Alumni International Career Perspectives: Europe TXT

Transcript for "Alumni International Career Perspectives: Europe" episode.

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Thank you for tuning into our third podcast series, featuring Smeal international alumni, supporting lifelong learning and business career development for alumni and friends of the Smeal College of Business. This series showcases the successful, diverse alumni who have launched careers throughout the world. Follow our three episodes releasing in mid September, October, and November. 

Then, on November 13 at noon Eastern Standard Time, tune in for a live lifelong learning webinar with supply chain alumna, Meg Alderman, who was a senior consultant in supply chain management for Deloitte Switzerland. The webinar will focus on a current supply chain topic. Like our podcast episodes, Smeal lifelong learning webinars are free. 

I am your host, Cindi Satterfield, Senior Programs Manager for Smeal Alumni Career Services. And I'm very excited to be working with alumni around the world to showcase the diversity at the Smeal network. Today, I am talking with Cem Turan, a 2006 Smeal graduate working as Head of Financial Service Research and Corporate and Institutional Banking Specialist, at Oliver Wyman in London United Kingdom. 

Cem started out his career at Deloitte as a consultant, in 2009, and worked his way up to the Manager of Financial Services Research, before leaving the company for his current role. While attending Smeal, Cem was an international student. He went on to get his MBA from the Katz School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh, graduating in 2009. 

Welcome, Cem. We are so excited to be talking with you today. My international alumni connections, through LinkedIn and other platforms, are one of the favorite parts of my position here at Smeal. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your work story? 

Hi, Cindi. Thanks for having me on the Smeal podcast series. I'm so excited to be part of this program. My name is Cem Turan. I live in London. I love sports, food, movies, as well as traveling, which is why I've been moving around the world. It's a bit of a bug, really. And I truly feel blessed to be able to pursue a competitive career and experience different cultures, at the same time. 

To begin with, I started off at Deloitte after graduate school in Central Europe. I was based in Prague. I worked on strategically important projects for the firm, focusing on areas such as key account programs, client service assessments, and brand equity, across the whole Central European region, which really gave me a good understanding around how to target and meaningfully serve clients. 

I then transitioned into research, which is quite the different field, focusing on primarily financial technology-- now, it's primarily called fintech --publishing talk pieces around topics such as open banking, digital payments, alternative or marketplace lending. 

It's been very interesting to meet up-and-coming fintech players trying to innovate and disrupt banking, as well as talking to some of the established incumbents-- the traditional banks --on how they're embracing emerging technology and consumer trends. 

I then moved to Oliver Wyman, my current role as a Corporate and Institutional Banking Specialist, getting involved in projects, aiming to shape strategies that address organizational and business optimization challenges. And, currently, I'm wearing sort of two hats. I'm also managing the London based Financial Services Research Team for Oliver Wyman. 

Very interesting. In a past conversation, we talked about your home country of Turkey, which is where you grew up, correct? 

Yes, that's correct. I'm originally from Istanbul, Turkey. 

What made you seek out other countries and make career moves, from the US, to cities like Prague and London? 

I've always wanted to live and study abroad-- that desire to move to the US after high school. Later on, after finishing graduate school, I realized that I had the opportunity to work and live in Europe, which took me to Prague. Working with clients and colleagues across Europe was totally an eye-opening experience, and it showed me how, even within such a vicinity, different cultures have different ways of thinking, and working, and more importantly, how things work out smoothly in the end, regardless of all these nuances. 

Of course, that part of the world has played a major role in Western history. Finding out more about the empires that ruled the region, and the two world wars, followed by the Cold War, turned the whole experience into a living history lesson. After some years in Prague, I decided to move to London. 

Being in London has given me a tremendous opportunity to stay abreast with all the cutting edge developments in financial services and technology. I've had the opportunity to work on several very interesting projects, deepening my knowledge on market-shaping topics, such as future of workforce or digital banking. 

From an international perspective, what made you choose to move to the United States to get your education? Why Penn State? 

I think it's still safe to say that the US higher education receives broad international recognition. Broadly speaking, it's more prestigious, versus most other alternatives. The quality of the education programs, the teaching methods, piles are quite high in the US. And this is evident, in most global rankings. 

And to your second question, why Penn State? Again, very well respected, especially by those who are involved in education, consistently ranks competitively on various rankings. Penn State also offers a very high-quality of living. It's safe, a beautiful, high-tech campus, a broad international student base, as well as a very strong alumni network. 

I have to say that Penn State is my happy place. It relaxes me to think about the campus and my time there, at times of stress. 

Since I work with alumni, that's wonderful to hear. You might choose London over New York City, but your heart still has a place for Penn State. That's great. Do you feel your education here has been key to your success? 

Yes. I think my understanding of economic concepts, owing to my education, has always allowed me to get my head around new and complex subjects, where I may not have prior subject matter expertise. 

What is the biggest difference between the career opportunities available in the United Kingdom, as opposed to the United States? 

I suppose the key difference is UK primarily equals London, for international careers. It does offer a truly international experience though. Most services, businesses in London can potentially serve and color a very broad geographic range, from Asia to North America. So career opportunities reflect us. 

On the other hand, while the US can offer more than just one hub, such as New York, San Francisco, or Chicago, broadly speaking, the international coverage will be more America's focus. Then there are significant differences in employment laws and norms that are different around employment termination, maternity or paternity leave, or vacation. 

I'm not an expert, but from experience, I can tell you that the UK offers a more employee-friendly proposition, versus the US. 

I agree that Americans do struggle with work-life balance. Most of your experience has been in London, but can you point out some cultural differences in the workplace, between our two countries? 

