Interview with Güldem Demirer
"Find two mentors: one for your heart and one for your career."
Our alumna Dr. Güldem Demirer received his doctorate at the WiSo faculty of the University of Cologne in 2002.
She completed her doctoral thesis on "The influence of labour market regulations on the propensity for self-employment - An analysis of the employment choice of university students as a restricted rational decision -" at the Seminar for General Business Administration and Human Resources Management at the University of Cologne.
Güldem Demirer is an international HR expert and head of the Compensation & Benefits Global team at T-Systems International/Deutsche Telekom.
Among other things, we asked her how she came to work at Deutsche Telekom and what a classic working day with your team looks like. She also gave valuable tips for our students.
I was one of the first doctoral students to research a theory of "Behavioral Economics" in the fields of human resource management and business start-up.
Dear Dr. Demirer, how did you decide to do your doctorate at the WiSo faculty after your studies?
At the Chair of Human Resources Management at the WiSo Faculty I had the chance to explore uncharted territory in two respects. On the one hand, I was able to participate significantly in a large empirical project of the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) within the framework of start-up research. On the other hand, I was able to do research in a so-called "fringe area" of economics at that time. I completed my doctorate in the year when Daniel Kahnemann received the Nobel Prize for the so-called "Prospect Theory". This made me one of the first doctoral students to be able to research a theory of "Behavioral Economics" in the fields of human resource management and business start-ups.
I have been able to get to know many great personalities, with whom I particularly admired authenticity and the ability for self-reflection.
Were there any coincidences, situations, encounters with certain people during your doctorate that inspired you and had a special impact on your professional career?
At university and in the private sector you meet people who inspire you and - perhaps even more importantly - people you do not want to follow or agree with. Both are very important for defining your own career path. Much more often my career path has developed through unconscious decisions.
I have been able to meet many great personalities, with whom I have particularly admired authenticity and the ability to reflect on oneself.
In the end you have to take some work results in a sporty way, you can't be on the podium at every competition.
An advantage for one's own development in a global corporation is indeed the size and diversity of the business models.
What steps did you take after completing your doctoral thesis to finally arrive where you are right now?
After completing my doctorate, I had the great good fortune to be responsible for HR strategy as an employee of Deutsche Telekom in the Human Resources department. This bird's eye view gave me a very instructive overview of conceptual HR work and the enormous variety of operational tasks.
I then made a conscious switch to the HR department's operational customer interface and, as an HR Business Partner, I looked after managers in an international technical department. This was followed by the first management task in the "engine room" of the HR department. Here, the digital HR systems had to be designed and operated for a smooth transaction service. My training as a SixSigma Blackbelt helped me a lot in redesigning HR processes and aligning them more closely with employee needs at important interfaces.
My field of activity became truly international when I became head of a department that looks after the expatriates of Deutsche Telekom's global subsidiaries, thus supporting the internationalization of the Group with a wide range of HR consulting services. Building on this, I was able to take over an HR function for six months in China and Malaysia.
My current role builds strongly on experiences (internationalism, design of regulations based on a design thinking approach and operational implementation in an agile working environment) from my previous functions.
Indeed, one advantage for one's own development in a global corporation is the size and diversity of the business models. I can only recommend to make use of the diversity of business models, cultures and management styles in corporations.
The cooperation with competent and team-oriented people is an enormous motivator for the daily challenges.
What do you do on a normal working day? What do you appreciate about your job?
In the course of my professional life to date, I have been able to choose activities that I have found exciting and meaningful. A normal working day is such that I cannot plan the day at times, but have to react immediately to requirements and design solutions with my team. Working with competent and team-oriented people is in itself an enormous motivator for the daily challenges.
Please complete the sentence: Cologne is for me...
It sounds flat, but it hits the mark: "...e Jeföhl"
What would you like to give to our students? What are your three tips?
- Speak out your professional ideas/desires and do so frequently.
- Find two mentors: one for your heart and one for your career
- This motto has helped me in many situations: "If life hands you lemons, make lemonade out of them".
On 24 January 2019, Dr. Demirer participated in the round table discussion "Strong as a woman" at the University of Cologne with two other alumnae with a strong profile.
There she spoke about her own experiences and career paths. She also gave valuable tips and impressions on the topics of career, further development and equal opportunities.
About Dr. Güldem Demirer:
After completing her studies of business administration in Trier, Dublin and a European Master in Labour Studies at the University of Toulouse, she worked as a research assistant at the University of Cologne and received her doctorate at the WiSo faculty. In 2002 she started in the private sector as an employee of the Human Resources Department of Deutsche Telekom AG. This was followed by several positions as expert and manager in Germany, China and Malaysia.
Ms. Demirer, thank you very much for the interview!
Interview: Ayla Wisselinck