Meet The First Lady of TEC: Berfu

This story is based on interviews with Berfu Alev, a 23-year-old TEC student from Izmir, Turkey. It is written from her perspective.

Three years ago I was the first woman to join Cummins’ TEC program in Izmir, Turkey. I think I’m in a pretty unique situation, because historically there haven’t been a lot of opportunities for women to succeed in technical careers in Turkey.

Being one of the few women in my classes has come with its own set of hurdles, but I’m a pretty confident person and that has helped me excel in the program and in classrooms typically dominated by men.

“After two years, if you work hard and prove yourself, you have a job. This is a great opportunity.”

During high school some of the boys would try to scare me to get me to leave the school. I went through a lot of bullying and I was only able to deter the teasing thanks to a female teacher at the school. She supported me and made sure I had everything I needed to succeed. We still stay in touch today. The worst part about the teasing is that they were only mad because I was more successful than them.

Unfortunately, some of those challenges have also extended to the workplace. When I went to apply for an internship as a technician with a local company they said that girls couldn’t do their work. One of them even told me to go back and become a teacher or nurse. I started serving tea and cleaning with the company, but before long they realized I was capable of doing the technical work too. This year they offered me a job, but I refused. I don’t want to work for a company that doesn’t value everyone equally. 

I’m also persistent and a little bit stubborn, which has helped me confront these challenges. That was one reason why I chose the Mechatronics program at Ege University. My teacher told me that I wouldn’t be able to make it and I’ve set out to prove him wrong. I’m doing everything I can to prove myself. The great part about the TEC program is that after two years, if you work hard and prove yourself, you have a job. What a great opportunity!

With all of my experiences, I think I can help other girls enter the technical field. I’m serving as a big sister to younger female students. I tell them stories about my own experiences to give them a more accurate perception about the field. I try to remove the stigmas and stereotypes associated with the “dirtiness” of a technical career and highlight the state-of-the-art equipment that today’s professionals use. I also give them a sneak-peak at some of the perks of the program, like the scholarships and iPads!

I believe that women employed in the technical areas will increase and people’s ideas about women in the workplace will slowly change. TEC is a valuable project and I am very happy to be a part of it.