When I first spoke to Miray on the phone, the first thing I noticed is the warmth in her voice –like an old friend. Her tone is animated, energetic and enthusiastic. But behind her youthful spirit, is a sophisticated woman with a sharp intellect and self-determination. Miray has experienced a lot and is no stranger to change. She has moved from Turkey to the United States by herself at a young age relocated cities and built herself a life in L.A. that aligns with her beliefs. She has worked for big tech companies like Snapchat and helped lead the growth in smaller startups. One could say she is a powerful blend of both the practicality of the left brain and the creative visionary of the right brain –always pushing herself to try and be something new.
There are many individuals who embody these leadership qualities, but when speaking to Miray, there is a sense of authenticity and depth. During my conversation with the self-proclaimed nomad, we discuss her experience as woman in the heavily male-dominated tech industry, Artificial Intelligence, the culture shock of moving to the U.S., vulnerability and her interpretation of love & soulmates, and etc. Although she has built herself a reputable career and name in her profession, I have a feeling this success is only the beginning for her. She has the mind of an influencer and the inner strength to give something unique back to the world.
Occupation: User Acquisition & Product Marketing
The key to happiness is: To know it’s within us all. There may not be a magic formula. The things we often think make us happy are indirect sources of happiness. I’m looking inside of myself, and I feel calm and grounded. That makes me happy everyday. My second answer for this would be having Steve Ross in your life – the “Guru of Los Angeles”– who helped me to go deeper in my yoga and meditation practices
My kryptonite is: Mavericks (massive waves)
In three words, I would describe myself as: Driven, Compassionate, Strong
I dream of: Ah so many things! But, what really pushes me to become the better version of myself is the dream of being an inspiration for young girls all over the world –being an image for them to redefine success for themselves
Success to me means: Having the ability to define success for yourself. Being able to control your mind and external/internal thoughts by not making any assumptions. Also, having full control over your life. Accepting your failures as part of your growth. Finding out your own affirmations. Being able to change your voice and how you speak to yourself. Affirmations are real and everyone’s are different, so make yours today to be able to define success. It’s constantly changing for me
Define curiosity: Pursuing more than the knowledge of facts
To be brilliant is to be: Not being the smartest person in the room
To be a Millennial Nomaad means: Dreaming about people you haven’t met and places you haven’t been yet
MN: You first came to the U.S. as an exchange student studying at Colombia University. How was this experience different than growing up in your small town in Turkey? What was the most apparent culture shock and how did you deal with it?
MA: That was probably the most interesting time I had to go through. I was on the plane for the first time in my life and landed in NYC. I had to figure out my accommodation since my school didn’t confirm my dorm stay. I remember I changed 2 apartments and 4 roommates before I was officially settled. But when I was finally there, it was the best time ever. The most interesting culture shock was obviously the diversity. I’ve never been outside of my little town in Turkey. I wasn’t sure if they would accept me in their circle with my broken English. But as I spent more time with people, I realized that they also had something on their plate to handle and they were going through similar challenges like me. I think having been raised by two teacher parents, I was always taught to be self-critical before looking for reasons outside. But, living in such a diversified community also taught me that I shouldn’t be taking everything personally. Being the direct, proactive and unshakable optimist I am helped me to deal with some of my personal challenges.
MN: With a certification in Marketing & Strategy from UCLA, experience working for Snapchat in Silicon Valley and now Phunware, Inc., you have quite the impressive background! #LadyBoss. How has your experience been working in the predominately male dominated tech industry? What were some initial challenges that you observed or had to overcome?
MA: Haha, thank you Elnaz! It wasn’t easy when I first started. I always found myself left out of the “Hey bro! Let’s discuss this when you have time” meetings. And I worked with mostly mostly engineers and product managers. So, I was basically on the decision making team in a fast pace growing startup, but didn’t have any coding/product management experience before. As I was helping to scale business, I remember I told myself: whatever you do, it has to be the best and after that things started to pick up. If you are doing any customer facing role –sales or business development– the monthly recurring revenue, number of subscriptions or the number of paid customers you bring to the product needs to be more (numerically) and “faster” than the number of product features or updates that the technical team is rolling up. That was the time when things shifted on my end, and I was being respected more. I’m not sure how I would deal with them if things would have been more overwhelming, but I’m so proud to see tech maker women standing by themselves. I think we are more proactive than ever before. Have you seen Susan Fowler’s effect on Uber? She was able to stand out and share her experience authentically. Uber had to go through radical rebranding due to the protests and major revenue loss. I think women are more aware their power and they never stay silent if they see any inequality in such a male-dominated tech industry.
MN: As a professional in the industry, what is the most interesting development you see emerging as far as technology is concerned? How do you think the advancement of technology has impacted society and culture?
MA: I think the most interesting developments are happening around Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence. I’d recommend your readers to watch “MIT’s 10 Breakthrough Technologies List” that is published yearly. It’s a great resource to learn what is the next big thing in tech. With the developments around AI, computers are figuring out how to do things that no programmer could teach them or without any need to be taught/coded beforehand. This might sound like a science fiction movie, but we don’t know what unprogrammed behaviors would be like and how they would affect our world. I’ve read somewhere that Elon Musk is pretty concerned about recent developments on AI. He says the global race for artificial intelligence will cause World War III and that governments will take the technology "at gunpoint" if necessary. Pretty interesting, right?
