Tendü YoğurtçuTendü Yoğurtçu is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Precisely, a leader in data integrity.

In her role, Tendü drives technology vision, innovation, and expansion strategies for Precisely’s future growth. Tendü combines her previous extensive experience in data management with a deep understanding of customer challenges and market trends to drive the delivery of enterprise software solutions, serving 97 of the Fortune 100.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

Prior to becoming Chief Technology Officer, I served as General Manager of Big Data for Syncsort, the precursor to Precisely, leading the global software business for Data Integration, Hadoop, and Cloud. I previously held several engineering leadership roles at the company, directing the development of the data integration family of products.

In addition to 25+ years of software industry experience, with a focus on Big Data and Cloud technologies, I have also spent time in academics, working as a Computer Science Adjunct Faculty Member at Stevens Institute of Technology. I have a PhD in computer science.

Pushing the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) agenda further is very important to me. Throughout my time at Precisely, I have been committed to building, integrating and inspiring high-performing teams through collaboration, empathy, and focusing on strengths. I pride myself on being a dedicated advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion, both in the workplace and for women in STEM fields around the world. I have co-founded the Precisely Women in Technology programme, with a vision of promoting diversity and women in the workforce as a business imperative.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Being open to non-linear career moves has worked well for me. For major career milestones, I stepped back and thought about my next move, however I didn’t plan it all from day one. For example, taking on the role of General Manager of the Big Data business to lead a global team of R&D, sales and marketing, business development, product management, customer support, and services teams was a major change from just leading R&D. I focused more on my purpose and impact rather than the position I would like to end up in. I kept an open mind for my career path and my plan evolved more around being a major contributor to Precisely’s 10x growth in 10 years as well as driving a culture of innovation and transformation. Building trusted executive-level relationships with customers and partners helped me discover new opportunities for Precisely’s growth as well as for my own career.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Early in my career, there were times that I hesitated to share my proposal or opinion thinking it was not perfect or well thought-out enough. Then I realised I was missing out on opportunities because many less thought-out versions were being shared by the men in the room. So, I learned to separate feelings from fact and started thinking it doesn’t matter if it turns out to be a bad idea or I don’t get the project. Henry Ford once said, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My leadership philosophy is built on creating a culture of innovation by leading with empathy, transparency, and openness to achieve organisational success. I encourage my teams to understand their impact and the meaning of their work, how their innovation and delivery of trusted data help in solving real-world problems, while supporting their continuous development and transformation. I have helped develop many leaders in technology including many women leaders. Prior to a recent transformative acquisition, 35% of R&D and 45% of my leadership team were women – a truly great achievement. My commitment to creating a diverse, fair, and inclusive environment stays the same to advance gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I am a curious and analytical person by nature, and I am a fast learner. Early in my career, taking on stretch assignments and delivering beyond my job responsibilities helped me step into leadership roles. Understanding finance and economics has also been a major contributor to my career growth. As I moved up in leadership, I benefitted most from my master’s degree where I studied aspects of business such as operations research and portfolio management. For example, when I led the technical integration of over 20 acquisitions over the last six years, I had to learn new products quickly, and more importantly I had to make meaningful connections with new talent, while delivering strategic innovation for business growth. Being curious, leading with empathy, understanding other perspectives, and making data-driven decisions helped me grow in my career.

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What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Do your job well, be a team player, and stay open minded about your career. With the current rate of digital transformation, technology is driving every major industry, continuous learning and staying up to date with a rapidly changing technology landscape is very important. Having said that, for exceling in any career, impact and collaboration are key. In today’s world, every business problem requires cross-functional teamwork, hence working in a collaborative way, and applying technology to solve real world problems are critical to success. I also think understanding finance helps advancing in any career as one needs to make cost-benefit decisions on an ongoing basis.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

I’ve worked in the technology industry for more than 25 years, and over this time, I have seen the challenges that women face first-hand. We have been talking about these challenges and low rates of women representation in the technology industry for decades now. It’s an uphill battle to not be seen as a “woman in technology” but to be seen as a “person in technology” that excels at her job. As I moved up in leadership, I realised that I needed to start using my platform to be more proactive and create more awareness around issues such as the gender and equity gaps.

