Mete is a senior in electrical engineering who is preparing to graduate in May. He has been a member of Leadership Academy since his Junior year.
1. We all have our own opinions of good characteristics of a leader, but how would you personally define a leader?
A leader is someone that guides a group of people who have different goals and manages to merge these visions, so everyone is striving towards the same goal for their own personal reasons. Everyone has different ideas of what they want to achieve from a task, and a good leader says, “Everyone wants to accomplish something different, so let’s bring it all together and work towards a common goal.” Being able to convince someone that a specific job they are doing is going to help them achieve their goal is the most important thing a leader can do.
2. What is the best piece of advice that you would give a future or incoming leader?
Take as many opportunities as you can, and do not take any steps back. Throughout life, you will most likely start in a lower position and then have to work your way up. If you begin as Secretary of an organization, work your way up to Treasurer, and then ultimately get elected President. Avoid thinking “I'm going to go back to being Secretary.”
In addition, if you are President of an organization and feel you are successful, keep moving forward. You could do something like run for Student Government Association (SGA) or a position within another organization. Never relax because as soon as you enter a point in your life where you feel you have achieved enough, you start to feel very demotivated. Also, if you do for some reason go back to your old, lower position, you may feel the people above you are not doing a good enough job. When this is the case, it is easy to not be a good team member, which will just cause people above you to feel very pressured. Finally, don’t force yourself into leadership positions just because it looks good. Always make sure to take care of yourself first.
3. What would you say is an event or time in your life that you feel really turned you into a leader?
I think a big event for me was my high school’s Student Council elections. To give myself an edge, I prepared a speech, created informational materials, and talked with my friends. The elections were quite serious, and we even received time off from classes to campaign. Preparing for the election, running for a position, and getting elected was much different than after-school activities in U.S. high schools. As a member of the council, you would go to school for half of the day and then go home. Being President, you acted as a representative of not only the senior class, but the entire school! It was also your goal to attempt to mend things with the council after a harsh election cycle. The entire process, preparing for and running in the election, was a big turning point for me. It made me realize how much I cared about leadership.
4. What organizations or roles do you have on campus in which you are a leader?
When I came to Illinois Tech, my friends and I started a Model United Nations (UN) Club, something I had participated in throughout high school. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy it like I did in high school, so I did not remain a part of the organization. Although I left, I did gain some valuable experience from Model UN. We participated in a few small conferences, and it taught me a lot about being a leader at Illinois Tech. After Model UN, I became Vice President of Illinois Tech’s IEEE chapter, the professional organization for electrical and computer engineers. During my term, our organization’s President had to leave, and as a result I took over as head of IEEE. In addition, over the last few years, I have been a Senator, the Executive Vice President, and finally a Student Representative for SGA. During my third year, I was an RA, and I am currently the Senior RA for MSV. In my opinion, this is the most important position I am in because I get to hire people, evaluate them, give them tasks, and hold everyone accountable for their actions.
5. Some of the most defining moments for leaders are during times of difficulty or struggle. Has there been a time in which you were met with a serious problem and ended up becoming a better leader because of it?
I am going to use my example from a previous question. The election itself was very cutthroat, with about 25 people running for various positions. However, once I was elected President, there were other issues. For one, the Vice President and I did not get along very well, which had been the case even before the election.
Another issue arose as we completed one of our main tasks, organizing Senior Prom. This was a big event that required booking a two-night stay at a hotel for everyone attending. Unfortunately, the hotel cancelled one month before the event, and trying to make a reservation for June during the month of May was nearly impossible. It was especially difficult for my high school, which was a selective government school. We had people from all income levels, meaning we had to book something that would work for everyone. During the whole process, stress began to build and tension between the council rose. I eventually had a falling out with the Vice President and pushed him out of the team. I told him, “We are on a time crunch, and I do not have time to deal with you. I do not want you here anymore.” I did this very publicly, and looking back on it, I wish I had acted differently. I still managed to find a place, which I was able to do because I did not have to worry about him. However, I do not think it was the best way to go about it.
I have been in similar situations since then, but I have been much smarter in the way I approached them. Instead of telling someone they were useless and needed to go away, I tried to cater to their aim and figure out how to work with them. It made me more considerate and calmer.
6. In what ways has Leadership Academy specifically helped you become a more prominent and confident leader? What has the academy meant to you?
One of the biggest things is that the Academy has the best events, including the Sophomore Leadership Retreats and Seminars. However, out of everything, the students in the Academy that I have been able to interact with have left the greatest impact on me. Members of the Academy are special people at Illinois Tech who are very smart academically and they are also great natural leaders. Over the past few years, I have had the most amazing conversations with many of them. I have talked with Wes Ludwig about politics, Aaron Grudowski about campus activities, Chris Zurowski about virtually anything, and some of the freshmen Scholars about their experiences. It is fascinating, and I think this is what makes the Academy great.
7. What career objectives do you have once you graduate from Illinois Tech?
I am looking into graduate schools with more of a focus on the electrical engineering industry. I would ideally love to work within the health industry because I feel it will allow me to make the greatest impact and see the fruits of my labor. Unfortunately, there is a long procedure of approval to work within this specialization, but I think it will be worth it. My goal is to return home and apply what I learned here in the U.S. to my work back there.
8. Where is a place that you have always wanted to travel to but have never had the opportunity to do so?
There are so many places to see, and I do not really have one specific place I would like to go as a result. However, there are a few locations I plan love to visit one day. I have always wanted to travel to Cairo, Egypt to see the pyramids because I really like history. Rome would be amazing, and I want to go on a tour of Spain as well. Finally, I would love to go to several older, historic places in the Middle East and Europe.
9. What is one of your fondest memories from your four years at college?
My greatest memory is The Sophomore Leadership Retreat I went on my second year prior to becoming a part of Leadership Academy. It gave me a chance to solidify my friend group. I had a couple friends as a sophomore, and after spending the weekend together at Pretty Lake, we realized how well we got along. Along with my friends, my girlfriend was also there, and getting to know each other outside of campus was very important. It allowed me to observe everyone’s behavioral changes outside of the Illinois Tech bubble.
10. “Soup or Salad? Would you rather only be able to eat soup for the rest of your life, or salad?”
I love salad, and I hate soup, so this is an easy question. Americans make soup so thick, and what we have back at home is basically flavored hot water. I hate both equally, so I would eat salad for the rest of my life, with a smile.