Q: How did you come to lead Qlik’s Research team?
Elif: My journey as a Product Leader has been quite diversified. I’ve worked in product management, technical product marketing, design, product development and now research. I attribute much of this success to my personality; my willingness to take on new challenges and constantly learn new skills and to walk unchartered paths.
I joined Qlik 9 years ago and currently I am the Head of Qlik Research.
Q: As someone with passion and experience working in the tech industry, what has your personal journey as a female leader in the field been like?
Elif: Through my career, I was fortunate enough to be able to have different roles and positions in Product and R&D organizations. I think this is also mostly because of my personality - I like to take challenges and always yearn to learn new skills. I also like to walk into uncharted paths. For me, analytics and data technologies is a fascinating field because of the pace of change, the need for high adaptability and the possibility to always work on new things. That’s why I also love my current role at Qlik Research.
I had challenges during my career, but I do not think I had them because I am female. I actually believe that it is easier to grow and develop as a female leader in the tech industry than in other more traditional sectors, due to the dynamic nature and pace of the sector, the need for innovation, and the overall inherent speed. Looking back, and perhaps still, I recognize that some of the challenges I faced were often self-inflicted, like work-life balance issues or being impatient.
Q: During your tenure at Qlik and your overall experience, what were some key lessons that you learned along the way?
Elif: Understanding perspectives. Perspective is the way individuals see the world. It comes from their personal point of view and is shaped by life experiences, values, current state of mind, assumptions they bring into a situation - a whole host of things. For me, there's great value in recognizing different perspectives because it enables me to hear, see and react to things very differently.
I learned this from my mom. She was the role model for me, and I think one of the reasons why I am a creative person. She taught me how to be passionate in everything I do, how to have a glass half full attitude and how to look at things from a different perspective. I think these learnings helped me a lot in my career. I lost her to cancer. She passed away 2 days before my birthday and her funeral was on my birthday. I guess this was her way of saying to look at things from “different perspective.”
I have always been inspired by women who were pioneers, strong, and perseverant, while cognizant that they might never be recognized for what they did in their lifetime. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had a devoted, loving mother – courageous, visionary, strong, perseverant and ‘in service’ to me, to her family and to others.
Q: What advice would you give to other women looking at a career in the data and analytics field?
Elif: We are at the beginning of fourth industrial revolution, and Data is fuel for this revolution. This era is already cataloguing a long list of emerging technologies and industries, with advancements in AI, Machine Learning, Robotics, and the Internet of Things – which all have data at their heart.
According to a recent study by Kaggle, females represent just over 16% of data scientist jobs. I think the fourth industrial revolution is our chance to change that. It will provide us with an opportunity to learn new skills, build new jobs requiring unique skills combinations that don’t exist today, and explore talent that we didn’t know about.
I believe building the future of women in data would require continuous learning, so be curious and passionate to develop new skills. It is never too late to learn a new skill. I got my first computer when I was 18 years old, and wrote my first line of code when I was 19. And still every day, I look for opportunities to learn new things – I am always a “student.”
It's also essential to focus on more than analytics and data skills. Work on your creativity and design skills. Making AI more human-friendly or building new technologies to augment humans requires all of this. Stay curious and focus on balancing your skills with wild creativity, with practical data science and with business knowledge.
Q: What are your driving passions beyond data analytics and technology?
Elif: I like going for long walks. It helps me to “unplug.” I am a big believer that idleness makes our brain more active. I really think it helps me “connect the dots” that I would not be connecting otherwise!