How to Become the Best Version of Yourself in Uncharted Waters
Being part of the Global HR Early Talent Program 2020/21 at SAP, I began the first of my three rotations in the SuccessFactors Customer Engagement Executives team. These colleagues are engaging with customers in post-sales activities, are responsible to ensure end-to-end service delivery for selected cloud customers, and act as strategic advisors. My wish and intention was to better understand the business side of a globally operating company like SAP and how we implement our solutions for customers.
I started into my first rotation with a lot of excitement, a large interest in what my team members are doing, and what my role and responsibilities would look like. Of course, I was nervous — especially since everything took place in a virtual set-up. Since I am a person who is an analytic thinker, very sensitive towards my surroundings and strives for perfection, I started to throw my thoughts around… Although I try to avoid it, I had these clichés in mind. What might my new colleagues think about me, coming from the HR world, and how could I add value to the team? Having been socialized by a pure HR background in the past, I was very nervous about how to assimilate myself, about the way of working, as well as their expectations of me. While talking to people about my plans, I always started with these nearly excusing words “I know, I am not that type of Salesperson, but …”
Isn’t the diversity and the differences that make collaboration and teamwork successful? We are totally different, depending on how we have been socialized, where we come from, with whom we worked together. However, of course, our daily job asks for certain skills or behaviors, the corporate culture as well as the team environment, which shapes us.
The key moment that mattered for me was when I started working on one of the projects in my new team. I found out that the colleagues dealt with the same topics concerning employee experience for their customers which the HR colleagues in one of my previous teams work on. I could suddenly add value and share my thoughts, network, and experiences with the new team. Of course, my view sometimes differed from theirs — but that was key! Synergies evolved as a result of the differences and various backgrounds of the team members. The more I was talking about this with my colleagues and my manager, the more I realized that I can best contribute to the team’s success using the knowledge of my HR background and being myself, instead of trying to only adapt and assimilate.
This resonates with a topic that I have thought about and analyzed a lot during the last months — not only due to Covid-19 allowing me to spend more time with myself: #Authenticity. I was wondering why us young people at the beginning of our careers often have difficulties with finding our way to ourselves: Might it be the society that is forcing us to fit into a certain box, is it due to the huge impact of social media or the possibility to achieve everything, if you worked hard enough, which puts a lot of pressure on us all? Some of my personal findings are that it is important to always be self-reflective, open-minded and true to ourselves about who we want to be, practicing active listening to the world around us, as well as to our inner voice, moreover the ability to do small steps and to be proud and happy having achieved them.
“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” — Oscar Wilde
“But above all, in order to be, never try to seem.” ― Albert Camus
Drawing the line back to my experiences, I think this is similar. It is not about being an HR Expert or Salesperson. It is about what we are passionate about and what we want to achieve, using our strengths and not thinking about weaknesses and which expectations we might not fulfill.
I experienced that every member of my new team is adding their own flavor or spice to the job depending on their background and personality. Working with customers while being their authentic selves allows them to make the most out of it. Another thing I found out, coming back to one of my doubts in the beginning — there are roles in the Sales area where it is not priority to have these master Sales skills but to act as a strategic and trusted partner. Most important is the whole package of the personality, the experiences, and the willingness to learn and develop.
What I have learned during the last two months is that some stereotypes might have their justifications – the cultural environment and conversational style, as well as the project or team dynamics, are sometimes different. And it is great to be able to experience this and to learn a lot, from a business and content perspective but also on soft skill and personality level. I realized that these exact skills and behaviors I inhaled working in the HR world allowed me to bring in new perspectives and could also enrich ongoing discussions and thoughts.
Summarizing my main learnings:
- Working towards becoming one’s authentic self, while being open-minded and self-reflective. This is a continuous, iterative approach.
- Diversity in teams is a key asset and adds value as well as synergies to projects.
- We should build more bridges and create synergies in collaboration with Sales, HR, and all other functions of the company while overcoming stereotypes and combining the best of all worlds.