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Tuna Kaya: Finding a Business Edge En Route to a Master’s in Chemical Engineering

Tuna Kaya was three years into her chemical engineering studies when she decided she wanted to know not just how to engineer things, but how the business of production works. She found that supplement to her education in the Business Edge program at Columbia University School of Professional Studies.

The Ankara, Turkey-born student was three years into a five-year chemical engineering program in Bath, England, when she took a placement year at Siemens Gamesa, working on engineering wind turbine blades.

“With any corporation like that, it’s not just engineering,” Kaya said of the experience. “It’s marketing that determines what we’re going to put out as a product. It is the leadership that approves that project. And finance that determines we have the money and accounting to do it legally. I felt the need to get an idea of what those aspects of business actually are. To get a baseline understanding of what excites me or what resources I can utilize for myself.”

So, Kaya enrolled in the six-week Business Edge program at Columbia University in the summer of 2019 to develop that baseline understanding. We caught up with her to learn more about what she took from the program:

You came to the program last summer, 2019. What kind of classes did you enroll in?

Accounting, Finance, Marketing and Leadership. Business Edge has all of those modules for six weeks, with exams and coursework, and each module is five days. You get group projects and presentations to do in each module and then there’s a final project you do at the end, a real-life case study, which you have for three days to focus solely on. 

Business Edge Class 2019

Was there one that particularly resonated for you?

Finance actually helped me in my final year project in graduate school. We had to design a product and process, that was the engineering bit, but at the end you had to calculate the feasibility of the project, which meant the payback time. That helps you to see if you can actually implement the project. What can you do to lower the capital or operational costs? What I learned in the Business Edge Finance course helped me be confident enough to do that. 

Marketing and Leadership made me realize I had some sort of creativity in me. It was special because of Skye Cleary, the lecturer in Leadership. I started reading about existentialism a year before I started the Business Edge program, but when I got accepted I realized that Skye had a book about existentialism and romantic love. It was cool to be taught by someone who had written the book! 

What was it like to be in New York during the program?

It was amazing to be in New York. The university is one of the greatest universities ever, but New York was quite compelling to spend my time in. I did meet a lot of people from the course and I keep in touch with them. We’d go to museums on the free museum nights. It was fun to just walk everywhere in New York. I stayed for a week more after I finished the course and took advantage of my time in the city.

Tuna Kaya Sunset

What are you up to now?

I just submitted my final thesis and report for my Master’s. I’m about to graduate. Now, I’m looking for jobs. I'm applying for companies that are focused on renewable energy and would like to continue my career in offshore wind power. 

What advice would you give future students who are thinking about the program?

The best way to approach the course is to be open-minded and ask questions. Be there to learn as much you can. No one expects you to understand all of the modules in five days’ time, that’s not the important thing. The most important thing is trying to learn as much and shape your ideas and career path based on what you liked and resonated with you. 

This really helped me on how I wanted to move forward in life. I always wondered if I should have done more business-related courses, but this cleared up my questions in my own mind. I’m glad that I did Business Edge. 

Learn more about the Business Edge program here