Interview with Derya Tekin Yusuf – President of Human Resources at Çelebi Aviation Holding – TurkeyAviation & Aerospace


A career change requires more thought, investigation and often, uncertainty, but with support and a process, many have happily made this move successfully. It was one of the most difficult periods of my life…

Derya Tekin Yusuf

About the Interviewee

Derya Tekin Yusuf has a career on Aviation and Human Resources for 25 years. She has graduated from Business Administration Department of Marmara University, then got her Master’s Degree on Business Administration from İstanbul University. She started her career as a Passenger Services Officer at Turkish Airlines in 1980 which lasted for 8 years. Regarding her career in ground handling, she got transferred to Trans World Airlines and worked for 3 years.

After practicing in operational field for 12 years, she started working at Çelebi Ground Services as Training Manager. Mrs. Yusuf actively worked on developing a structure of training and providing a systematic operation of this structure, where training is one of the most important concepts within aviation sector.

In 2010, Mrs. Yusuf was promoted as Human Resources President and became a member of the Executive Committee where she continues her work for 12.500 employees from 8 group companies that are located in 5 different countries. She is also an executive coach and a lecturer.


1- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Recently in November 2016 you were a speaker at the EMEA HR Summit in London (Europe, Middle East and Africa HR Summit). What was the most important piece of knowledge that you gained from this experience? And how do such conferences and summits support leadership development within individuals?

Derya Tekin Yusuf: Conferences offer a unique learning opportunity where leaders can interact, network, and learn from other leaders across the world.

2- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: As a recruiter, how much weight would you give to a person attending such conferences?

Derya Tekin Yusuf: I think I give a high weight because you listen and talk in normal conditions and have better choice to evaluate.

3- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: As the President of Human Resources at Çelebi Aviation Holding, how do you establish “long-term relationships” with your employees?

Derya Tekin Yusuf: Establishing a long term relation with my employees are very important. It’s a kind of networking and you should work on it. What I do is that, I see all of them as a potential friend. I try to understand and know them better and their families. We have to get together every 2 weeks where we plan structured HR visiting days to listen to our employees. Other than that, I try to understand their needs and support them to develop; more over I pay attention for hearing them and imply that we stand together with them.

New year parties, celebrating regional holidays, support for illnesses are examples for enhancing our relationship. We keep the communication with our employees in a flow; we decided to include this as a target for our managers in Employee Engagement Projects. Çelebi Ethics Line is activated on February 2017 where Çelebi Ethical Conduct is distributed through internal communication channels and unethical behaviors are monitored in order to protect the rights of our employees.

We support our blue-collar employees as much as we can. For instance, we provide health insurance for their spouses. We try to provide special support for employees who have specific conditions. Lastly, we give scholarship support for their children.

We organize special meetings where we get together with all our employees and spend time. This is a priority to all managers including myself.

We provide food for 7 days, if one of our employees have lost a relative and we pay a visit to them. Other than that, we give food allowance to all our employees in the time of Ramadan.

4- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Each industry has its own challenges. What are the challenges of an HR department inside an airline business?

Derya Tekin Yusuf: Due to routine work, we sometimes have difficulty to hold potential; and in some cases, the workflow is affected by seasonal operations.

As a necessity of the sector, we have difficulty to provide and maintain part-time workforce. In some positions, 24/7 service is required therefore work-life balance may be affected.

5- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: What are the nontraditional interview tests and questions that you ask to the candidates applying to be part of the cabin crew?

Derya Tekin Yusuf: We only provide Ground Handling services but we also hire Ground Hostesses. For this position, smiling service, crisis management, customer orientation, result orientation and calmness is very important. English proficiency is a “must be”, because we serve globally.

For other positions, we conduct interviews and provide Verbal and Numeric Ability tests to our candidates.

6- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Are you with or against hiring a female pilot? And when do you think airline companies in the Middle East will start hiring more female pilots?

Derya Tekin Yusuf: Our position range does not include pilots, but I hope hiring female pilots happen in 5 years.

7- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Advise HR professionals with other fields to study aside from human resources.

Derya Tekin Yusuf: As HR professionals, orientation is an essential for understanding the operational workflow. Budgeting, financial tables and coaching are the first three important concepts.

8- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: From your point of view what are the qualities of a clever public speaker?

Derya Tekin Yusuf: To explain their own experience and being close to the listeners and keep the tension.

 9- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Many fresh graduates, middle age employees and professionals consider career shifting? What do you think about this move? And from your personal opinion why do you think the reason behind the increase in career shifting?

Derya Tekin Yusuf: You may be driven to considering a career shift because of a lay off or severe market change. A time of economic turmoil often prompts us to look more seriously at the options. Or, you may have long yearned for something “more satisfying”, but moderate success in your current career makes it hard to consider making a change. You know you are not feeling fulfilled, but the effort and risk to change seems large, and the road to get there undefined. A career change requires more thought, investigation and often, uncertainty, but with support and a process, many have happily made this move successfully. It was one of the most difficult periods of my life.

10- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: During this era a lot of HR people agree that the performance appraisal system hasn’t been strongly effective. In your opinion what kinds of evaluation can be used or implemented instead? Or other ideas to make the performance appraisal more effective?

Derya Tekin Yusuf: I am not thinking, appraisal system that is done once or twice a year, not very effective generally based on the feedback culture of the company. Most of the managers or the employees ignore the feedback process, and it gives a lot of operational workload to HR.

Therefore, the continuous performance appraisal is a year round process of coaching and following up on the results of a performance appraisal. It is a constant performance improvement plan that takes the traditional performance appraisal to a whole new level. The conversation was typically one-sided with the manager doing all the talking. The review was good, bad or average and mostly based on what the manager remembered. Once the appraisal was over the review was filed and nothing else happened.

Things have changed quite a bit over the years and now the performance appraisal is thought of as an ongoing performance improvement tool. Essentially the performance appraisal never ends. It is continuous. The continuous performance appraisal is the key to achieving optimum performance out of your entire staff. The process should be about coaching and that should be a year-round appraisal. If there is a constant focus on the goals and objectives then an improvement in performance is virtually assured. At the same time, continuous appraisal and the follow-through should last the entire year or until the next performance appraisal is conducted. Communication should be definitely based on a positive feedback approach.

As a suggestion, some targets may be given monthly or quarterly achieved instead of yearly so that employee may focus on his/her development more deeply.

Finally, this approach is also supported by software systems so companies may adapt quickly.

11- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: As a professional you have been through several job interviews until you have reached your current position. What was the most difficult interview question you were asked, and what was your answer to it?

Derya Tekin Yusuf: In one interview, I was asked about the expectations of generation Y and HR solutions about these expectations. My answer was as follows “Depending on my observations, generation Y expects recognizing, appreciation, social workplace and limitless technology. As an HR professional I would be aware of these expectations and build a warm and fresh environment for them.

12- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: How far do you think Human Resources Management processes can go flexible with the millennials and the new digital era? Do you think the overall company system should totally yield to millennials working standards?

Derya Tekin Yusuf: In my opinion, millennials are open to any kind of change in business life, not only in Human Resources field. Both the perspective of millennials and the flexibility of new digital era force companies to change in a positive way. You cannot be better without change; for this reason, it is important to follow up the latest changes in Human Resources systems and related software used as best practice in sector. If necessary, the current company culture and structure should be changed in parallel with these improvements.

In addition, millennials are a good generation to implement the related changes to our company systems in order to grow and we will continue to yield to millennials working standards in accordance with Çelebi Group policies.

13- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: What advice do you have for young men and women who want to establish a career in the airline field?

Derya Tekin Yusuf: Aviation is one of the continuously-growing sectors, therefore potential female and male employees should be aware of the distresses (such as lack of professional-personal life balance); but should consider the experience as a lifetime school and be patient.

14- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: What is your opinion about unemployment in Turkey? What are your personal suggested solutions to handle it?

Derya Tekin Yusuf: Company-university collaborations should be enhanced whereas leaders of the sectors should provide more opportunity for schools about operational-on the job trainings.

15- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: If you are to create your own HR Summit, which country will it take place in, and what will be the theme you would like to choose? Why?

Derya Tekin Yusuf: I would choose either İstanbul, Turkey or Delhi, India as the location. Theme of this Summit would be based on attracting young talents and how to satisfy the need for senior positions.