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From Istanbul to Copenhagen: Ece created her own unique job at Danske Bank

27-year-old PhD Fellow Ece Gürsoy fell head over heels in love with Copenhagen, but to continue living her dream in this city proved to be daunting at times. She had to create her own full-time job – an Industrial PhD at Danske Bank.

“This is the place! This is where I want to be!” That’s how Ece Gürsoy felt about Copenhagen after having spent a summer as an exchange student in the Nordic city in 2015.

“It was a feeling of being at ease and at peace – the overall experience of being a Copenhagener resonated so much with me that I wanted to stay longer. Over the years, my heartfelt connection to Copenhagen only got stronger,” she explains.

Moving to Copenhagen was not something she planned to do, having grown up in Istanbul, a metropolis of 16 million inhabitants. Through perseverance and stubbornness, Ece switched her future plans from London to find a way to live in Copenhagen for her studies and beyond. Coming from a non-EU country did not make this easy, and neither was finding a job.

Doubtful about life in a huge company

“When I was a Master’s student at Copenhagen Business School, I just wanted to get a foot inside any company, but I had received a lot of rejections. Having a non-Danish name is a problem in Denmark if you are looking for a job, even a student position,” Ece Gürsoy says.

During the first year, her classmates were getting hired as student assistants at Danske Bank. Maybe this could also be an option for Ece? Initially, she was far from convinced: “I come from a family of architects with entrepreneurial and artistic roots and I myself have a mixed educational background, and have had a piano in my life since I was four, for example – so for me it was a novel idea to be part of a large corporation,” she says. 

Although she already had an internship offer from elsewhere in Denmark, she applied for a seemingly interesting student assistant position at Danske Bank, too – and got it. 

“It was a huge milestone for me to take the first steps of my career in a foreign country” says Ece.

This will grow, and there will be an opportunity. I will take it, not only for myself, but also for the benefit of the bank.

Ece Gürsoy

I had a strong feeling that I was not done with Danske Bank
The student job itself was an eye-opener and all in all a good experience for her. “When I was done with my Master's degree and my student job was over, instead of trying something new, I had a strong feeling that I was not done with Danske Bank,” Ece Gürsoy explains.

But once again, things did not come easy. The full-time job she thought she had landed at Danske Bank was cancelled due to a hiring freeze. “Then I promised myself, if I were to come back, this would not just be for the sake of having a job. With a diverse background, I wanted to bring my outside-in perspective to the bank. Preferably in a role that truly speaks to me,” she says.

In November 2019, Ece read Danske Bank’s announcement that the bank would commit to diversity and inclusion by setting a target to increase the share of women in senior leadership positions. 

“I had a hunch that this will grow, and there will be an opportunity. I will take it, not only for myself, but also for the benefit of the bank,” says Ece. 

Blue book, Ece Gürsoy

Danske Bank:
Industrial PhD Researcher
Master Thesis Student 
Student Assistant

Industrial PhD Fellow (currently), Copenhagen Business School 
MSc in Social Science, Organisational Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Copenhagen Business School
BAs in Business Administration and International Relations (Double Major), Koç University
Associate’s degree in Piano Performance, University of West London

Art (piano, abstract drawing, literature) and swimming

Created her own opportunity: An Industrial PhD
Ece decided to go for an Industrial PhD about gender-inclusive financial services leadership. “The idea of doing a PhD has always been on my mind, but I was waiting for the right moment and subject. When I saw the bank’s news on diversity and inclusion, it caught my attention like a sparkle. It was an ‘If not me, then who, if not now, then when?’ kind of a moment,” says Ece. 

But an Industrial PhD is not a job you find on a website. “You create the opportunity by yourself, there is no open position for this. At the initial stages you really need an entrepreneurial spirit – be ready to go out there, pitch the idea all the way up to top management to get your funding. Once you meet with the top management of a company, you convince them why they should invest a great deal of money in a PhD for you and your project! I am thankful to all the people who have supported and believed in me so far on this journey.”

Ece nailed it. Not only did Danske Bank and CBS buy into the idea, but she also surmounted the difficult step of her PhD project being approved by the Innovation Fund Denmark.

For the next three years, Ece will be conducting a Group-wide PhD project called: ‘Towards gender-inclusive financial services leadership’ in collaboration with Danske Bank and CBS. The aim of her research is to better understand how male-dominated organisations can increase gender diversity in senior leadership roles in the Nordic financial services sector by focusing on micro practices.

“Fairness is dear to my heart. For me, it is a choice in everything we do. Luckily, life gives us the chance to hold each other’s hands every single day. It is never too late,” concludes Ece. 

You can read more about an industrial PhD here: Industrial Researcher | Innovationsfonden

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