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BLI Alumna Spotlights: Lessons Through Growth

Lessons Through Growth
Cigdem Duru, Customer Supply Chain Director, Procter & Gamble
BLI Alumna Spotlight Cigdem Duru:
On Growing Across Borders And Across Life

Born and raised in Turkey, Cigdem Duru wasn’t always sure that her professional path would lead her to the other side of the world. She grew up playing tennis for the Turkish National Tennis Team, eventually landing her a scholarship with the NCAA to play at Purdue University in the U.S. This kicked off her transformational journey into a new country and culture. At the time she wasn’t the most comfortable with her English, yet her collegiate tennis team was supportive and helpful in growing her English skills during her time at the university.

She graduated from Purdue in 2009, moving back to Turkey afterwards. She went on to land a job with Procter and Gamble in Turkey…and has now been with the company for over 12 years. “With P&G I’ve lived in various countries, and have worked in different areas of the company. The beauty of P&G is that they have a culture called ‘grow from within,’ and so talent growth is nurtured inside the organization. It is encouraged to change roles every few years; I try to step into different and diverse roles, across different locations. Thanks to this culture, I’ve been able to work from manufacturing all the way to the customer side.

Cigdem cites that this has helped her diversify her leadership, and is a big believer that being exposed to different challenges can be a competitive advantage. She doesn’t see being different as a con. She sees it, in fact, as a superpower. To be exposed to different aspects of Supply Chain endows her to have a diversified set of expertise and core values that she built over the years, which establishes her to be a prominent leader in the organization.

This mindset translated well into her experience with The Brand Leadership Institute, a program built around empowering female leadership across one’s entire life. A Fall 2022 cohort participant, Cigdem was nominated by her P&G Leadership team. It came at the perfect time in her career, about one year after a promotion into a Director role.

“My goal in my professional life is to become an inspirational C-level leader who can lead broader organizations to overcome challenges and deliver breakthrough results. When I fi rst started the BLI Program, I knew a lot of the technical things and the ‘right things’ to do to advance in my career, but I didn’t grasp the full package—your own self brand. The BLI really helped me to put all of the pieces together to start building my own brand.”

Beyond guiding her professional goals and aspirations, the program also helped open up her mindset around some personal decisions she had been struggling with. At the time, Cigdem and her spouse had recently settled down in Rhode Island, and were debating the decision to grow their family or not. Some of the exercises and tools within the 12 weeks of the program helped her to slow down, and take time to become clear on what was important.

“The biggest win for me—and the hardest thing across the 6 months—was building my MVP (Mission, Vision, and Purpose). As women, we rarely stop and ask ourselves, what do we really want? This forced me to do that. I actually took a few days off from work to be alone and really think about it. Once I built out my MVP, it really became clear to me what I wanted overall, across my whole life. and from that point on things started to become easier. I knew what I wanted and how I wanted to be perceived, and that was a big shift for me.”

“Now, as a multicultural female, I know how to build and nurture my brand, while working within a company that builds the best brands. I feel fully synchronized, and I’m a lot more confident.”

Cigdem is happily married, has a German Shepherd dog, and welcomed their first child this summer. She looks forward to stepping into this new stage of her life where she will discover how growing a family will help her to continue to grow both personally and professionally.

BLI Alumna Spotlight Maruja Harris: On Stepping Back Into A Professional Career Path

The decision to choose to stay at home as a mom is not one to take lightly; many of us know this. Equally, the decision to come back to the workplace after the fact can feel just as daunting, and difficult to navigate. BLI Alumni Maruja (Maru) Harris is a great example of this, with an inspirational journey to share and learn from. A member of the Brand Leadership Institute Spring22 Ingredion Cohort, Maru cites that the BLI helped her with her own comeback story when returning to Ingredion in 2019 after a 10 year stint as a stay-at-home mom. It was during this time that she was able to find new ways to articulate her value, and find her footing again within the workforce.

“It was almost as if I had imposter syndrome; I constantly questioned if I truly belonged there and felt insecure in my own abilities. The BLI Program helped me with that, teaching me to define who I wanted to be–not just with my professional life, but in my personal life as well.”

Maru’s professional journey starts back in accounting, which she had a scholarship towards in college. She quickly realized it wasn’t the right direction for her and decided to take a break from her studies, working in the service industry across restaurants for almost 10 years.

“It was during this time that I was really able to reset, explore, and experience so many different things. My husband and I both originally went into degrees that we realized that we didn’t enjoy, and it wasn’t until we took time after the fact that we were able to truly see what it was that we wanted. We’re now encouraging our own son to take that gap year, take that time to explore, and consider what it is he really wants to pursue in the long run.”

She eventually knew it was time to head back to school, choosing Johnson & Wales University in Providence, diving into a Culinary Nutrition Degree which offered a variety of career path options. At the time, National Starch (now Ingredion) was looking for interns for their program, and Maru chose to interview for a position, successfully getting hired. She came on as a Research and Development Chef, with her existing culinary background setting her apart.

After a few years, she moved with her husband to Omaha, Nebraska, where her family lived at the time. She shifted into a role with Healthy Choice Frozen for a few years, before they relocated once again to Cincinnati, Ohio. It was at that point that Maru reevaluated what made the most sense for their own family, with her spouse having to frequently travel while they raised their son. She decided to shift into the full-time mom role, another challenging transitional period within her life.