I think these barriers do still exist, partly down to company cultures that still aren’t inclusive enough and partly down to education systems that can be responsible for inadvertently putting girls off STEM careers. It’s important to encourage girls to pursue STEM subjects from an early age. Organisations like Girls Who Code play an important role introducing coding and computer skills to girls at an early age. Precisely is a proud corporate sponsor for the Girls Who Code initiative. I’m also one of the circle leaders for the Bridge to Turkiye Fund, where we focus on providing STEM education opportunities for the underprivileged children in Turkey. I also serve as an Advisory Board member for the School of Engineering and Science at Stevens Institute of Technology, where there is a lot of focus on STEM education for girls.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

Companies need to focus on creating an open and fair environment – providing opportunities for people from different backgrounds, setting examples with leaders, developing recruiting strategies, and embedding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the culture. To do this, they must align their company values more fully with their DEI goals. Setting this tone can only be achieved if the C-suite and other senior executives are on board: diversity and inclusion must be part of a company’s DNA.

But it isn’t up to just one or two prominent role models or influencers to lead change. Research shows that having a diverse team helps innovation and increases productivity, a diverse workforce signifies an attractive work environment for talent and signals competent management for investors. There is growing interest for socially responsible investors and renewed emphasis on DEI as a component of the social pillar of environment, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives.

I strongly believe that everyone plays a critical role in advancing women in the workplace and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion as a business priority. At Precisely, when we noticed the representation of women dropped after a period of transformative M&A activity, I partnered with our female leaders and co-founded the Precisely Women in Technology (PWIT) network. We now have over 200 members including all genders. PWIT connects female employees across the business, providing access to key development initiatives – including executive job shadowing, mentoring schemes, access to exclusive fireside chat events with leading industry experts, and even a book club! It has already helped female employees to feel more empowered in the workplace – providing more opportunities for career advancement. PWIT is part of Precisely’s Diversity & Inclusion Council and ESG initiatives.

We all have a duty to create awareness, keep our teams accountable, and commit to improving women’s representation further.

There are currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

We need to build a bigger pipeline of candidates, the percentage of bachelor’s in computer science degrees held by women in 2021 was 18%. The percentage of women in computer and information technology majors dropped significantly over the last couple of decades. We need to introduce coding and computer science at an early age by making computer science part of the high school curriculum. According to a report published by Accenture and Girls Who Code, 50% of women who take a tech role drop it by the age of 35. One of the contributors to this is the difficulty in advancing to management and leadership roles. We need to invest in early-in-career programmes to help develop women into leadership roles, create a flexible and supportive environment for mothers returning from parental leave, drive an inclusive culture where diversity and individuality are encouraged, and build a diverse leadership team that provides role models. I’m proud to say I am working for a company where 31% of the overall workforce is currently female and 27% of executives, senior-level and management positions are women – and it doesn’t stop there! We are committed to improving female representation even further, with the India leadership team recently raising the bar by achieving 62% women hires through their campus hiring programme.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Firstly, you must excel in what you are doing and immerse yourself in resources that help with learning and development. I highly recommend that any woman working in tech stays up to date with the latest developments in the industry. Data-driven decision making, and data analytics are both becoming critical skills across every industry, but they are also the skillsets where we are most commonly seeing a shortage. I strongly recommend the CareerFoundry blog, which has a good reference of free online courses – including for data analytics. For networking, the events organised by AniteB.org local chapters and Women in IT Summit Series are great and are hosted all around the globe. For books, I recommend “Just Listen” by Mark Goulston which provides techniques for getting through to others, “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss which is a great book on negotiation techniques, “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan on how to create focus on what matters most, and “The 4 Disciplines of Execution” by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling on a proven set of practices for executing your most strategic priorities.