Sefa Erdogan

MBA 2020
  • Hometown: Ankara, Turkey
  • Pre-MBA: Public Service & Banking

Sefa Erdogan

Post Graduation Goals:

Fostering people oriented and data driven public policies

Highlight of my Week:

Humor: Serious Business class. Each of us presented a one-minute story from our lives by reframing it with levity. I shared a story from my military experience.


Favorite GSB Memory So Far:

Performing a scene from the play “Other People’s Money” in front of my classmates in Acting with Power class.

I don’t have classes this quarter on Monday mornings. I hit the court to play some basketball. I play alone due to covid-19 safety concerns. Playing alone helps me clear my head and regulate my attention.
Sefa working at table in backyard
Next I am preparing for today’s negotiation class. Though we’re sheltering in place at our home in Palo Alto, I am taking advantage of our nice backyard and wonderful California weather. As Stanford has moved to online classes in our last quarter, a classmate designed this nice t-shirt with a tweaked GSB motto on its back: “Save lives, avoid organizations, don’t travel the world.
Workshop slide on computer screen
The 12:10 pm slot at the GSB is a time you need to choose from multiple events happening at once. It’s easier to do when you’re intentional about how you want to make most of your MBA experience. Today I joined a workshop with Glenn Kramon to learn about his tips on how to ask interesting questions when hosting an interview.
As I was going to miss the first part of my negotiation class today, I had done the negotiation simulation in advance with my classmate. I discussed a direct report’s salary and trajectory and gave her performance feedback. In addition to the negotiation part, it was a tricky conversation to handle.
Next was my coaching session with my classmate Casey, my partner in the Art of Self-Coaching class. We’ve gone beyond our regular in-class coaching exercises and had weekly sessions to coach each other. Beyond coaching, I’ve built a deeper friendship with another brilliant classmate. A truly rewarding experience.
Professor speaking on computer screen
Next is High Stakes Decision Making with George Osborne, former Chancellor of the Exchequer of the UK. Each class is guiding us through key decisions world leaders have made under pressure and with incomplete information. Today we role played leading European politicians creating a resettlement solution at the height of the European migrant crisis following the Syrian conflict. The highlight was when David Cameron, former PM of the UK, joined as the class guest. As a person with a background in government, it was a great opportunity to listen and ask questions to such experienced politicians.
A grid of many student faces on a screen
I jumped in late to my negotiation class that I’m taking at the Law School this quarter. This is a very useful class to understand your own negotiation style, and to learn about different strategies and tactics and how to prepare for negotiations. A highly interactive class with just 18 people, each week we role play in a different kind of negotiation, to test and learn by doing.
Outdoor tree lined walkway
One of my daily habits has been taking a walk around our beautiful neighborhood during covid-19. The way pandemic has spread all around the world and in the US has been horrifying, yet I feel grateful to God for sheltering in a place like Palo Alto during these difficult times. Low population density, lots of open, green space, and wonderful California weather made it easier for us to stay healthy while maintaining our access to outdoors.
I am studying the case for tomorrow’s MGE class.
I am off to bed following some reading from Elon Musk’s biography.
Professor presenting on Zoom
I am starting the day with the class Managing Growing Enterprises - a highlight of my GSB experience. In this case and role play-based class, we deal in depth with many entrepreneurial challenges like hiring, firing, and coaching from the founder perspective. Professor Dodson and Andrews are doing a phenomenal job on Zoom as they guide us through the role plays and feedback for us to develop the pattern recognition for similar situations we will all face when we’ll manage teams.
Our MGE Professors went beyond in-class role plays and provided us opportunities to practice more role plays and get feedback from them. Today I had such a one-on-one role play assignment with Professor Coley. My task (CEO) was to convince my Lead Developer to stay as an individual contributor while ensuring that he would accept having to relinquish his position as Head of Technology to a new hire, which I recruited from his behind. I enjoyed the role play a lot and have learned such nuanced ways of approaching it differently.
I rehearsed and finalized my presentation for today’s Humor class. Giving feedback is such a default nature of GSBers by now, and we always try to take advantage of it. I presented to and received feedback from two of my classmates who I am sharing my house with.
