Carleton Chancellor and Retired Secretary of Treasury Board Yaprak Baltacıoğlu shares hard-earned wisdom from her 29-year public service career.
By Karen Kelly
Photos by Chris Roussakis and Bryan Gagnon
After 29 years in the federal public service, Carleton Chancellor and former Secretary of Treasury Board Yaprak Baltacıoğlu recently offered both personal and professional advice about leadership to Carleton students.
“At one time, I was sitting where you are now,” said Baltacıoğlu, who earned a Master of Arts, Public Administration from the School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA). “Your family, your university and your country are investing in you. You are the next generation of leaders.”
Baltacıoğlu’s career included positions in six different government departments on topics ranging from agriculture, transport and infrastructure policy, environment and climate change policy, and social policy.
She retired in 2018 after serving five and a half years as Secretary of the Treasury Board.
In speaking to graduate students, Baltacıoğlu listed several key attributes that helped her succeed during her public service career.
1. Your career isn’t only about personal gain.
Baltacıoğlu described how, at times, “your self-interest will clash with the right thing to do.” In her own experience, she sometimes had to offer government ministers and prime ministers advice and information they didn’t always want to hear. “Self-interest is a courage killer, but courage is necessary if you want to make a difference in the world.”
2. Try to anticipate change. Be curious and have foresight.
“Be open to new ideas, embrace and anticipate change, and most importantly keep learning.”
3. Be humble.
Be very good at what you do, but own your failures. Assume about 50 percent of either success or failure is due to your actions.
Also, make sure what you have to contribute is truly valuable and not just noise.
4. Be yourself and know yourself.
Baltacıoğlu emphasized the importance of being a leader in your own skin and not just emulating others. Whether extroverted or introverted, a morning person or a night owl, she recommended knowing yourself and playing to your strengths.
5. Empower your people.
You can be the smartest person in the room with the best policy mind, but you can’t do great things in any organization if you can’t mobilize people. She encouraged giving people room, cover, freedom and guidance to do their work. Create an environment where people are not afraid to speak up and share their ideas.
6. Don’t judge a job by its cover.
One of Baltacıoğlu’s first jobs in the public service was with Agriculture Canada. As a native of Istanbul, Turkey, a city of more than 10 million people, she didn’t know much about agriculture. But she did her homework, learned over the years and came to love agriculture. “You can have one public service career, but so many jobs.”
Yaprak Baltacıoğlu is the Chancellor of Carleton University and was named one of the Faculty of Public Affair’s 75 for the 75th alumni in honour of Carleton’s 75th anniversary.
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