Well, culturally speaking, people are a bit more tactful and understated in giving or receiving feedback here, versus the US. The US style of communication is well received. However, is also noted as being more direct and enthusiastic. Average work week probably is a bit shorter here in the UK, versus the US. More people are likely to make use of their lunch break here. We get more vacation days here, even at more junior levels, versus the US. 

While there are similarities between work cultures-- between London and New York, especially, in financial services --I think it's safe to say that here the culture is a little less work hard, party hard. 

Yes, well, whether good or bad, we run at a much faster pace here, in the United States. Well, thanks for sharing those differences. You work in corporate and institutional banking. If someone was interested in getting a job in the UK's financial industry, what skills are in high demand? 

The key, I would say, emerging skills, in addition to more traditional skills, such as analytical thinking or problem solving, are largely geared towards what I would call a future of work, such as more coding. All junior consultants are now being trained in coding language and are able to program. And being able to program is a key skill. 

Additionally, new agile working styles-- which puts emphasis on flexibility, trial and error, cross-functional cooperation --are increasingly more common, versus more traditional, linear waterfall project management. So some level of understanding of agile would be very valuable, as well as coding. 

Do you think these skills apply globally-- coding and agility? 

Yes, I think so. And, if you think about most of the big tech companies that are globally significant, they employee they concepts. They pioneered some of these concepts, in the development of their products and services. While traditional methods are not obsolete-- they're still valid --these new skills are definitely playing a key role globally. 

Cem, how about providing advice or tips on making a career move to the UK? 

I would strongly recommend making use of the alumni network. Smeal has a very broad international alumni reach. Several US companies, especially in financial services, have strong presence in the UK. So I would encourage folks to try and find those opportunities, via their alumni network. 

Thanks to some dedicated alumni, we do have a Smeal business club in the UK. And the dean has visited London and attended at least one of event. You were present, right? 

Yes, that's correct. I met the dean, during both his last two visits. I also had the pleasure of meeting him for coffee at my office, during one of his visits. 

How is the workforce in the UK responding to the need for greater diversity, equality, and inclusion? 

So inclusion and diversity is definitely a top agenda item for businesses in the UK. It's the only way of doing business, where you encourage and involve society, as a whole. This allows individuals be at their best, while allowing all the firms to benefit from all types of personalities and ideas. 

There is a broad understanding and consensus around how multicultural, multidisciplinary, truly diverse teams lead to better outcomes, or in terms of productivity and creativity, as well as well-being and happiness of everyone involved. 

In Europe, you can travel to different countries fairly quickly. Does the closeness of a variety of cultures help with diversity and inclusion in the workforce? 

I think, looking at history, the proximity doesn't necessarily warrant inclusion. However, things are changing quite a bit. And I believe that's why they have awarded the European Union a Nobel Peace Prize, recently, as a peace project. 

Well, that leads us into a question about Brexit. With Theresa May resigning and no Brexit solution in sight, I wanted to address this topic from your point of view. Has the situation affected the banking industry there? And what do you see happening in the future? 

As you know, this is still an ongoing issue. And we all have very limited information. The effect on the banking industry, mainly, has been around all institutions making plans to ensure continuity and access to both EU and the UK markets, at the same time, such as securing banking licenses in different countries. Going forward, what may happen will depend on the final agreement between the new UK government and the European Union. 

To focus on your current position, what projects are you working on now that excite or interest you? 

I've recently been involved in a new Oliver Wyman program called the Forum. You can find out more about this on the link in our Twitter, if you just search for Oliver Wyman Forum. The program focuses on developing innovative solutions to key, emerging problems in business and society, by bringing together leading thinkers, from various backgrounds, aiming to develop inspiring action. 

The program has, so far, focused on two topics, first being city readiness-- exploring the readiness of major cities around the world, in the face of unprecedented technological change. And the second one being mobility-- focusing on understanding and enhancing new mobile technologies, such as autonomous driving and the economic ecosystem they will create. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your future career plans and any trends you are following that you feel are important? 

I follow tech trends and how these trends affect consumer behavior. I've always found behavioral economics and psychology quite interesting. And financial services provision is a changing space where we may see more disruption, over the next decade. I find trying and failing to understand human behavior, and how that's changing in modern times, fascinating. 

I also follow trends around meditation and spirituality. I think more and more companies are putting emphasis on mindfulness and mental health, which is really nice to see. 

For our last question, on a personal note, you have a love of travel. What has been your favorite place to visit, and why? 

Well, a medieval traveler once said, "Traveling first leaves you speechless, and then turns you into a storyteller." While traveling can broaden horizons and allow our personalities to evolve, home, I believe, has a unique foundational impact on our character. They say, "Home is where you go, when you run out of homes." 

Though, my favorite place to visit is Istanbul, which is home to me. And, perhaps, I can share a few fun, little-known facts about Istanbul. To begin with, Istanbul is set on seven hills and was modeled after Rome, inspired by Babylonian astronomy, which recognized five planets along with a moon and a sun. 

Tulips [INAUDIBLE] the first asset bubble and market crash in history, in Holland, was originated from Istanbul. Tulips were imported into Holland in the 16th century. Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Orient Express in a hotel room in Istanbul. And Ernest Hemingway was stationed in Istanbul as a freelance journalist. 

That is fascinating. Thanks for sharing some really great historical facts about Istanbul. That's all the questions we have. Thank you, Cem, for taking the time out of your busy schedule and sharing your knowledge with us today. Your insight into an international career will be food for thought for many alumni seeking a global experience in the United Kingdom. 

Smeal Alumni Career Services produces these online resources to promote lifelong learning, professional development, and help keep up on future business trends. All lifelong learning webinar and podcast recordings, along with more information about Smeal Alumni Career Services, coaching, and programs, can be found by visiting and clicking on the alumni tab to find our website. Or please email us at Alumni Career Services, at