In-House Interview: Zeynep Kabiloğlu Poyraz, Head of Legal, SAP Türkiye

    Since you graduated in 2010 from Bilkent University’s Faculty of Law, your career has varied from being a private practice lawyer to moving in-house. What prompted these changes and what were your motivations? Tell us about your professional background and aspirations.

    Thank you very much for this interview.

    This is a great question for me because it is so true that my career has varied so much from private practice to in-house counsel.

    After 8 months at a law firm following my internship I started as junior in-house counsel in a multinational organization. I became a part of a great in-house team. I worked there around 5 years and other than learning the soft skills of an in-house, I also had the chance to work on various infrastructure and energy projects in Turkey during that time.

    In 2017, I decided to start private practice as freelancer. So, I opened my own office by renting a space in one of the places that offer shared office opportunities. After a while, I rented my own flat with a colleague. Overall, I spent three and a half year providing legal consultancy to mid-sized companies. It was a great experience because for the first time I was on the other side of the table. I've seen how difficult it is to run your own office which was a priceless experience. I feel utmost respect to my collegues who makes this decision and stick to it. For me, that experience made me realize that being an in-house was a better fit for me. After 3.5 years, when I came across with a good opportunity, I closed my office and returned to in-house.


    What inspired you to become an in-house counsel?

    To be honest, I never had a dream of becoming a lawyer, so, I had a practical approach when choosing to study law. After my graduation from Bilkent, I moved to Istanbul and started my internship at a private law firm. I think it was the time when I became more passionate about my profession. Despite the fact that my internship mostly involved some administrative works, I realized that I actually really enjoy being a lawyer. Only after 8 months in a law firm, I started to work as in-house counsel. So, it happened pretty quickly for me to start as an in-house. I realized being an in-house counsel suited me more because I had the chance to engage with more people throughout the day who are actually your clients in a way. It was great because I find it more enjoyable having direct relationship, becoming a team and find a solution to a problem with all these inputs when building that soluiton on a legal basis.  I also think that there is a clearer understanding of hierarchy in law offices, which is something I am not a fan of, so being in-house also provides an environment that allows me to be more like myself, which is another factor that is motivating to work as in-house.


    What personal and professional qualities have you found to be most useful in your role?

    I think for every in-house counsel having good communication skills is very important. Other than that, being reliable, keeping the promise, embracing changes, understanding the needs of each situation and position yourself accordingly are other important aspects that are useful in an in-house role.


    When you look back at your career, what lessons would you share with your younger self?

    I think I would say to myself to challenge the status quo more, because when you're a younger lawyer, you tend to accept and adopt the attitude of your environment. As such, it may be delayed to find your own unique attitude, discover new ways and improve yourself. Therefore, instead of accepting things as they are, I would advise myself to question memorized or automated methods more.


    How do you switch off from work and manage your life balance?

    Work-life balance is not something that I manage to be honest. I do not conceive the work as a seperate item of my life. If I have to work, I work. Besides that I have hobbies, friends and family I like to spend time with like every other people but I am not specifically being careful to do all these things in a balance, it happens naturally, but of course, if I would think that the work part of my life is so consuming that I can not find the time to the other aspects of my life, then I would try to find ways to solve this problem.

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