Cohort 9 visits GE

Mr. Ibrahim Gokcen of GE spent time with members of Cohort 9.

General Electric Co., GE, sees such potential in Turkey that the enormous company just announced a $900 million investment in the country.

That was the first thing Ibrahim Gokcen, GE’s chief information officer for the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, told students in Cohort 9.

“The cohort remained engaged from that moment on,” said Wendy Lowe, coordinator for the Stetson University Executive MBA program.

The students learned about GE’s entry into Turkey in 1948 when it launched its first industrial joint venture in Turkey with Koc Holding and when it moved its international operations base to Istanbul in 2008, thus covering 80 countries.

“The cohort was most impressed by the ambitious vision for 2023,” said Lowe. “Integration, participating in global arenas and determining GE’s role in international affairs are all components. We learned about the impact that renewable energy, portable healthcare and infrastructure will have in the country. The cohort was intrigued by the young population — 70% under 35 years old.

Gokcen helped the cohort understand that GE realizes that to be competitive, it must have superior technology, margin expansion, smart capital allocation, leadership in growth markets, and service and customer relationships. He discussed the opportunity companies have to build products for underdeveloped markets that can then be useful in developed markets to continue to grow and prosper. In 2011 alone, $5.4 billion was vested in developing intellectual content to respond to the needs of a particular market.

Cohort 9 student and Japanese citizen Toshimasa Matsumura asked Gokcen if expatriates are brought to Turkey or if GE uses local people. Local people are definitely preferred and hired, explained Gokcen, because the focus is on the local pipeline and local growth.

Joe Chatterjee, Cohort 9 student and an engineer who understands the complexities of business units introducing new products and services using legacy systems, asked Gokcen about GE’s migration from legacy systems to more current systems. Gokcen said this is an ongoing challenge that GE addresses with each new initiative because of its corporation size — which is more than 300,000 employees and $147 billion in revenue.

“Mr. Gokcen left us with one of his guiding principles,” said Lowe. “Companies must have market potential, a sustainable talent pool and incentives. Talent and partnerships will also drive success.”

And why Turkey? “We see performance and we are growing,” said Gokcen.

Glorimar Hefner said she was very impressed with the professionalism, attitude and knowledge of this influential leader in Turkey and surrounding countries.