Changing countries and jumping into Vancouver’s tech scene through the UBC MBA
Nilay Yüce left Turkey in 2018 to pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree at the UBC Sauder School of Business. Her purpose was two-fold: she wanted to advance her career and she also wanted to build a better future for her and her young son, Mete. Today, Yüce has an exciting career with Microsoft and she and her son are enjoying all that Vancouver has to offer, especially the great outdoors.
Combining economics with gaming and animation
Unlike many of her colleagues in tech, Yüce did not pursue computer science or engineering at university. She studied economics at Bilkent University in Ankara and envisioned a future as an academic. But after earning two degrees in the subject, she realized she was more passionate about industry than economics.
Yüce started her career as a researcher at the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) before pivoting to software development and the games and animation industry. She went back to university and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Design and Animation and in 2009, she and a partner launched a game development studio.
“We had a lot of success exporting our software to Europe and North America and in 2011, I was named the most successful woman technology entrepreneur of the year by Turkey’s Ministry of Industry,” says Yüce.
After building the business, she sold her shares and poured her energy into a second tech start-up. While developing two ventures gave her a crash course in entrepreneurship, Yüce began thinking about strengthening her business skills further by earning an MBA.
“All of my business experience to that point was what I had learned on the spot. I thought it would be a good idea to learn the North American way of business management, including theories, tools and markets.”
She began looking at MBA programs while simultaneously studying countries that would offer her and her son a bright future. She found both in the UBC MBA.
A new home and an exciting career in tech
From the moment Yüce arrived on the UBC campus, she knew she had made the right move.
“I thought the campus was beautiful. My son started kindergarten at the local elementary school and learned English in four months,” she says.
Specializing in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Yüce found her passion in courses such as Product Development, Brand Management, Product Management, and Operations and Supply Chain Management. She was also impressed by the way her professors provided a bridge between academia and industry.
“Paul Cubbon, Assistant Dean, Innovation and Tim Silk, Associate Professor, are my heroes. I loved their style of lectures, which were so practical and hands-on. They combined academic theory with real-life examples, and I learned a lot from both of them.”
Yüce also turned to the Hari B. Varshney Business Career Centre (BCC) at UBC Sauder for help in building a new professional network in Canada.
“You lose your network when you move to a new country and you have to start over, which is tough. I made one third of my new network through the BCC. I invested a lot of time meeting new people, maybe even more time than I spent in class,” laughs Yüce.
A journey in personal discovery and growth
One outcome of the program that she was not expecting had less to do with business and more to do with personal reflection. She and her classmates spent time talking through their personal values and ethics, their managerial styles, and the answer to the question: what does responsible leadership mean to you?
“I found out a lot about myself in the UBC MBA. We talked about ethics and culture and what we like and don’t like in a workplace,” she says. “My previous self would not prioritize some of the critical aspects of work, such as work-life balance, equity, diversity and inclusion, and the health and safety of a work space when faced with a prestigious, high paying job. But I’ve been shaped by the interactions with my highly diverse cohort, and the teachings of the MBA program.”
After graduation, Yüce was offered the role of Development Director at Electronic Arts where she worked for two years before joining Microsoft as a Senior Product Manager. In this role, she uses the full breadth of her business degree – the theoretical as well as the practical.
“There are tools and frameworks I learned in my classes that I always use when I am presenting data to executive leaders and teams because they are so effective,” she says.
Regarding working in tech, Yüce says there are limitless opportunities in Vancouver if you are prepared to work hard and continuously learn new skills.
“Tech is a great place to build a career. It’s hard but it’s very rewarding,” says Yüce. “In my opinion, the more women who work in tech the better because then we can create a professional environment where women’s opinions and contributions are recognized and valued.”
“Moving to Canada was the right decision for me and my son because we feel welcomed and free. While we can be our authentic selves, we also get to enjoy a higher quality of life, future opportunities and we get to live in one of the best cities in the world – Vancouver.”