Ozgun Deniz - Human Resources Intern, Turkey

I am currently in my third year at university studying Business Administration at Hacettepe University in Ankara, Turkey. Throughout my time here, I have been keen to build up my work experience and skills, by doing both part-time jobs and by taking part in internship schemes.

Careers at Unilever

Recently, I secured a three-month placement at Unilever as part of the Unilever Leadership Internship Programme (ULIP). Working in the Human Resources (HR) department as a HR Business Partner Marketing Intern, I had a fantastic role that involved liaising closely with colleagues across 35 different countries in North Asia and the Middle East as well as in Turkey, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

Digital transformation is a key focus for the department, and I was given responsibility for collating important feedback on the digital training being offered to Unilever’s marketeers. This included devising a short questionnaire to identify whether marketeers were applying the key learnings from their training in their day-to-day working life.

The internship gave me an excellent opportunity to gain new skills, especially when it comes to working and communicating with people from different countries and cultures. Perhaps the most valuable experience of my three months was when Unilever’s Chief HR Officer, Leena Nair, paid a visit to the Turkey office.

Not only did this allow me to see first-hand how a leader of a global organisation like Unilever behaves and communicates but it also gave me some incredible insights which I will take with me throughout my personal and working life, some of which I would like to share with you now.

Streamlining structures

Leena is focused on making things simpler and more human. During her visit, each of the HR teams in Turkey had the opportunity to tell her about their work and the projects they were currently leading. She seemed to be particularly interested in how those initiatives were making the working environment simpler and more efficient.

Such environments can also be more empowering. A streamlined decision-making structure, for example, gives individual employees more responsibility and increases the likelihood of their creative ideas seeing the light.

Millennials matter

Before meeting her in person, I had already read a blog by Leena on LinkedIn, in which she called for an end to the stereotyping of millennials as being “lazy,” “self-absorbed” and “entitled.” The article formed part of Unilever’s #PutItRight campaign, which aims to showcase inspirational millennials who are making a positive difference in 2016.

During her visit to Turkey, Leena expanded on this idea further, explaining how important it was to hire millennials with the right values and capabilities, as their generation will soon be having a major impact not just on business but on the wider world.

Diversity and inclusion equals success

Unilever is committed to building a gender-balanced organisation with a focus on management, and this is an issue close to Leena’s heart. She herself has achieved many breakthroughs for gender equality in her career, including becoming the first woman on Hindustan Unilever’s management committee.

She is a champion of female empowerment and of ensuring women are able to achieve everything they are capable of, not just within the organisation but in the wider social, economic, cultural and political realms.

Always strive for better

For me, the most inspirational thing about Leena is that she encourages everyone to strive continuously for better, no matter how successful they have been in the past. The world is changing faster than ever – across the Unilever family, in the FMCG sector and in society at large – and it is therefore vitally important that you are always ready to adapt and willing to keep trying.

There are many things I have taken away from my internship experience at Unilever, but this message from Leena – about recognising your potential and always pushing yourself to achieve it – is one thing I will definitely never forget.

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