A strong network of women changed the course of my career

Kübra speaking at Women Techmakers Ambassadors North America Summit.

Growing up in Turkey, it felt like women were meant to do one thing: Take care of their children. When I was younger, people always told me I should become a teacher, for the “work-life balance,” so I’d be able to spend more time with my kids. I had an ex-boyfriend who asked me to quit my job to take care of our family, and we weren’t even married yet. 

I didn’t realize technology was my passion until after I graduated from college. I noticed that I was on the computer all the time, downloading things, reading about tech. So I went to a digital conference in search of a job. One of the speakers gave a particularly inspiring talk, and I approached him afterward — I was so nervous. He told me to send him my resume, and I ended up with an internship at his company.

That simple action taught me to go after my dreams, even if I didn’t have the right background. Still, as I continued to pursue my career in Turkey’s tech sector — first as a marketing specialist and then as a product development specialist focused on UX design — I noticed how challenging it was for women to make their voices heard. All of the companies I worked for had male leadership, and I constantly felt like I needed to prove myself, to study really hard and perform to a specific standard.

In 2013, I helped organize a women’s conference (DevFest Women by Women Techmakers Istanbul) in Istanbul to help lift up marginalized voices. We brought together almost 1,000 people and provided a platform for dozens of female speakers. This was before programs like Women Techmakers were the norm, and I was able to connect with so many other women who, like me, dreamed of making an impact in the technology space. I didn’t know then that one of those women I met at the time would end up changing my life forever. 

After a few more career moves and a brief stint studying business administration in the U.S., I wound up back in Turkey working for a startup building a chatbot analytics platform. I loved being able to help build a product from scratch. But I also knew I wanted to return to the U.S., and I was lucky enough to win a green card lottery. My San Francisco-based company was supportive of the move, and in early 2018, I moved to New York. Five days later, I was fired. 

Alone and unemployed in a new country, I immediately turned to the network of women who had supported me in Turkey. One of the women who helped me plan the conference in 2013 was in a contract role at Google and looking for someone to replace her. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I landed the job, and soon after, I relocated to Silicon Valley. I worked as hard as I possibly could, and almost two years later, I became a full-time employee.

A person sitting at the top of a hike looking into the camera, smiling.

Kübra on a hiking trip in Hawaii.

Now, I’m fortunate to lead Google Developer Groups and Women Techmakers in North America. Every day I support communities of aspiring tech leaders, like the one that lifted me up when I was growing my own career. I’ve planned and facilitated events like Elevate, which helps equip members of our developer community with the skills to find jobs. And because I know firsthand the barriers that women in the industry face, this year my team is planning something special for International Women’s Day: We’re hosting the International Women’s Day North America Summit, a two-day virtual event filled with both technical and applied skills trainings, inspiring speakers and a chance to connect with like-minded women. 

Everything starts with one person. And if you want to make a positive impact in the world, that one person might be you. I hope this summit will change women’s lives the way similar events  impacted me. It’s a domino effect: We’ll lift women up, and they will be able to pay it forward. That’s the magic of a strong network.