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Employee Spotlight – Cihan Hulagu: “Knowing my specific skillset brings value to our client projects feels great.”

In the Employee Spotlight series, we meet with Convosphere’s team members to find out who they are and what their job roles involve. In this interview, we talk to Cihan Hulagu, our Insights Analyst, based in Istanbul, Turkey. 

Where are you from and where are you based?

“I’m originally from Bursa, a city in north-western Turkey. After finishing high school I moved to Istanbul to pursue my bachelor’s degree. I’ve stayed here ever since. It’s easy to get hooked on this vibrant city.“

You joined us in April 2022. How has this first year working for Convosphere been?

“Fun, challenging and rewarding. I’ve never worked in such a diverse team before, both culturally and geographically. The different time zones took some getting used to the first month; when I start my work day, the guys in Asia are ready to log off. As a team, we’re literally online 24/7, so there’s always someone to chat with. The diverse and multicultural team has definitely broadened my horizons. Things I took for granted are a novelty to some of my colleagues, and vice versa, be it brands or lifestyle habits. It’s fascinating!”

Cihan in Istanbul, Turkey, where he’s resided since university.
What are you responsible for in your role?

“I work on our client projects focused on the Turkish market, analysing online data to draw out key insights into consumer behaviour and digital trends. These insights help our clients better understand their target audience and how to connect with them. They play an important role in their decision-making processes, whether that’s concerning the launch of a new product, a localised campaign or recruitment activities.”

What’s the most challenging thing about being an insights analyst?

“I find the initial phase of figuring out which conversations are most relevant to our goals the trickiest part of a project. The nature of social media platforms and cultural nuances can heavily influence the types of conversations that people are having online, and this can create bias in the data you collect. It’s not always clear which direction this bias is skewing your data. We always consider people’s likely motivations for posting; the reasons behind the conversations.

To do this, it’s important to understand the different dimensions of social media and how they can impact the data you collect. For example, on Instagram, your typical user will post photos and updates about the events in their life, both big and small. In contrast, TikTok usage is more about self-expression and driven by emotion. When someone starts following you on Instagram, they’ll probably get a pretty good idea of what you’ve been up to in the last few years when checking through your photos. You can’t say the same for TikTok. The nature of the platform itself will often determine what kind of content a user decides to share.”

 In your view, what stands out in the way social media and the internet is used in Turkey?

“It would have to be the measures in place to control speech, and the way these notably affect both social media and traditional media. Traditional news sources are subject to government regulations, and even when not directly bound by such regulations, these channels are heavily influenced and formed by the opinions of their financial backers. In many cases, reporters from prominent news channels have been dismissed due to the pressure placed on TV networks by the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK). Lots of journalists have migrated to social media platforms, like YouTube, to avoid getting caught up in ongoing interventions. This increasing censorship in traditional media means social media has emerged as the primary information source in Turkey.”

Which are the main social media platforms in Turkey and how are they used?

“With 50 million users in Turkey [67% of the population], the biggest platform is Instagram, followed by Facebook and Twitter. On fourth place, TikTok is still on the rise. Aside from these social media giants, local platform Eksisözlük is popular among Turks. It can be likened to Twitter in that it’s somewhere people go to speak out, join debates and share opinions. Most memes that go viral in Turkey will have started on Eksisözlük.”

What do brands who want to launch in Turkey need to understand about Turkish consumers and local culture?

“The key thing to understand about Turkish people is that politics really matter in every part of their lives. They expect brands to take an active stand on social and political issues. A brand that supports social justice and demonstrates that it cares about more than profits will win over a passive brand any day of the week.“

What do you most enjoy about your job?

“The way it has the perfect balance of creativity, independence and accountability. Because each project is different, there’s no doing the same thing day in and day out. We always look for the best solutions and approaches to answer our clients’ business questions, combining our unique skillsets, know-how and strengths. The trust from my open-minded line managers means I always feel comfortable sharing ideas and getting involved in project discussions on how to best meet the client’s needs. Having my specific skill set recognised as bringing value to our client projects feels great. I also appreciate all the support and guidance I get from my senior colleagues.”

What does a typical day look like for you and what are you currently working on? 

“Because of the different time zones of the team, when I log in around 9am some of my colleagues are already halfway through their work day while others are getting ready to go to bed. I’ll quickly catch up with those on the same project to check everything’s on track, before working my way through my list of priorities for the day. Currently, I’m working on audience profiling for a high-end consumer electronics company who want to better understand their target consumer groups in key expansion markets, including Turkey. The work varies depending on the project I’m on so it’s hard to describe a typical day. Sometimes I’ll break up my work day in two halves; I work in the morning and early afternoon, then log out for a few hours before logging back in again in the late afternoon/evening. I do follow the rule of dressing smart even though I’m working from home. You’ll never catch me on Zoom wearing a pyjamas!”

Cihan on the beach in Tirilye, a town in Bursa near the Marmara seashore.
What do you enjoy doing outside of your job?

“Spending time with my friends and reading. I’m in a phase where I’m drawn to print newspapers, both Turkish and English. It gives me a well-needed break from the screen.”

What is your biggest achievement in life to date?

“I guess it depends on how you define achievement, but to this day, I’m proud of my class winning a global poster competition in my third year in school. We were only 8 years old and attended this design workshop. I was the one who came up with the idea behind the poster and the slogan. The premise was road safety and my winning concept was a drawing of a giraffe carrying people across the road at an overpass, with the tagline Uzun ama güvenli yol, roughly translated to ‘A longer but safer choice’. People laugh when I talk about it. I admit it was a long time ago – but the joy I felt when told we had won is hard to beat! The prize was a trip to Disneyland Paris for the whole class. It was amazing.”

Can you share a funny expression or proverb in your language?

“My favourite is Hay ağzını öpeyim, which literally translates to “let me kiss your mouth”. Contrary to what you might think, it’s not an expression of love or affection. Rather, it’s a way to show appreciation for someone’s thoughts or actions. It’s a great example of how hard some words or phrases are to translate and why Google Translate leaves a lot to be desired. Language carries more than just words – it can convey thoughts, associations, and emotions that are often unique to a particular culture. Without context, words lose their meaning, so a cultural understanding of Turkey and Turkish life is essential to truly comprehend phrases like Hay ağzını öpeyim. To anyone who wants to familiarise themselves with Turkish proverbs, I recommend the page TurkishDictionary on Instagram. It’s full of funny examples.”