty over the phone, which I’ve been told to expect, such is her optimistic reputation. It’s a worldview at least partly shaped by a career that has taken Akca across the world, working with businesses concerned with anything from handbags to impact investing, largely fuelled by the flexibility of consulting work.
“I originally moved to London from Turkey – Citibank’s office in the capital meant time abroad and the chance to work with people from hugely differing backgrounds and cultures,” she says.
“But while Citibank is a big place and provided me with some wonderful opportunities, being in commercial banking meant I didn’t have too much of a chance to connect with clients on the level I wanted.
“I decided to apply for an MBA at London Business School, further immersing myself in international environments and challenging myself to take different classes and courses outside of my experience at the time, primarily concentrating on entrepreneurship and private equity.
“As part of that course, in my second year I pitched an online fashion business selling handbags, which was selected for the LBS incubator.
“That gave me the opportunity to work alongside accounting and branding consultants and gain experience as I went along, and I switched out of banking entirely to focus on the business.”
“Meanwhile, though, I still needed to support myself financially, and at this point consultancy was the obvious choice,” she says.
“I received an email introducing Talmix (then MBA and Co.) in the year it started trading in Europe , inviting people like us to put our time, knowledge and skill sets to good use with other companies who needed help.
“From there, I found a private equity project in Western Europe – a group looking for a grad student to help them understand investment potential in Europe and the US, specifically in the secondary private equity market.
“That initial two-month project became a seven-month project, and it was a good chance for me to see another private equity firm in action, and to learn from working with a different business and different people.”
That sense of personal development, alongside the obvious financial stability that consultancy brought with it, saw Akca adopt a similar approach when the time came to leave London.
"I got married, and my husband was headhunted by a bank, which meant the both of us moving to Singapore," she says.
"I took up projects for startups as an independent consultant, working for three years across ecommerce companies and impact investment funds, understanding what was out there and essentially conducting forays into company culture.
“It's a great way of understanding who you might want to work for on a longer-term basis without committing to full time roles straight away.
Following a year with Evernote’s Asian branch, Akca became pregnant, and is currently focussing on her role as an ambassador with Talmix, working with regional offices of big businesses and to help them understand the power of the on-demand workforce.
“Many employers and employees are already benefitting from the move to this level of flexibility,” she says.
“Not every business is aware of that model of working, but it’s certainly not too hard to help them understand where the positives are. Ultimately, it’s a good way of working for everyone, and I suspect the uptake of finding talent in this way will continue to gain momentum.”
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