“It was a struggle in the beginning. You don’t get to go to work and see all those friends that you have; you go to carpool and watch some of the parents drive off to their jobs, when suddenly you’re no longer doing that. It was hard defining myself. But I found my niche, met new friends, and I grew to really appreciate that time.”

It was always part of their plan to move back to New Jersey, and eventually the family was able to relocate back. Upon settling back in, Maru reconnected with her original manager from Ingredion, who suggested that she apply for an open position on her team. “So, I’m now back where I started. I’m with the same manager, the same company–just a different name–and it’s really great. At the beginning I struggled to find my place, but I now truly feel back home.” After stepping back into her career journey and completing the Brand Leadership Institute, Maru feels more confident with her self growth, and self discovery.

“I’ve learned that it’s ok to constantly evolve; evolution is always going to be something that is key to me. Even now at 50 years old, I think to myself, what do I want to be when I grow up? I think I’m always going to be evolving, with my baseline staying the same.” When asked for any parting thoughts or words, she shared a quote from Denzel Washington: “Don’t just aspire to make a living, aspire to make a difference.”

Maru works diligently to live by those words. When she was a stay-at-home mom, she was intentional with community service and giving back. This transferred into her time back with Ingredion; she told herself when stepping into the role that if everything else failed, she would at the very least work hard to give back and build relationships through the process. And that’s been exactly what she’s been able to do.

Maruja Harris, Culinary Manager, Ingredion Incorporated
Mindy Nelson, Project Leader: Global Inclusion & Diversity, Eaton
BLI Alumna Spotlight Mindy Nelson, and Her Inclusion and Diversity Journey

It’s such a joy for our She-Suite Team to take time to connect with Brand Leadership Institute participants, and get to know them on a deeper level. Mindy Nelson, BLI Alumna and Project Leader/Analyst, Global Inclusion & Diversity at Eaton, is no exception to this.

Mindy’s background is unique in that she was born in Seoul, South Korea, and was eventually adopted from an orphanage by an American family at the age of seven years old. Her brother was four, and it was no small adjustment as the two grew up in a small, Westernized town where they made up 1% of the Asian population through high school.

Her family was always supportive and backed her initial dream of working towards becoming a lawyer, which stemmed from the consistent unfairness she observed growing up. Yet eventually her career path shifted, and she started a new adventure with Eaton, an intelligent power management company.

Today, Mindy’s been with Eaton for over 15 years across a variety of roles, currently sitting as a Project Leader for Global Inclusion & Diversity.

Now, I can see the impact of Inclusion and Diversity as an adult. As I reflect, having discussions of inclusion and diversity would have helped me when I was younger. But I have no regrets, as the challenges I faced and overcame have helped mold me into who I am today.

It was about a year ago that Mindy’s manager at Eaton first nominated Mindy to participate in The Brand Leadership Institute. Quickly, she came to see that this wasn’t just ‘another leadership program.’

As I began the journey into BLI, my impression changed to, “…this is deep.” In my mind I thought the program was “check the box” and you’re done. However, this was a 6-month journey with cohorts, accountability, self-reflection, being vulnerable, open, honest and transparent. I wanted to fully accept the gift that the BLI was willing to share, and that Eaton was giving by nominating me.

As Mindy worked through the program and experienced the courses, she felt herself grow through being challenged. One big takeaway from the program is to helping participants focus on making themselves and their time a priority; something that can be extremely challenging for working women. Another tool within the BLI is the crafting of one’s MVP – Mission, Vision, and Purpose. Mindy cites that taking time to actually get that down on paper helped her to grasp a better understanding of where she was heading, with greater purpose.

Self-reflection is easy to accept if it is all positive, but as I realized there were parts of my behavior I needed to reflect and change, that was a difficult pill to swallow.

It’s clear that Mindy’s hard work and engagement has paid off, as she was recently promoted to a new position within Eaton. An active member of SOAR (Strengthening our Asian Resources) resource group, Mindy also maintains mentor and mentee relationships, frequently networks across business units, and has gained frequent exposure to different leadership groups from the BLI program, sharing that all of the above helped to set her up for this recent success.

Along with her promotion, Mindy has also recently stepped into the role as the BLI Program Lead for Eaton, helping to usher in and guide the incoming Brand Leadership Institute cohorts.

I’ve come full circle as a cohort member and now Program Leader for the BLI. I’ve shared my BLI journey with many women and have noticed many women are now excited to be part of the next cohort. As an alumni, I am part of a BLI community and I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with other alumni, and growing that bond. I truly love meeting and connecting with new people.

Like many of us, Mindy has big goals and aspirations for 2023. Yet she also knows the importance of stopping, breathing, and taking it all in.

From a personal point of view my goal is to “take time and breath.” I want to enjoy the moments with my daughter before she goes to college. She is a Junior in high school and I know in a blink of an eye, she will be out conquering the world. Beyond that, I hope to spend time with my husband as we continue this journey of life together.

Professionally my goal is to continue to accept new challenges and grow. I know the work I’m doing is making an impact.

I’ve learned that in order to change experiences I need to talk about my experiences. At times, talking about myself at times feels like I’m bragging, and I do not want to come across that way; however I’ve learned no one will know “who” I am if I do not speak up and speak out my experiences. I have more confidence in my voice tone and when I speak.

We are so thankful for Mindy taking the time to speak up and share more about herself with us. Her life journey is both inspirational and impressive, and we are proud to call you one of our Brand Leadership Institute Alumna!