This month’s Member Spotlight

Neslihan Nigiz

February 2018 

General Manager of Barry Callebaut Turkey*

Can you tell us a bit about your background and your role?

I have 19 years of cross functional experience in a global FMCG Company – Unilever.

I joined Unilever Turkey in 1999 and have taken responsibilities in finance, supply chain and sales departments since then. After my first five years in finance, I was appointed as Planning Manager in Supply Chain with a dual hat of  Company Sales & Operations Lead. Later on, I was transferred to customer development, where I looked after local accounts and became the first female sales director sixty years after Unilever was founded in Turkey.  After this role, I took an international assignment in Rotterdam, as Unilever Food Solutions Global Accounts Director in 2014. I was the head of Modern Trade Turkey in my last role. As of April 1st 2018, I will become the General Manager of Barry Callebaut Turkey. Barry Callebaut is the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality chocolate and cocoa products.

I am a graduate of Robert College, with a degree in Business Administration and in International Management Accounting. As an advocate of women empowerment, I am the founder of EVEN, a social platform aiming to provide equal opportunities for men and women in consumer goods sector. I am also among the co-founders of LEAD Turkey. I am married and have one son.

Why are you passionate about the mission of LEAD network?

I truly believe that women network platforms create a huge awareness about gender equality in societies. Especially in consumer goods sector, both globally and in Turkey, there is big potential for women employment at all levels, thus a big gap in terms of equal rights and opportunities.

As an advocate of women empowerment, I worked with the LEAD Network when I was at my international assignment in Rotterdam. And I am honoured to be member of the LEAD Turkey Chapter Committee.

What would you say is one of the most adventurous or riskiest moves you’ve made professionally?

I guess my entire career starting in finance then moving to supply chain then to sales is full of adventure! Of course, my biggest adventure will start soon at Barry Callebaut.

The GM role came as an opportunity and it was a tough decision to leave Unilever after working there for 19 years. However, I truly believe in power of self-trust. We as women (according to all research) take less risks and always hesitate to move to a higher position.

I encourage all my female colleagues out there to believe in themselves and wish me luck 🙂

Tell us about an adversity you worked to overcome?

My child was diagnosed with a chronic disease 3 years ago. And I made the diagnosis at home… He was awfully sick and even at Harvard University there was no answer. Then I decided to take a sabbatical and started my own research. After 6 months we found the cause at home. He is still on quite a lot of medication and follows a very strict diet but at least under control now.

This whole experience improved my resilience. I sincerely believe that with love, diligence and perseverance everything can get better if not even solved totally… And nothing is more important than health…

Can you give an example of a failure or disappointment you experienced and what you learned from it?

When I took a sabbatical I thought that I would never be able to go back to work. Although my only focus was my son, from time to time I was sad to leave my career. In the end, I came back to work, now received an excellent job offer at the age of 40, thus everything turned out well. What did I learn? Never lose your hope, never…

Is there one person you could attribute a big piece of your success to?

My husband is the one. He is a true believer in diversity and inclusion. Even in such a macho culture as in Turkey, he is always on my side to support.

What would you tell your younger self to ease her/his heart?

Take it easy… Everything is for us and accept whatever life brings upon. Take care of your health, believe in yourself and be patient.


*As of April 1, 2018