Olympic Profile: Sedef Koktenturk, Investment Management Division, London
Sedef Koktenturk works in our Investment Management Division in London and joined Goldman Sachs in 2004. In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, she competed in the Women’s RS-X windsurfing event as a member of the Turkish team. We spoke with her about the Olympics experience.
Q: When did you start windsurfing and what led you to the Olympics?
Sedef: I started windsurfing when I was eight years old and competing when I was 11. I wanted to compete in the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992, which was the first time windsurfing became an Olympic event, but I broke my wrist in 1990 and withdrew from the sport for a while. In 2006, they changed the equipment and there was an opportunity for me to get back into the sport. At the time I was working at Goldman in New York.
Q: What was one of the biggest challenges for you?
Sedef: I had always been good at what I had done, both at the firm and in my other endeavors, and I came to the Olympic scene at the bottom of the pack. Every day was a challenge, because everyone's improving, so you just have to improve relatively better than the other people. I knew that I had to really ramp up my training to be in top shape by the Olympics and to continue at that high level, but the biggest challenge was to keep positive and focused mentally in such an intense environment.
Q: How would you compare competing at sports vs. competing in business?
Sedef: Competing in sports and business is very similar in the way that they both require self motivation, hard work, and intense discipline. The biggest difference between Olympic sports and Goldman Sachs is that there is more than one winner in business and at GS you work with many smart people to get to success. In racing and in sports, there's only one first place and the road to success is relatively lonely. You can't share the mental ups and downs with anybody, whereas at Goldman especially, we work in teams. There's a camaraderie that's built, and that helps get through the ups and the downs. It’s made me realize how much I enjoy working in teams and working with like-minded people.
Q: Are there any lessons from your Olympic experience that you could share with people at the firm?
Sedef: I came away with three main lessons. First, to just do it. We tend to over analyze before making decisions, but sometimes just trying is the first step to success. You need to believe anything is possible and do the best you can. Second, be open to change, nothing lasts forever. We sometimes over plan for the future, but nothing (good or bad) is forever. You have to be open to changes in circumstances and embrace the opportunities that brings, as well as the journey. Lastly, life is never as black and white as sports. Success is relative to your situation, circumstances and opportunities.