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"Being a junkaholic as a kid led me to work in food quality" - Cansu Diler [Interview]

Article-"Being a junkaholic as a kid led me to work in food quality" - Cansu Diler [Interview]

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A keen advocate of diversity in business and a self-declared food label junkie, Cansu Diler shares the experiences she gained in food quality assurance in Turkey and the Netherlands.

Can you give us a brief summary of your professional career to date?

“Taking into account my training years, I gained experience in various international companies. I completed my compulsory internships at Perfetti Van Melle (PVM) and Ulker in the quality departments. After that, PVM offered me an R&D experience and I benefitted from their global leadership training in Barcelona. This was an unique opportunity!”

“After graduating, I joined the QA department of the Coca-Cola Company and worked in a Business Unit. I had previously worked in the plant environment and this offered a different perspective.”

 What was the attraction of the food industry and food science for you?

“When I was a child, I was (and still am!) a junkaholic. I enjoyed reading labels on food products all the time. I think my interest in food science begun in those years. I already had an affinity to additives when I started my BSc.”

“I have furthered this interested by now being able to add value to the work I do and make a connection with the product. Therefore, when I work for a company that produces a beverage I enjoy drinking that beverage next to my meal every day. By doing it, I build loyalty towards the company and the product, on a completely different level, the level of a customer, and not only the employee. I have always believed in the power of brands, which is important and crucial in the food industry.”


What are the 5 biggest challenges manufacturers face when it comes to food quality assurance in your view?

“I think the use of plastics, sustainability, digitalization, changing regulations, worldwide and local consumer trends are the main challenges.”

“Plastics would be an important issue for almost all food and packaging manufacturers. Their use should be reduced and ideally switched to recyclable or re-usable. Supply chain dynamics would be significantly affected.”

“Sustainability could not be dissociated from QA. These two areas support each other in a manufacturing environment and supports the image and values of a company.”

“Mobility is key in a globalised world. Therefore, digitalisation plays an essential role. Not only is it relevant in our daily lives but also in the products that we buy and care about. Gathering consumer data regarding quality will continue evolving.”

“Remaining up to date with science and human-based regulations is not always easy but needs to be done.”

“Consumer trends are paramount and food markets are in constant evolution. Big companies at times lead consumer behaviours and habits, but in general it depends on the consumer. For instance; if the coffee market evolves from instant coffee to aroma-locked grinded capsules – with the evolution of 3rd wave coffee serving cafés – all coffee producing companies should get their share from the market with trend-tracking.”

Apart from developing your professional career, you have been volunteering in various associations in Turkey. Could you tell us a bit more about the associations you were/are working with?

“I graduated from Istanbul Technical University, with an engineering degree. During my education I wanted to add a social aspect to my skills portfolio. Studying a technical field, I believed it was also important to exercise my other abilities as well. During my first year after prep school, I joined BEST (Board of European Students Technology) and met lots of international people from the EU, made many friends and memories. I also attended trainings and workshops that helped me discover my strengths and find my weaknesses.”

“During my time in BEST, I joined a committee meeting of İTÜ IEEE. The committee was called WIE (Women in Engineering Society). After a year, I became a leader of that society. IEEE was the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (we, as non-EE people used to call it Engineers and Everyone Else). It was a non-profit organization which was focused on electrics, electronics and computer science.”

“Likewise, I joined TurkishWIN (Turkish Women’s International Network) a platform that brings and connects all Turkish Women together. Its aim is to inspire, build connections and help women to get incorporated into the business life. TurkishWIN has given me another unique perspective, as it helped me developing my social skills and network. There are plenty of brilliant people there, creating good values and inspiring others every day.”

You supported the İTÜ IEEE Student Branch as the Chairwoman of the Women’s Engineering Society, as Supervisory Board Member and currently as Vice President of External Affairs. Can you explain what your responsibilities are at İTÜ IEEE and how your responsibilities changed over the years?

“Firstly, I joined as a member, following the usual path. Then I fell in love with the mission of WIE, I deeply believed in WIE’s mission. From my friends to academia and the broader world, I believed it could demonstrate the fact that engineering should not be reserved to men. That’s why I gathered around me a group of people who wanted to bring gender diversity into the business world.”

“After my year mentoring at WIE, I wanted to move on to the management board. As a VP of External Affairs, I managed the PR and sponsorship relations of our branch. It was another perspective for me to lead five different committees instead of one. These student clubs / branches are perfect examples of companies. Lastly, as a Supervisory Board Member, I mentored people in the branch and attended national board events.”

You have recently moved from Turkey to The Netherlands – how would you compare the way of working in these two countries?

“I believe you can only answer this question by taking in a global view. The differences come from the employment conditions which are based on the national economy. Flexibility and working hours are stricter in Turkey.”

“When it comes to company culture, there are obviously differences between the two countries. As the sun doesn’t come up a lot in the Netherlands, people often take half a day off when it does!”

 What is your main professional goal in 2019?

“I wish to be involved in innovative projects and rewarded with challenging tasks. Continuous learning has always been key for me. I will keep doing my best to keep up with the trends while enjoying a sip of my beloved homemade secret flavoured freddo cappuccino.”


TAGS: Innovation