IBM employee recognized for outstanding work with young volunteers in Turkey

By | 4 minute read | January 13, 2021

As a leader in corporate social responsibility, IBM is united in the belief that technology and applied science can help scale social impact for the better good.

For more than a decade, Derya Sel Bozkurt, a Data and AI and Project Management Services Delivery Manager for IBM Turkey, has exemplified this belief in her volunteer work with Toplum Gönüllüleri Vakfı (TOG), or Community Volunteers Foundation.

TOG is a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that promotes social peace through youth volunteer programs that focus on social responsibility projects.

In just 2020 alone, TOG reached over 37,000 young volunteers through more than 1,100 projects. In total, over 450,000 individuals were served through these projects.

To recognize Derya for all her hard work and dedication through the years, she was selected as one of the 2020 winners of the IBM® Volunteer Excellence Award.

Derya first became involved with TOG when she was a university student in 2003.

“I admired the motto of TOG; they were encouraging young university students not only to criticize but to make the changes they were asking for themselves,” said Derya, “And this was more than just words, this was real! I was pleasantly surprised that young university students were leading the organization and making the decisions.”

She says that her time spent with TOG as a student helped increase her self-confidence and allowed her to experiment with leading in a safe space.

“The experience of listening and being heard by another person – changed me. And I love the feeling of change; it assures me that today is a different day than yesterday,” Derya said.

After graduating, Derya looked for other volunteer opportunities for a few years before establishing the TOG Alumni group, which serves as one of the key funding channels for the NGO to this day. Shortly after helping found the TOG Alumni group, Derya was asked to serve on the board of trustees. For several years she worked as a board member, selflessly volunteering her time to help manage the organization’s budgetary and organizational operations.

Organizing and leading a volunteer effort to create social change is no small feat, but Derya says it’s what keeps her going.

“Volunteer work keeps me alive. Although supporting our clients gives me satisfaction at work, volunteering energizes me in a different way each and every time.”

Currently, Derya volunteers and mentors up to four hours each week through calls with young volunteers. As a role model to the younger generation, she provides project management consultancy to both TOG professionals and volunteers.

As an IBM project manager, Derya works on complex projects in Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. By coupling her experiences with IBM Activity Kits, such as Get the Job: On Paper, in Person, she’s able to share her knowledge with the young volunteers from TOG, enabling them to better serve the communities they’re involved in.

Derya also runs project management workshops with small groups. For these types of activities, she uses the Project Management Primer Activity Kit, which is designed to introduce nonprofit organizations to the basics of project management.

But the learning and teaching aren’t all one-sided. Derya says she learns a great deal from the student volunteers, as well.

“I am meeting new young students and they inform me about trending topics they hear about or are discussing in their own networks,” said Derya. “This makes adopting the new generation of colleagues who join us every year easier. Meeting young community volunteers and listening to their passion for some of these projects… it fires a rocket in my heart and makes it much easier to remember what we’re living for.”

About the IBM Volunteer Excellence Award

Started in 2005, the IBM Volunteer Excellence Award is recognition from IBM’s Chairman and CEO, honoring IBM employees and teams who best exemplify IBM values in their volunteer efforts with local or not-for-profit organizations.

Learn more about all 15 winners of the 2020 IBM Volunteer Excellence Award.

·      Argentina: Solar eclipse + STEM education

·      Brazil: Mentoring disadvantaged youth and diverse abilities

·      Canada: STEM education for girls (Individual award for Heather Ricciuto)

·      China, Hong Kong, Taiwan: STEM education (Also IBM Volunteers’ Choice Award)

·      India: Remote mentoring for girls

·      India: Audiobooks for visually challenged learners (Also IBM Volunteers’ Choice Award)

·      India: Supplementing education with webinar on emerging technology

·      Italy: STEM education for girls (Also IBM Volunteers’ Choice Award)

·      Japan: New-collar education

·      Pan-Europe: Keeping schools going during COVID

·      Poland: Classical music, AI and cloud

·      Turkey: Board service and mentoring (Individual award for Derya Sel Bozkurt)

·      Vietnam: Closing the skills gap with AI education

·      US (New York, Minnesota, Vermont, and Texas): Making a difference by making PPE

·      US (Texas): Marketing and design expertise for Austin’s nonprofit organizations


Lead space image: Derya Sel Bozkurt, an employee for IBM Turkey and one of the individual award winners of the IBM Volunteer Excellence Award, is a respected mentor and leader that enjoys guiding and teaching young volunteers