By Tyrone Burke
Photos by Chris Roussakis and Bryan Gagnon

When a sex worker was raped in 1970s Istanbul, she had nowhere to turn.  As in many countries, Turkey’s legal system questioned the integrity of the victim.

A conviction seemed unlikely, but Yaprak Baltacioğlu’s father took on the case anyway.  He won the case at the Supreme Court, and it established a precedent for how violence against women is treated in Turkey’s legal system.

“In those days, it wasn’t easy to prove that raping a sex worker was a crime, and I remember asking my father why he had taken that case pro bono,” said Baltacioğlu, 12th chancellor of Carleton University.

Carleton Chancellor Yaprak Baltacioğlu spoke to students at the Faculty of Public Affairs’ Emerging Perspectives Graduate Conference on March 4, 2019.

Yaprak Baltacioğlu

“He looked at me and said: ‘When I look back at my life, I don’t want to see a long list of personal accomplishments or lots of money. I want to know I have done good.’ He didn’t give a lot of advice, but that’s something I carried.”

Baltacioğlu gave the keynote address at the Faculty of Public Affairs’ Emerging Perspectives Graduate Conference on March 4, 2019 and she stressed the importance of giving back.

“Working is not about just going to work and coming back and feeding your family,” said Baltacioğlu, an alumna of Carleton’s Master of Arts in Public Administration program.

“The choices you make along your career path should be guided by making a positive difference.”

Not all of the choices that Baltacioğlu had to make in her 29-year public service career were easy. Before retiring in 2018, she spent more than half her career at the deputy minister level. Most recently, she served as the Secretary of Treasury Board Secretariat, a central agency which advises governments on program and service spending.

“As a senior public servant, I had to give tough advice to ministers and sometimes prime ministers. It wasn’t what they wanted to hear, and it was inconvenient for them to hear it. But it is the job of a non-partisan, permanent public service to give them the advice,” said Baltacioğlu.

“I was acutely aware every time that their views of me might affect my professional advancement — that I might take a personal hit. Sometimes I did, but the personal hits don’t hurt so much when you know you are doing the right thing, so it’s easier to live with yourself. Courage is absolutely essential if you want a career that makes a difference.”

Carleton Chancellor Yaprak Baltacioğlu spoke to students at the Faculty of Public Affairs’ Emerging Perspectives Graduate Conference on March 4, 2019.

Success, Failure, Confidence and Courage

She stressed however, that career progression is largely within your own control.

“Don’t ever forget that the results you achieve are yours and so are the failures,” Baltacioğlu said.

“I never let myself believe that good things that didn’t happen to me at work (were) because I’m a woman, immigrant or Muslim. In every situation, my first assessment is (to) look to see if what I did was good enough.

“In every success and failure, probably about 50 per cent is yours. You have to deal with your 50 per cent. Owning your successes and your failures means you can choose to be confident and courageous. Brains are the precondition of confidence, and confidence is a little sister of courage.”

Baltacioğlu was appointed as Carleton’s titular head in December 2018, succeeding Charles Chi.

“I am honoured to be asked to serve as chancellor,” Baltacioğlu said then. “Carleton changed my life. It gave me an amazing opportunity to have an influence on my country.”

“We are very excited to have Ms. Baltacioğlu coming back to our campus,” said Carleton President Benoit-Antoine Bacon. “She is a resilient and purposeful leader who, throughout her outstanding and award-winning career, has always taken time to mentor many of her colleagues, including young civil servants beginning their careers.”

“The chancellor is a symbol of the aspirations of our students, and a link to the broader community,” said Bacon. “These roles are critical to our mission to contribute to the social, economic and common good in Ottawa, across Canada and around the world.”

Carleton Chancellor Yaprak Baltacioğlu spoke to students at the Faculty of Public Affairs’ Emerging Perspectives Graduate Conference on March 4, 2019.

The Importance of Adaptability

In her first address on campus, she talked about rapidly evolving technology and an increasingly volatile global political landscape, saying adaptability will be key to achieving career success for today’s graduates. But that’s not entirely new; the only real constant in Baltacioğlu’s career has been change.

“One day, there were no emails or computers, and the next day there were. That was the year I started in the public service.  Now, I’m trying to understand the implications of big data and artificial intelligence,” she said.

“I watched Mr. Obama get elected, and also Mr. Trump. I saw the Twin Towers fall.  Disruption is constant and its pace is increasing. The only way you can deal with a career in this reality is to actually deal with this change.

“My advice to you is not only to adapt, but to learn to anticipate, so you can prepare your organization for the future. I don’t think we can secure Canada’s future as a prosperous and diverse country if we continue to do all the same things. The world is changing, and so must we. We must find innovative and truly ambitious ideas and policies to continue to be the wonderful country that we are. If you aspire to this, then life and careers get interesting, fun and truly meaningful.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019 in ,
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