‘There are no limits that
can hold you back’

Ilkem Ozar, General Manager at Kaspersky in Turkey, talks about what it takes to become a general manager and why communication can become the key to building your career.

In her role as General Manager for Kaspersky in Turkey, Ilkem is responsible for fostering growth of corporate business, acquiring additional partners, and further increasing the company’s influence in the sector.

I started my career in the marketing industry. After enjoying several successful years, I decided to follow my heart and transition to the sales department. However, even during my time in sales, I never forgot the core marketing principle of understanding the customer and their needs. When you aim to sell an opinion or idea, it is crucial to comprehend the stress points or the benefits from the perspective of the person you’re engaging with. Only then can you effectively shape your solution or idea and align it with their needs. I believe this concept extends beyond just marketing or sales; it holds relevance in all aspects of life.


I have been a mentor and during that time, I have assisted around 100 people in their professional development in various ways.

Ilkem Ozar, General Manager at Kaspersky in Turkey

Throughout my extensive and diverse career journey, I have reached the position of General Manager in Turkey at Kaspersky. In this role, I prioritize maintaining effective communication with all departments and fostering a cohesive team while representing Kaspersky in the country. The core objective is to establish mutually beneficial outcomes, considering the perspectives of all stakeholders and fostering collective growth. Therefore, the fundamental principle in marketing – “always take into account the needs of the person you are talking to, trying to find the perfect solution” – continues to guide me in my current role.


Becoming a general manager doesn’t necessarily require a background in marketing or sales; any career path is possible. However, in my opinion, the key to becoming a successful general manager is to go beyond the responsibilities of your specific role and take on additional tasks. It is essential to gain a comprehensive understanding of the other departments that collaborate with you.



But I am a strong believer that everything can be said as long as it is communicated in a constructive and respectful manner.

As a general manager, one of the most important qualities is the ability to see the bigger picture. Can you grasp the broader perspective of the business? Are you capable of guiding and inspiring those around you, regardless of whether they report directly to you?

A general manager holds the role of a leader, capable of motivating both their team and various departments to work harmoniously towards a common goal. This responsibility demands strong communication skills and a willingness to actively listen, as a general manager engages in daily interactions with customers, partners, team members, the press, and other relevant stakeholders. Unfortunately, many overlook the significance of this crucial trait.


It seems to me, numerous problems in both the personal and professional spheres often stem from a lack of communication or miscommunication. Occasionally, in an attempt to avoid conflict, we retreat and refrain from expressing our true thoughts and needs.


Of course, in practice everything may not be so simple, and communication might be a real challenge. Working with people over the years has taught me to be patient. Back in my early 30s, I used to be impatient, but I realized it didn’t lead to anything positive. The crucial aspect, in my opinion, is to step outside of yourself and try to view the situation objectively. When emotions and egos come into play, and things become personal, resolving conflicts or misunderstandings becomes exceedingly difficult. However, it is essential to always remember the purpose of the conversation. The aim should not be to satisfy one’s ego, but rather to find common ground and reach a constructive resolution.


When you sense your emotions rising, take a moment to pause and count to 10. It might take some practice initially, but it can really help you regain control. Even if the other person starts raising their voice, counting to 10 will enable you to stay calm and continue the conversation. A respectful, composed, and steady voice has a way of influencing others, eventually helping them to calm down as well.

Mentoring is not about copying one’s own success story, but about helping to create new unique success stories.

Despite being a challenging task, I truly enjoy the aspect of communication in my work. Through communication, I have the opportunity to contribute to the growth of dozens, even hundreds of individuals. For more than 30 years, I have been a mentor, and during that time, I have assisted around 100 people in their professional development in various ways.


Often, we find ourselves trapped in our own thoughts, unsure of which direction to take. However, when I can assist someone in recognizing their priorities, discovering their desired path, and identifying their strengths, it brings me genuine happiness.


During my childhood, I was fortunate to have an exceptional teacher who was always kind and passionate about her job. I aspire to emulate her by being compassionate, kind, and always wearing a smile, just as she did. Her positive attitude had a profound impact on me. I believe that my purpose in life, and what truly brings me fulfillment, is the chance to make a difference in the lives of many people, helping them discover their own potential, just as my teacher influenced me.


We don’t live to work. We work to live.

As a mentor, it’s important for me to help women thrive in their professional journeys. It can sometimes require extra effort for women to be taken seriously. We often cannot afford to behave in the same manner as men do because we run the risk of being misunderstood. However, I strongly believe that these challenges shouldn’t discourage us. Though the initial steps may be tough, we must persevere: work harder, keep learning, and not be afraid to contribute more. When others start recognizing your efforts, success will undoubtedly follow.


Nevertheless, I urge you not to lose yourself completely in your work; strive to maintain a healthy work-life balance. A few years ago, I personally experienced burnout. I was working in a different company and was promoted to the role of a sales manager. I had the responsibility of building a new team from scratch while also keeping up with customer demands for the same level of service. Even after hiring and training new team members, I found myself trapped in a relentless marathon. I worked seven days a week, averaging 18 hours a day, with only six hours for sleep. I even took calls and attended meetings while driving. I gave my all, but in retrospect, it was not a wise approach. Eventually, I reached a point where I couldn’t work at all for three days, simply lying in bed devoid of any energy.


It was a valuable lesson for me to always find the right balance in my life. Now, when I see employees with unused vacation days, I make it a priority to encourage them to take time off. Taking time off to rest and recharge is crucial to being effective and efficient in both life and work.

It can be challenging for women to advance in their careers, especially in the early stages. However, often all our limitations are only in our minds. I want to wish all my female colleagues the best of luck. Remember, success does not require us to adopt masculine traits.

Maintaining this balance can be even more challenging for women, as they often bear the responsibility of caring for their spouse and children. The family burden is on them, giving them a lot of more stress. Even more, a woman often feels guilty for leaving her child, when she is going to work. But it isn’t something that we frequently hear from men.


I strongly believe that raising children is a shared responsibility. It is important to distribute the workload between both parents. Each parent can contribute in areas where they excel. This way, the child receives the ca re and support they need from both parents. Such support truly helps women live fulfilling lives and be productive at work.

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