Deniz Tunca ’00S (MBA)
VP of Sales Operations, NetBrain Technologies, Inc.
Ipek Tunca ’00S (MBA)
Senior Director of Marketing, Meta
By Bret Ellington
Since the day they met on campus while pursuing their MBAs, Simon Business School has played a crucial role in the lives of Deniz and Ipek Tunca. They both credit Simon for providing them with the skills needed to establish themselves in the highly competitive tech field of the San Francisco Bay Area. Throughout their careers, they both have remained involved in the Simon community.
Today, the couple is geographically about as far away from Rochester as one can get while still being in the same country. However, despite being over 2,500 miles from the campus of their alma mater, they remain deeply connected to Simon. The two have fostered a robust, interconnected community of Simon students and graduates in the Bay Area and have made a commitment to nurturing the next generation of Simon business leaders in the tech sector.
According to Deniz and Ipek, what started as an enjoyable brunch at their home seamlessly evolved beyond casual gatherings into a structured support system for these emerging professionals. "A few years back, I hired a Simon intern—Magdiel Guardado ’19S (MBA)—to work with me over the summer," Deniz explained. "In addition to providing him with valuable work experience, I also wanted him to have a fantastic social experience, which includes networking and simply making friends."
"We hosted a brunch and invited all Simon interns and new grads in the Bay Area to our home," added Ipek.
According to the Tuncas, the brunch went so well it quickly led to other events that summer, including a Sonoma excursion in California’s wine country. Personal and professional connections were made, and the tradition continued. Interns became new alumni, and each summer, the group welcomes a new crop of young people to the area.
"It’s been a wonderful experience for us, and the reception we’ve received from the interns and new alumni has been very positive," said Ipek.
While the Tuncas' work with new alumni started in recent years, Deniz began his involvement with Simon alumni back in 2004. Leveraging the success of other regional Simon networks he'd seen in areas like Chicago, he initiated a regional chapter of Simon alumni in the Bay Area. "I recruited seven or eight other Simon alumni to form a committee and we launched it," said Deniz. "We had quarterly events and an annual grill-out and picnic. It has been very successful." Thanks to Ipek and Deniz, there's now a valuable Simon-based support system for young professionals looking to establish themselves in the tech hub of the Bay Area. By creating a sense of community and fostering connections, Deniz and Ipek have contributed to the growth and success of many recent Simon graduates.
The early years
Before embarking on their MBA journeys at Simon, Deniz and Ipek had diverse professional backgrounds. After graduating from Baruch College in Manhattan, Deniz worked in retail and store operations for seven years. He was attracted to Simon by the school’s collaboration with the Kauffman Foundation, which offered funding for internships highly designed for those interested in startups. Deniz took advantage of this opportunity with internships at two California-based tech companies: Lucent Technologies and Nimblefish Technologies.
"I was able to live and breathe entrepreneurship," he said. "More than just academic reading, the Simon-Kauffman collaboration allowed practical training to get startup-specific experience." Ipek, originally from Turkey, brought over two years of financial services experience and an undergraduate degree from the Middle East Technical University with her. A scholarship from an organization in Turkey led her to Simon.
"They only gave scholarships to the top 25 business schools in the United States," she said. "I choose Simon after carefully considering all schools on the list.”
Both Deniz and Ipek recall the impactful courses and professors at Simon that laid the foundation for their careers. Deniz highlights Professor Greg Schaffer's pricing course as particularly memorable, offering valuable lessons that he still draws upon. Ipek credits Cliff Smith's classes for providing her with a strong financial background that has been invaluable throughout her career.
A life’s journey
When they look back on pivotal moments and milestones in their careers, Deniz and Ipek both quickly take the opportunity to praise each other rather than boasting of their own accomplishments. Speaking on Ipek’s impressive career in tech, Deniz says, “She’s spent 19 years working at Microsoft and now she’s a global marketer at Meta (formerly Facebook). That’s a pretty good stretch at two of the biggest companies in the industry.”
Ipek recalls a time when Deniz embarked on a unique venture outside of his tech career, operating a successful restaurant in Istanbul, Turkey. “It was a period of time when we had young kids, we were living abroad, and Deniz had to reinvent himself,” she said. "It was something that I’ve never done before, but I had gone to cooking school. Food is a passion of mine, and it was on my life 'to-do' list—you could call it a bucket-list item," said Deniz.
While a very tough business, the Tuncas say the restaurant was a success, earning the distinction of “Best Burgers in Istanbul” according to a number of local periodicals. Deniz said people would drive up to an hour away to get the restaurant’s All-American Burger, a taste that many missed from their experiences living in the States.
"I’m very proud to say our restaurant was not one of the 94% that fail," Deniz said. "It took about a year of planning. There were significant challenges: I was in a different country with a different language, learning new accounting practices while introducing a new concept in a new construction with new employees and supply chain. We opened it up in 2012, sold it about four years later, and it’s still thriving.”
Deniz said the restaurant allowed him to apply the knowledge he gained at Simon to the hospitality industry. “I remember Professor Len Schutzman telling us in entrepreneurship class ‘if your business relies on you, then you don’t have a saleable business.’ Those words resonated, and I tried to automate everything, so that the business could run without me,” Deniz explains. Afterwards, he said he was ready to get back to corporate America, inspired by the new experience.
“I’m thankful I was able to use my solid, foundational training in a completely different industry, gain a new perspective on these skills, and apply them back into a corporate career years later,” said Deniz.
The impact of Simon
Deniz and Ipek credit Simon Business School and the Simon alumni network with providing skills and support throughout their careers. Simon’s academic rigor and analytical approach provided a strong foundation to prepare them for their careers. Whenever they sought new opportunities, they found the network to be a valuable resource, enabling them to connect, learn, and grow.
"For a middle-class girl from Ankara, Turkey, the Simon experience essentially allowed me to be an international executive at some of the top tech companies in the world," said Ipek. "I’ve had the opportunity to work in so many different cities in so many different countries. It was Simon that opened all of these doors for me."