Sefa speaking with professor via Zoom video chat
As this is my last quarter at the GSB, I’ve earlier made a list of all the things that I want to do before graduation. The biggest part of the list is catching up with friends and professors - which casually happens at Town Square most of the time. Today I caught up with one of my favorite Professors, Dan Klein, who teaches Improvisation at the Theatre School and co-teaches Acting with Power at the GSB. I had the joy of taking both of these, learnings from which are some of the most practical that’ll continue to influence my daily life.
Three students visible on computer screen
Next is Humor: Serious Business class. Throughout the quarter, we’ve learned about how humor can be a powerful advantage in business (and life) and how we can use it more and better. Today, each of us presented a signature one-minute story from our lives by reframing it with levity - on which we even received individual coaching from comedy writers! I told a story from my military experience.
Dinner time. Like many others, I tremendously improved my cooking skills during shelter in place order. I’ve almost perfected my salmon with butter and lemon sauce recipe.
Computer sitting on table outdoors
I am writing my weekly reflection assignment for the Art of Self Coaching class. One of the things that I love most about GSB is its focus on self-awareness and change. And this class is a great example of this. Each week we’re writing reflection papers on a different concept (e.g. attention, emotion, happiness) and we receive individual feedback from our Professor Ed Batista. I drew some of the most profound learnings that helped me change myself through the reflections and the feedback I had at the GSB.
Three students sitting on a couch
Movie night at our home, “Mahal”. Today my flatmates and I watched a David Fincher classic: Se7en.
I start the day with the Art of Self-Coaching class. The course was designed as a response to a question many of us have: "Being coached at the GSB helped me grow over the last two years, but after I leave school and no longer have access to these resources, how will I continue to coach myself?". I feel so blessed for taking this journey at the end of my GSB experience, which helped me think a lot about how to sustain the change and translate the learnings at the GSB to my personal and professional life. Lecturer Ed Batista made a version of this course public; i cannot recommend it enough!
Today’s MGE case set the stage for some of the most challenging managerial conversations like firing c-level executives and responding to an employee confronting you with an argument that his layoff is based on racial considerations. You learn how to prepare and act in these situations in a safe environment, but as the professor mentioned once; you can’t be perfect in MGE. You’ll just try to be more right than wrong.
Slide featuring Glenn's face on screen
This year, beloved Glenn Kramon is selected for the Distinguished Teaching Award by the GSB students. A long time NYT editor, Glenn is teaching Winning Writing at the GSB. Taking his class and receiving his feedback on my weekly written assignments were so valuable. We celebrated his success with this zoom event. He recognized our last weeks at the GSB with something I hope we’ll always keep in mind: “GSB is your Hotel California. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”
I had a call with one of my Humor class professors, Naomi Bagdonas. In her spare time, Naomi is teaching improv comedy to inmates in a San Francisco prison. Today, she gave me valuable advice and material to use for my plans to form an Improv Club post-GSB.
Next was my appointment with Professor Rob Siegel. Rob is a beloved faculty member, teaching many highly demanded courses like Industrialist’s Dilemma and Entrepreneurial Finance. Having been so impressed by his Last Lecture to our class, our conversation was more about marriage, parenting and life in general.
Next, I caught up with the amazing Leslie Chin. Leslie has been teaching Interpersonal Dynamics (aka “Touchy-Feely”), which I took in the previous quarter. I am feeling so ‘connected’ even if we’re catching up on Zoom.
Two GSB students walking outside
During quarantine, I’ve still tried to maintain a safe, in-person contact with my classmates. Today I took a socially distanced walk with my classmate Angela around our beautiful campus. We talked about our life at the GSB and what’s next.
Two GSB students walking outside
Next I caught up with another friend, Anupriya, for a socially distanced walk. As we sit on a bank and enjoy the sunset at one of my favorite spots on campus, we reminisce about some shared fond memories.
I am ending the day with TALK, a GSB tradition in which each week two classmates share their stories with all of us. The willingness and the courage of the GSB’ers to share vulnerability are admirable. I leave each TALK with signature life stories and lessons that’ll stick with me.