Stepping out of your comfort zone into the spotlight. In this blog I want to address a number of questions related to putting yourself out there. Why would you do that? What about concerns, side-effects or added value? How do you get started? How far can you go?
After I got back from SAP TechED / SAPPHIRENOW 2011 in Madrid there have been so many thoughts running through my head that it feels like I don’t have enough time to put them all on paper or to be more exact mold them into blogs. Needless to say SAP TechED inspired and energized me.
Why would you put yourself out there?
Lets first reflect on what the question means (my design thinking workshop kicks in…). Taking an action which tells something about who you are or what your thoughts are equals putting yourself out there for me.
To me putting yourself out there can be becoming an active community member on SCN for example. Commenting on a blog is already a good example, you state your opinion on the content of the blog thus you put yourself out there to a certain extent. It can also be commenting on a business case which SAP is defending to sell something to one of your customers.
Sometimes it’s bold and it requires courage but it’s totally worth it! I invite you to read on and find out.
Why would you want to do that? It’s important to think about what you are doing, what you are reading or writing for that matter.
Putting yourself out there can impact your work, your life and it can bring change. We are no longer living in a world where the opinion of a single individual doesn’t matter because it does and you can make a difference. Sometimes we need to be reminded of this in order to persist although it actually makes sense and sounds very logical.
I only became really active on SCN about a year ago and in that one year it has changed my life. You may think “nah he is exaggerating” but seriously I’m not. It’s not just about increasing your knowledge about SAP, it’s also about connecting with other community members, getting inspired and paying it forward (and backward for that matter – ref A word of thanks).
It has gotten to a stage where everything is starting to get affected by it.
From a work perspective it ranges from a customer calling the office and requesting to talk with me before making a decision on buying a product to requests to place me on a specific project as a resource to certain SAP teams wanting to connect and collaborate with me to improve their products.
From a life perspective it ranges from being inspired to step up and make a change to starting to read and discovering whole new worlds to paying it forward by inspiring others to being a better friend, dad, boyfriend and son to knowing what matters. I got inspired and now that inspiration fuels me beyond anything I could have imagined.
What about concerns, side-effects or added value?
I have been talking to many community members and it’s not an easy task to convince someone to step up and be active. One of the comments I got was the concern to give the wrong message to one’s children that it’s ok to go online and put yourself in the spotlight.
I mean I can understand the concern, my daughter is almost three years old and she navigates around on YouTube. She bumped into a video of me performing a rap on YouTube for the SCNotty awards. When that happens you have to put it into the right context and explain why you are doing that.
Putting yourself out there takes time so it’s essential to manage your time well and also think about what you want to get out of it, how active you want to be and to what extent you allow it to affect your life. I belief in proper work life balance and yes I do spent a lot of time on SAP but still it’s possible. Don’t let others make the rules for you, you can make your own rules, you have a choice.
Envy and jealousy
Envy and jealousy is right around the corner and you will have to deal with persons who don’t like you or/and the fact that you put yourself out there. I often get asked if I still do my job or if I just spent time on SCN the whole day, reading, blogging and commenting.
The undertone of the question already shows that they have a certain perception. They already made up their mind before they ask the question (irrational thinking). Sometimes my answer makes them see the truth, sometimes they just knot but they don’t get it.
Another fact is that I sometimes feel negative vibes from others because of my still relatively young age. You can’t be an expert with only five years work experience or anything that goes along the lines of you are too young to do this, achieve this or do that.
The embracing inclusion & design thinking event at SAP TechED Madrid was great and it inspired many of us. I was already inspired before the event and afterwards I was even more inspired than ever before so it was remarkable and special and it has been bookmarked in my museum of me.
There is prove of persons making a change all around us. One my favorite video channels is the TED app that is installed on my iPad. There are so many wonderful talks in there from all over the world which can inspire others to step up and make a change. If it’s not on your shortlist of remarkable websites you should check TED out for sure and just to give you an idea of what one person can achieve (no matter how old you are or which gender or race you have) or help achieve: Natalie Warne: Being young and making an impact.
Whatever others are saying or whatever thoughts you come up with yourself in an attempt to hold yourself back, don’t listen and fight the resistance. Regardless of who you are, where you come from, how old you are, who your friends are, you can make a change.
I’m not going to state that I never comment on a blog or be active on SCN during my work hours but (and here comes the important part) my customers can count on me. I will have worked my hours for them per work day and I will ensure I do my job well. I want my customers to be able to count on me and I want to bring added value to my customers and the team I work in by doing a great job, sharing knowledge, connecting and collaborating with them.
