03 February 2021 ... min. read Listen

Bahar Savas

Let’s challenge the stereotypes about techies

Although Bahar Savas had built up an impressive career in tech, there was one thing missing on her track record: an international role. Thanks to joining ING in Amsterdam last year, she now has the opportunity to share her experiences in an international team.

Bahar grew up in a small city in Turkey. “Although my parents didn’t have the chance to attend university themselves, education is regarded as very important in our family and they have always supported me in my decisions. I am forever grateful to my high-school science teacher for inspiring me to study computer engineering. His encouragement, combined with my good marks for maths and science, made me believe in myself. When I got to university, there were very few girls in my class. Although that was the early 90s, little has changed since then…”

“I started my career as a developer at a small software company. After my oldest daughter was born, I joined Akbank – one of Turkey’s largest banks – and worked there for 10 years, progressing from software developer to technical analyst, project manager and then programme manager.”

Milestone

Bahar’s next move was a bold one: she joined the technology team of ING Bank Turkey as a chapter lead. “It wasn’t one of the big banks in Turkey at that time, but that growth phase is what I found so interesting.” She subsequently became the IT lead for core banking and digital channels and led the transformation of core banking systems: “A real milestone in my career and something I am very proud of.”

Looking for a career abroad

Always on the lookout for a new challenge, in her early 40s Bahar decided to study for an MBA. “That opened up a whole new world for me! I met super-inspiring people from outside of tech and the first seed was planted to look for a career opportunity abroad.” At a global event in Singapore, she was selected as one of the 30 female leaders for ‘Rise Up’, an initiative aimed at empowering women in leadership. “That was a real eye-opener for me; I was the only one out of the 30 women who had never worked abroad.”

A family decision

“Fortunately, my husband and two daughters of 19 and 15 shared my enthusiasm so it was a family decision to move abroad. In a way, my current job as an IT lead is quite similar to what I did in Turkey, albeit in a much bigger team of engineers. I love working with such a great team of people and tackling new challenges.”

High heels

“What struck me is that women actually make up a much smaller share of my current team than in Turkey. One of the things I am striving for is balance and diversity – not only in gender but also in age, nationality and cultural background. I also like challenging the stereotypes. Yes, I am a techie, but I also wear high heels and I like fashion and baking and other women’s stuff. So as you can imagine, I’m immensely proud that my oldest daughter is now studying computer engineering in Eindhoven!”

Speaker at ING Women in Engineering Day

Bahar will share her experiences during ING Women in Engineering Day on 11 February. Bahar: “My talk will be very personal, about not only the challenges but also the advantages of being a female engineer. I hope I can be a role model and inspire younger women to choose a future in tech. And I hope women in general become a bit less modest when it comes to stepping forward for leadership positions.” 

Join us online for ING Women in Engineering Day.

Attendance is free. Register here

About Bahar

Bahar has a degree in computer engineering from the renowned Bilkent University and an executive MBA degree from Ozyegin University, both in Turkey. She is married and has two daughters. She loves baking cakes, reading, spending time with her family and cycling around Amsterdam.

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