FIDI presidents past and present

Outgoing and incoming FIDI Presidents Ebru Demirel and Laura Ganon share their thoughts on the role with FIDI Focus Editor Dominic Weaver

FIDI Focus: Ebru, you have had perhaps the most unusual tenure of any FIDI President. How do you feel about that?

Ebru Demirel: Absolutely. While I have been President for three years, I have only attended one conference in this capacity.

The virtual options for meeting have been fine, but it certainly wasn’t as much fun as being able to see people in person. But you have to roll with the punches, and overall I have enjoyed the experience.

FF: Your positivity and encouragement for the industry really shone through during the pandemic. Do you think you were well suited to being President during this particularly difficult time?

ED: If you had asked me before, I would have said no. But it’s also thanks to the FIDI office team, which have been a great power behind the scenes. Their enthusiasm gave me the energy and will to do more.

I heard from people at the conference – people I’ve never met before – and they said, ‘I watched all your videos’. That makes me happy and I’m happy that we achieved something together. People really enjoyed hearing from FIDI when they couldn’t meet with one another.

FF: Laura, how do you think Ebru has done?

Laura Ganon: I have to say Ebru is too humble. As FIDI President, she has been an example and someone who has led us at the most difficult times ever. So, she has been amazing – and it’s very hard to follow in her footsteps.

ED: But it was teamwork and we were very connected. We’ve done this together – I was the face.

FF: Ebru, you are leaving the FIDI Board after your maximum eight-year tenure. Why did you both join the Board in the first place?

ED: I love the business. When I was getting my experience at the Academy, I made lots of friendships and I was asked by one of the FIDI Presidents if I would join the Board.

I never thought that I would sign up for it. Maybe, this is a woman thing – we don’t always think we are up to those positions. But my two sisters said ‘you are the right person for it’ – so I said OK.

I have gained a huge amount of experience and personal development and learned a lot from different colleagues from different markets, different-sized companies and different cultures.

When I look back and think ‘was it the right choice’
I would say definitely. Nobody should hesitate. I learned a lot and, if you love the industry, it is the perfect place to improve yourself and also give back to the industry with your work for it.

LG: I was on the LACMA board for 10 years first. I learned that being on a board gives you the opportunity to work towards the development of the industry, which is a real honour.

You are also rewarded with a lot of learning and have the opportunity to brainstorm with other board members from around the world, with different perspectives, different points of view.

So, when I was invited to join the FIDI Board, I didn’t think twice. I thought ‘this is amazing’. And, as women, I think we owe it to our gender because it’s an example we can give: women can get there. We can fill these positions that were previously only for men and I think this can be an incentive for women to become candidates themselves, and help us achieve better parity in the leadership of the industry.

If the Board is more or less 50/50, that will be beneficial for the industry, as there’s a little bit of difference in the way we think and how we act – and balance is always the best.

FF: After these two strange years, how would you describe the position of FIDI now?

ED: Challenges always make us improve ourselves. I am certain that FIDI is stronger because everybody worked so hard – not only the Board, but the FIDI office, where we have very professional people, who are working from their heart.

We managed to survive; we all acted together as a team. It’s no secret that there were financial struggles, but we all worked together, and I believe that we are stronger for it.

LG: I agree 100 per cent with Ebru that the pandemic or any crisis will make us stronger. But I also think that FIDI is stronger every single year because the Board, the FIDI office and FIDI Associations are always trying to get better and to come up with new projects, new Academy courses and to face new challenges.

FIDI is always there paying attention and getting ready to help and lead the industry to face them together. It’s so much easier when we do everything together under the guidance of an association that is really working to make us better.

FF: What do you think are the most pressing challenges for the year you have ahead of you as
FIDI President?

LG: I think there are two challenges that are very hot topics. Sustainability should have been a big issue many years ago, but it is only recently that corporations are really forcing the industry to tackle this issue, and to have a roadmap to get better in social and environmental sustainability.

FIDI will play a big role in leading the industry to come up with a common plan – because not every company has the resources or the ideas to get better in that area.

The second challenge is with cyber security. This is becoming more and more of a huge risk. As data protection is so important to take care of in our companies, and digitisation is a necessity already, we have to speed up this process. So, this is another area where FIDI will be very important to help guide Affiliates and help them evolve.

FF: Are you looking forward to taking on the role?

LG: Yes, absolutely. I always love a challenge.

Thank you to Ebru for her work on the FIDI Board and good luck to Laura for the year ahead.

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