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CEO, alum bring Turkish flavor to Sloan council

The newest member of the Sloan School Dean's Advisory Council - and the first from Turkey to serve on the key board that helps shape Sloan's direction - hopes to use his new post to benefit both the school and his country.

"I hope to serve as a kind of mediator who brings a totally different angle to the table," said Ferit Sahenk, chairman and chief executive officer of Dogus Holdings, the parent company of the Istanbul-based Dogus Group of Companies. "The world needs better understanding between organizations such as ours and think tank operations such as Sloan. MIT is a very important institution not only for the United States, but for educating intellectual capital all over the world."

During a whirlwind day of meetings with Sloan students, faculty and others last Tuesday, Sahenk was accompanied by a team of Dogus officials, including Sloan alumna Ozlem Denizmen (M.B.A. 1999). As vice president of strategy and business development for the Dogus Group, which employs 20,000 people and lists assets of $18.3 billion, Denizmen is one of Sahenk's top advisors. She shares Sahenk's conviction that Turkey is emerging not only as a major global consumer, but as a place for business students to fully apply their skills and training.

"When I decided to return to Turkey [in 1999], I thought it was the right timing to bring back some of the knowledge I got here at MIT," said Denizmen. "What I do at Dogus is not so different from what I was used to when I worked on Wall Street. What matters to me is not so much where I work but the wavelengths that surround me. I would suffocate working in any organization that was not open-minded, no matter where it is. Dogus is very open-minded."

While conventional thinking might assume that a woman would face major hurdles in a country such as Turkey, Denizmen reports the opposite experience. "I felt far more aware of being a woman when I was working on Wall Street," she said. "I see no glass ceiling where I am now."

Sahenk, whose father founded Dogus in 1951, is breaking his own corporate ground in Turkey. Dogus Holdings, for example, is the only Turkish conglomerate to be audited under international standards. To Sahenk, meeting such standards is critical not only to good corporate governance, but to effective global commerce.

"The most important thing for companies that want to be part of the global process is to exist not only for today, but for tomorrow," he said. "Corporate governance is good for companies. It causes better decision-making and a better future for all the stakeholders involved."

As the Sloan School redesigns its curriculum, Denizmen suggested more case studies that focus on international issues and companies. And Sahenk urged the school to seek out more international companies for on-campus visits.

"Business school students always see and learn about American corporations," he said. "Foreign students can relate to foreign companies. They can get both comfort and motivation if more of them were to come here."

Sahenk envisions a not-too-distant future in which Turkish companies will be actively recruiting MBAs. And Denizmen is pleased by her decision to defy author Thomas Wolfe's claim that you can't go home again. "Yes, you can go home again," she said. "And you can be very happy at it."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 4, 2002.

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