Women in STEM: Trust, Leadership and Challenges from GE Healthcare’s GM in Turkey
Yelda Ulu Colin is General Manager of GE Healthcare in Turkey. She has led the business in the country since 2014, having been in healthcare for more than 20 years.
An experienced leader and the only female country director for GE Healthcare in the region, Colin has led her team of 200 through an organizational restructuring focused on customer centricity and commercial excellence. She’s challenged herself and the team to continue increasing GE Healthcare’s share in Turkey.
Q. What makes a great employee?
A. I am drawn to people who are creative, open to change and open to new ideas. Good employees with this mindset find it much easier to deliver results and achieve success.
Q. How does this approach to creativity apply to leaders?
A. Without creativity and a nuanced understanding of the challenges of your customers and employees face, you cannot offer meaningful, lasting solutions. The consequences of this are serious: you can lose the trust and confidence of the market.
As a leader, you must continually challenge your teams to identify new business models and work to solve the problems both your customers and company face. And you can’t do this by yourself; it’s a team effort.
Q. How has your education in science and environmental engineering impacted your role today?
A. In science, you learn to question facts. So, it is second nature for me to question absolutely everything. To believe in and really get behind something, I really need to see the underlying logic. It helps lot in managing a business, teams or relationships with customers. It also helps corroborate trust, which is the basis of every human relationship. This ‘engineer’s approach’ has helped me become a trusted advisor to customers, employees and colleagues.
Q. You’ve just mention trust in the context of business. What’s the link between trust and leadership?
A. As a leader, you need to earn trust. People must believe in you. You do this by keeping your promises and supporting people—both personally and professionally—in good times and bad. It’s also about articulating clear goals or a central vision that people understand and believe in. You rally people behind that cause and keep them focused on it. Celebrate when you achieve major milestones and communicate transparently when you don’t. Roll up your sleeves and lead by example.
Ultimately everyone wants to be successful. Once you’ve proven your ability as a leader to achieve goals or realize a vision, people will always want to follow you because they know that if they do- they’ll be successful too.
Q. What advice would you give to your younger self?
A. Studies show that men are consistently more confident about their abilities, and women less so. So maybe I should have been more vocal about my own capabilities, compared to my male peers. I should have done more to market myself than I did.
I share this same advice to female students and employees just beginning their careers. I tell young women: “Don’t be shy. Believe in and trust yourself and your capabilities.” Both from a biological and sociological perspective, women have advantages that they should leverage more in professional life.
Q. What are some of these advantages women have in a work environment?
A. The numerous studies in this space are clear: soft skills and emotional intelligence are a key competitive advantage. Self-awareness, adaptability, conflict management and team work—amongst many others—are all essential skills for effective leadership in the workplace. Human relationships are the core of every business so it is no surprise that a higher emotional quotient is a significant advantage. Even when it comes to problem-solving and analyzing issues, women once again have a slight advantage over men.
Q. What do you find particularly exciting about your job?
A. I love that my job is a ‘living, breathing’ thing that I must continually manage each day. The pace of change is fast and demands an ability and readiness to assess, consider and pivot at any given moment. I thrive on challenge and when I am faced with a problem, I also see opportunity. That’s really what excites me, as I love to solve problems.
I also manage a healthy level of uncertainty, dealing with so many unknowns and factors beyond my control. Accepting what I can’t control and finding ways to manage the unknowns in a harmonious way that results in a successful outcome also brings excitement to my job.
Q. What’s your typical workday schedule?
A. I wake up at 6am each day and schedule permitting, I try and make it to Pilates class. Otherwise, I head straight to the office. I’m an early bird and for me, mornings are the best time to work. No one comes in at 7am or 7:30am. It is my personal time, before people begin to come into the office. I can concentrate on getting through my emails and to-do lists. Later, if I’m in the office, we do business reviews or other internal meetings. Visiting customers has me out of the office a lot – be it connecting with hospital managers, visiting diagnostic centers, meeting with officials from the Ministry of Health. It’s a busy time right now, given the growth and potential in Turkey’s healthcare sector. Usually, I’m at work until 7pm or 7:30pm. I then go home and have dinner with my family. After dinner, I enjoy some personal time and spend time with my family, read, or catch up on social media.
Q. What else do you do when not working?
A. I’m president of the TIP-GOR-DER, the Turkish chapter of COCIR, the European trade association representing the medical imaging, radiotherapy, health ICT and electromedical industries. Also, my family are members of the Istanbul Rotary Club. Actually, I met my husband at a Rotary club meeting. It also was through networking at a Rotary event that I got my first job.
Read more stories here about how GE supports the healthcare sector in Turkey and across the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan region.