Being active on SCN helps me to do a great job, it helps me to gather, share and spread knowledge and in the end bring added value to my customer, my customer’s customers, the team I work in and the company I work for.
How do you get started?
Reading a book
You can get started by reading a book (I did) and it worked for me. I stumbled upon Seth Godin’s Purple Cow and once I read that it flipped a switch and I was off to step up and make a change. I guess I didn’t really need much, I just needed some kind of encouragement. You could find that encouragement in a book or by getting inspired by a person. I actually got it from both because Marilyn Pratt inspired me once I got started on SCN and fuelled me to keep going.
Helping out people
You can start by helping out people in the forum or commenting on blogs or writing a blog or creating a video tutorial on a subject or you can start out by being active on Twitter which is the Social Media where the SAP community is most active or you can start out by going to a SAP Innojam or a SAP Inside Track. There are so many ways to jump into this community and put yourself out there that there should be at least one that doesn’t feel too uncomfortable for you to start with.
The SCNotty awards
I co-hosted The SCNotty awards at SAP TechED Madrid 2011 – Announcing the winners at SAP TechED 2011 Madrid which was a great experience. The award show hands out “SCNotty” awards to community members who create a video to introduce themselves to the community. Ever since the award show was invented it has evolved and the concept will keep evolving over time through new possibilities, capabilities and ideas.
The SCNotty awards is a great entry point to becoming active on SCN and equally important, to meet up with a number of vivid community members. A lot of the SAP Mentors create SCNotty videos and during the award show there are always a lot of SAP Mentors around. Unlike what some would think the SAP Mentors are very approachable and they are always up to connect and meet up with fellow community members. You would be amazed how talking to either one of them can inspire you to take action.
Don’t let the existing entries for the SCNotty awards intimidate you, it’s not about leaping the furthest out of your comfort zone and doing something crazy, it’s about introducing yourself to the community. We want to know who you are and what you do and we want to connect with fellow community members and talk about SAP and non-SAP for that matter. The SCNotty awards aren’t dead serious either, there is always a relaxed atmosphere and a “show” set up by the SCN team in collaboration with SAP Mentors and community members.
My original entry for SAP TechED Madrid 2011 which got replaced by a rap eventually: http://youtu.be/nueafHkEFq4
You can go crazy if you want and show the artist in yourself by doing a rap or something but it is also fine to say “Hi, I’m Tom and I’m a system administrator” or you can show your passion or hobby or whatever aspect of you that you would like to share with us. Whatever you decide to put out there remember that it’s an introduction of yourself so you should do something that shows an aspect of you and not try to impress everyone by showing an aspect that isn’t you.
I would like to see more entries from SCN community members next year at SAP TechED EMEA 2012 and I agree with Matthias comment in Impressions from SAPPHIRE NOW + SAP TechEd – Madrid 2011 that the SCNotty award show should be hosted in a more public space to get more people over to witness the videos and the award show.
How far can you go?
Above and beyond
You can go as far as you feel comfortable going. Of course I don’t mean you should go streaking at SAP TechED because you feel comfortable doing that, what I mean is you can start small and take small steps out of your comfort zone to overcome the fear to put yourself out there.
I have met very interesting community members at SAP TechED and I’m sure a number of them would do great if they would step out of their comfort zone and became more active and I hope some will. Don’t put yourself down, believe in yourself and believe in the fact that everyone can say or write something interesting and don’t get discouraged right away but keep going.
SAP DemoJam stage
You can land on the SAP DemoJam stage as a top contributor. I was called onto the stage of SAP TechED 2011 Madrid during Demojam and I’m proud of that. Now here comes the thing about being called on stage, I knew it up front but still I was amazed by the fact that it was in front of thousands of persons. You can noticeably see I was overwhelmed since I forgot to clap for like the first twenty second at least to congratulate the other Top Contributors. I did start after the gaze wore off but by then the video stops 🙂
Being called out
Last week I was in a meeting at a customer and someone called me on the fact that I was on the stage at SAP TechED and asked me why I didn’t spread that news at my customer because I should be proud of it. I am proud of it but (and this next part is important) it doesn’t make me a better person than anyone else. I don’t feel superior to anyone else. I know I still have much to learn but who doesn’t right, you can always learn if you stay open minded and embrace the future.
Being called on stage as a Top Contributor proves I spend a lot of time on SAP and it shows I share, collaborate, connect and so on but I want to stay humble and pay it forward. Of course I’m grateful that SAP steps up and recognizes top contributors on SCN and Mark Yolton’s speech on stage was amazing and I’m sure I will always remember that moment.
Remember, the sky is the limit.