March 8, 2022
Başak Mutlum likes to follow her arrow wherever it points. She’s left home to work and study in Istanbul, the UK, the Middle East and Africa, and as far away as Seattle to pursue her dreams. Yet her career isn’t just about the work. It’s a means of relocating, seeing different geographies, and getting exposed to different cultures. What drives Mutlum is what inspires her — not the prestige a title or an organization brings — but the dynamic environments she prefers to be a part of working on bleeding-edge technologies to solve real-world problems.
“I have been in the same role for the last three years, but my role actively changes all the time, so it is not only about changing titles or different teams, but also that dynamic environment where I get to choose to work on the latest technology,” says Mutlum. “I think there is also that part of me that likes changing roles every two or three years. Working with different teams, or different organizations truly inspires me. I would like to be moving forward. Right now, I’m excited to explore what’s happening potentially within Microsoft.”
As the Principal Program Manager Lead within the Microsoft Azure Internet of Things (IoT) engineering team, Mutlum is currently leading a team of solution architects focused on building elite solutions for Fortune 500 companies to address numerous challenges, many of them around sustainability. Her team accomplishes this by building strategic partnerships with key ecosystem players to address customer needs in the IoT and digital twins world.
“My team builds and publishes end-to-end solutions to solve real-life Internet of Things problems as well as digital transformation challenges for customers,” says Mutlum. “Azure IoT Hub, Azure IoT Edge Runtime and Azure Digital Twins are just some of the services built by our group.”
Currently the team is building strategies around Ansys Twin Builder. Rather than using the tool itself, they are working with enterprise customers and asset teams to set strategies they can use to improve their digital business trends. This effort relies on a combination of Azure Digital Twins service and Ansys’ physics-based simulation and hybrid simulation capabilities to tap into a world of new possibilities.
”Ansys has tremendous knowledge on engineering side of the business,” says Mutlum. “Microsoft and Microsoft Azure Digital Twins contribute to the IT side of the things, as well as the large-scale Internet of Things in the operational world. Through this partnership, we are combining the best of the two worlds and expanding that — basically combining the IT technology with the operational technology and tapping into these problems in areas that were previously left untapped.”
Mutlum’s path forward has always been straightforward. From as far back as she can remember, she was good at math and logical thinking. In high school, Mutlum was all about mathematics and the sciences, so pursuing a degree in a related field seemed like a natural choice for her. She also came from a very progressive family of three girls, living in a small but equally progressive neighborhood in Turkey. Mutlum, along with her sisters, were really empowered by their parents and their environment to study engineering and science. All three would eventually become engineers.
Ultimately, Mutlum chose to study computer science in college, given that computers, and computer science, in essence, are all about mathematics and abstract thinking. Being a woman in IT never swayed Mutlum to think of herself one way or another, although it was clear early on that her presence in a male-dominated field was often the exception, rather than the rule.
“I would not say being a woman for me personally came with any challenges. But after 20 years in the field, it still bothers me as a woman when I go into an event, or I am a speaker in an event to discover I’m in the minority. For example, I gave a speech last Friday to about 100 people. I may have been the only woman speaker in the room.”
After spending just a few minutes with Mutlum, you can clearly see just how driven she really is. She quickly outgrows her stretch goals on her way to find new ones. She lives life experientially, defined by the people she has met, the places she has seen, and the work she’s accomplished along the way. In all of Mutlum’s travels, with all of her work experiences, it’s easy to imagine she has many, many stories to tell as a world traveler, innovator, and visionary in the technology space. She was eager to share her lasting impressions about the universality of those places and their treatment of women in the field.
“For some reason women are not seen in the science or the IT space, even in the United States,” says Mutlum. “You would expect first-world countries would be more progressive, but I think everywhere in the world is the same. Everyone is struggling with the same type of problems. Every culture is putting some burdens on these types of issues.”
Mutlum likes to think of herself, and others on her team, simply as a group of exceptional “humans” — all working together to take on big challenges. During her time at Microsoft, she’s been a witness to the power of inclusivity, and the value it can bring to an organization. She hopes to see the male-female barriers to IT break down enough that teams can focus more directly on the work and is actively mentoring and supporting young female engineers within Microsoft to help make her dreams a reality.
“I would love to see women in a world where they don't need to fight for any of this,” says Mutlum. “To be honest with you, I hope in the future we won’t have to have a woman in technology kind of blog — so it’s not even a topic for us. That anyone who puts their heart and efforts into any field can be successful, that would be my vision for any woman, or any person really.”