As far as the second part of your question, it has definitely changed how we perceive, believe and act on things happening around us. Most of the tech products that we are exposed to are designed for being addictive. PMs are running thousands of tests with millions of users to learn which hooks work and which ones don’t—which background colors, fonts, and call to action maximize engagement and minimize frustration. As an experience evolves, it becomes an irresistible, weaponized version of the experience it once was. In 2004, Facebook was fun. In 2017, it’s addictive and we are more incentivized to communicate, act, and behave through them.
MN: I have so much respect for your passion towards women’s empowerment. You mention attending talks and seminars that focus on this. What do you think it means to be empowered and how would you like to helps others achieve this?
MA: Thank you Elnaz. I was blessed to be surrounded by amazing women when I was at my senior year. I was one of the campus leaders of TurkishWIN, which is a global sisterhood of women. I had many mentors and was inspired by the stories and challenges of other women. I still remember the TurkishWIN talk of Seval Oz reminding me: “You don’t have to be technically intelligent to be able to solve the biggest tech problems. All you need is emotional intelligence along with some curiosity." I think the first step to help others began through my talk during the international women’s day back in 2015. I still get emails about how it helped young fellows to take a bold action. I’m also speaking to women in tech meetups, and I'm a proud member of Women in Wireless. My biggest dream is to be an image for many young girls, so that they can redefine their own definition of success.
MN: During our conversation, you mention that your mother was a free spirit and bold for her time as a woman living in Turkey. You seem to embody much of her courage. What role has fear played in your life and how do you find the strength to push beyond it?
MA: Definitely! She is my happy soul and daily dose of inspiration. I’m so proud of the way she still helps her young students to become better version of themselves. I think the biggest challenge has been the fear of unknown for me. I find strength through meditation and by focusing on the “now." The "unknown" is mostly about the future but when you “just be," there is really nothing to worry about. I’m consistently teaching my mind that there is really nothing to worry about!
MN: Happiness. We are living in the age of “Think and Be Positive” where everyone seems to be searching for a way to find joy. How do you manage stress or release negative emotions in a healthy way without suppressing them?
MA: Our culture is obsessed with happiness, but happiness comes and goes. I think I agree with Emily Esfahani Smith when she says “There is a more fulfilling path than pursuit of personal happiness” –that is understanding your meaning in life is the secret to your resilience and success.(You should watch her TED talk held earlier this year).
I’m not looking at things in the same way as I used to before. I have changed my perception of concepts that are the framework of thoughts and beliefs in my mind as opposed to an actual experience in awareness. Concepts are in the mind. They are inferred, biased and often useless. Experience is the real thing. It occurs in the present moment, so my way of dealing with negative emotions is that I don’t really focus on any of my thoughts in the moment and let experience define if they are valid or not. Also, I do not let someone else’s perception define my reality.
MN: How has a moment of vulnerability served as a catalyst for growth and ultimately inspiration towards reaching your potential?
MA: I hated being vulnerable my entire life until I realized what it really meant to me. My core of vulnerability was shame, fear and struggle, which has never been appreciated in the patriarchal society I was raised in. As a woman, you have to stand by yourself, get a good education, work for a good 9/5 job, get married and build your own family. Life plans were already made, so there was really no room for being vulnerable. But, when I ask people about love, they tell me about heartbreak. When I ask people about belonging, they tell me about their experiences of being excluded. When I ask people about connection, their stories tell about disconnection. I realized that we are all vulnerable, and I stopped saying: I’m not good enough, promoted enough, fortunate enough, etc. Instead I became a Life is Messy! Love it type of person. I learned vulnerability and what vulnerable means to me. I stopped controlling and predicting the world we live in.
MN: You actually referred to yourself as a “nomad” because you love change both in your personal and professional life. Do you ever feel the societal pressure to “settle down?” What do you think is the key to balancing a thirst for adventure and stability?
MA: Haha. That’s pretty much my everyday conversation with folks and family members whenever I’m in Turkey. I keep hearing the question about when/ where am I going to settle down. If I take things personally and try to react to those type of questions, I’d have felt disappointment, anger and mostly sadness. I try not to focus on what they really think is right. I think adventure and stability are completely opposite concepts. I believe you can have a place to live in a certain city, but can always travel with open-minded people like you or solo wherever you want to see. This might help you to balance a thirst for adventure. However, when you look at the bigger picture, there is always going to be cities that you really want to live in and experience life in rather than traveling for a couple days. That type of a desire is hard to control.
MN: Love. Sometimes it can be difficult to express what feeling we are exactly searching for. How would you define being “in love”? How is your perception of love different than or similar to your parent’s generation and your cultural background?
MA: What a great question. Love is an overwhelming concept if you don’t know how to express what feelings we are exactly searching for. I’d define being “in love” as being in love with yourself first. Feel the love within you and be that love. As Rumi says, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it."
My perception of love is being completely in love with my soul mate, not just mentally connected but also connected at the physical and spiritual level as well. And it’s different than my parent’s generation where they usually went out for a few dates and decided to get married. Or, sometimes they didn't even know each other before, but met through friends/family, went for a blind date and then did arranged marriages that way. Although, my mom did actually "ghost" my dad at the very beginning. The term "ghosting" is a common dating term in L.A. that I heard of after going out on a few dates here and it’s hilarious.
But overall, today, we have more information about the person we are interested in than ever before, but we still make irrational decisions. I don’t think it’s different that we now have more chances to make informed decisions when looking for a perfect partner. What I think was really different back then, though, was the authenticity and willingness to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out.
Curious? Want to lean more about or connect with Miray? Roam to her pages: