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Blog It Forward – Audrey Stevenson

OK, I can’t stand it anymore. I was invited to Blog It Forward by the wonderful, esteemed SCN Community Advocate, Marilyn Pratt (whom I am honored to call my friend) a few weeks ago already. Ever since that moment, my goal was to catch up on all of the previous Blog It Forward posts and then write mine.

Well, that’s turning out to be nearly impossible given the number of (waking) hours in the day (kudos to your brilliant initiative, xMoshe Naveh (Old Acct))! I’ve been reading every chance I get, but I feel like Mickey Mouse in Disney’s version of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, with the brooms that just keep multiplying and multiplying and fetching water, and Mickey almost drowns… (start at min 5:00 in the video to see the part I’m talking about)

So while I’m only up to Blag (Alvaro Tejada Galindo)’s post in the Blog It Forward (BIF) Chain so far, I cry “uncle”! (that is, I’m going to give up my goal of reading all the posted ones first and go ahead and write mine).

Introduction to Me

Where does one start this? I guess with who I am and what I currently do. My name is Audrey Stevenson (geb. Weinland), and I am  a Senior Editor and Content Strategist on the SCN Team. I work (ostensibly) out of the Palo Alto office, but since I live almost two hours north in the town of Sebastopol (a nuclear-free zone!), I work mostly from home and drive in about once a week. I moved up here to the Sonoma County wine country about four years ago to be with my husband, and we absolutely love it here. I’m grateful every day that I work for a company (and team) that allows us to work in such a distributed fashion.

So here at SAP, I’m responsible (jointly with Talila Baron) for editing the SCN main homepage (also known now as the Welcome page). I also handle the Business Process News @SCN newsletter, and together with Brian Bernard and Jodi Fleischman, I’m responsible for the space overview page guidelines for the SCN site.

But this is just my latest incarnation at SAP. To reach the first time I joined SAP (yes, there have been several), you’ll have to step into the time machine and travel back with me to 1990, when I started as a documentation developer in the office “trailers” at Max-Planck-Strasse 8 in Walldorf. Keith Elliott hired me back then to write user (oops, I mean project team) documentation for the Logistics module in MM. (Oh yeah, I guess I forgot to mention that I speak fluent German. I grew up bilingual–German mother, American father–and went to a German school in Washington, DC.  all the way through 13th grade. Yep, I got my Abitur!)

After a year and a half working in Walldorf, I left SAP as a full-time employee to move to the Pacific sun and sand–to the island of Guam, and then four years later to the island of Palau in Micronesia (any fellow SCUBA divers on SCN?), where I stayed until 2000, when I moved back to the U.S. (Guam, BTW, is in Typhoon Alley–I spent a night huddled in the bathroom, the safest part of the house because it was concrete, as the eye wall of Super Typhoon Yuri passed over our house.)

During the eight years I spent in the islands, I was privileged to work for SAP as a consultant, on a project basis, flying to Walldorf to work on the information design of the documentation that’s now in the Help Portal, and spending time at the old Waltham office near Boston working on other editing projects. And when I was not “off-island” on assignments, I worked on book translations. If you ever read The SAP R/3 System: A Client/Server Technology, by Ruediger Buck-Emden, or ABAP/4: Programming the SAP R/3 System, by Bernd Matze, in English, you were already reading my words back then!

In fact, SAP is the reason I enjoy a certain level of infamy on Palau. Internet connectivity was kind of new in the islands, and the technical staff at the first ISP was apparently not very well versed in the latest security protections. I managed to unwittingly cause a denial-of-service attack by having my personal email address forwarding to my SAP email address and (without thinking about it) setting an automatic out-of-office reply on my SAP email address during a long weekend!

Fun Fact(s)

Looks like I already started this section, so I may as well continue!


10 years ago, I started riding motorcycles. I started on a BMW F650, and I eventually graduated to my current bike, another Beemer: an R1150RT. Here’s a photo of me on my bike.

Can I just say that learning to ride a motorcycle was one of the best things  I ever did in my life? I could go on and on about all of the positive things about riding and motorcyclists, the amazing connections and life-long friends I’ve made in that community, and “it’s about the journey, not about the destination.”


But then I’d miss sharing the funnest fact of all: I met my now-husband on a Singles Motorcycle Club ride six years ago, and two years later we were married in Vegas (the weekend right before TechEd 2008!), on a motorcycle, at a drive-up window. This is not a joke–I have photos to prove it! (that’s me on the back, with my veil strapped to my helmet with duct tape)

Eloping and having a fun wedding was the best decision we could have made. The memories are priceless!

OK, enough fun stuff. Back to Business.

What Do You Enjoy Most in Your Work and Why?

This one is so easy I probably shouldn’t share it, because then everyone will want my job! What makes my job fun is preparing the SCN homepage for an update of the rotating features at the top of the page.

It means I get to read through many, many blog posts and comments, see what SCNers are talking about, and keep my finger on the pulse of the community. I have to (get to?) find the latest and greatest from the usual suspects (read: SAP Mentors), but I also get to dig out those hidden gems, the folks who have perhaps written their very first blog post and done an impressive job. I get to highlight them on the homepage so the whole community can benefit from their new insights and perspective.

And the very best part of the job is the reaction of some of these community newbies when I let them know their content is being highlighted on the homepage. There is no better reward than when a member replies “this has motivated me to write more in the community!”

What Was the Most Fun Project You Ever Participated in and Why?

I will start with a project from the personal side, while I try to think about my most fun work-related project. Three years ago, I decided I wanted to raise chickens. We live in a rural area, on 2 acres of land, so we have the space to do it.

OurCoop.jpgMy husband suggested we buy a coop, but I said “Noooooooo, we’re gonna make one, silly!”  😛   What followed was a two-year project, in fits and starts, to research coops, research what chickens (my users) needed in a coop, drawing up plans, seeing more coops and deciding we needed more features (don’t we need an egg-retrieval door?), collecting materials (we reused wood from an old dog house we had torn down), and finally, finally, actually building the thing.

Here’s a photo of the final product. Not too shabby, eh?

Now that we had the hardware in place (the coop), we needed the software (the chickens). In March this year, I bought day-old chicks at the local feed store, and brought them home, where they spent the first 8 weeks living in a nice, warm brooder box. When they were 9 weeks old, we moved them out into the coop, and they’ve been thriving ever since. We have a total of six hens now, and we currently get 5-6 eggs a day. I’ve posted a few videos along the journey that you can find on YouTube.

It’s nice to know your breakfast scramble was donated by happy chickens!

As for the most fun I had on a work project for SCN, that would be when we first started to develop the Business Process Expert community, aka BPX Community. I got to meet lots of new (to me) folks at SAP (like Helen Sunderland) and collaborate with them and with Marilyn (and a host of other SCN team members) to structure the new community, seed it with content, and get it going. It was really our baby, and we nurtured it and grew it to early teenager-hood, if you will. (ouch… not sure I like that metaphor and all it conjures up, with pimples and such…)

Although the BPX Community itself was folded into SCN when we moved to the Jive platform (just as SDN was), you can see the main topics started there continuing in spaces like the Business Process Management and Composition space and the industry spaces, like SAP for Retail. Promoting BPX was how I first met Natascha Thomson.

And now for Marilyn’s specific question…

Describe an Instance when Empathy in a Project, Development, Collaboration, Work Experience, or Community Interaction Turned a Situation Around (or Should Have)

I thought about this one quite a bit (this was another reason it took me so long to post this blog). I considered various stories, including one that came to mind when I was reading Jelena Perfiljeva‘s BIF post. I was going to write about how I and the rest of the SCN worker bees were definitely the recipients of empathy from the normally most vocal members of the community when we launched with our less-than-perfect SCN beta site. Many of them knew what it was like to be on a project that large under that much time pressure. Many waited a long time before they really said much publicly, and several of them reached out in the back channels to let us know they understood what it was like to be in our shoes.

But then I thought some more about it, and I thought about Marilyn herself, about WWMD (what would Marilyn Pratt do), and also about what she does NOT always do. And I realized that often, women in technology — or heck, women in business, or anyone from other diverse groups trying to make their way in the mainstream business world — forget to empathize with themselves. No, I’m not saying feel sorry for themselves. Empathizing is definitely NOT the same as feeling sorry for someone.

No, it just means being kind to ourselves, forgiving ourselves, or smiling (that one’s for you Moya Watson) in the mirror, in order to help turn a situation around. Remembering the good in ourselves can help us see the good in others.

Pass It On

Now I’d like to blog it forward to a couple of folks:

Natascha Thomson: I asked you first! (I just wasn’table to blog it forward to you in public before others did…  😉  Natascha has started her own social media business MarketingXLerator, and I know she’s trying hard to stay connected to the community, as she made many connections and friends in her time at SAP (myself included)

Heike van Geel: I was in a Design Thinking workshop earlier this year with Heike, and she struck me as someone with great insight. Would love to see her post in the chain.

Christian Happel and Christian Horak: They caught my attention recently when they showed true community spirit by dealing with a difficult-to-swallow blog post in a very calm, approachable manner, i.e. with empathy for the blogger’s frustrations. I think the community should learn more about them. I know I would like to!

As for the questions I’d like them to answer:

Pick two questions from Marilyn’s post or Moshe’s post, and select one from anyone else’s post, or make up your own!


After reading all that I’ve put down here, you’d think I was a writer, not an editor, and a writer who definitely NEEDS an editor! “Write short for the Web” and all that… Oh well… hope at least a few folks make it this far!

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  • Wow Audrey, what a great story and such an exciting life you have lead/lead

    Great pictures too!  I have good friends who love riding motorcycles. 

    Yes, I have read your ABAP books as well.

    Great Blog-It-Forward


  • Audrey thank you for the mention in your fine post -- I'm in awe (or @oddss).

    Guam! Palau! Sebastopol!  Who Knew?  This is a great initiative indeed that adds such depth and context to fellow colleagues. Wow you started as an Info Developer! Did we work together back in ought-01, when I started at SAP as an Info Developer? And are you going to celebrate your fourth anniversary in TechEd this year? 🙂

    PS: I'm definitely borrowing the #WWMD hashtag.

    • Wait... you used to be an info developer too? Did you start in Walldorf as well? What docu did you work on?

      As for myanniversary, it was September 6 (TechEd Vegas used to be a little earlier in the year), and we had a wonderful night out with dinner at a nice little restaurant in Santa Rosa.

      • @oddss -- yeah, i started in Palo Alto -- Foster City actually at that time -- 2001 on the team that put out the BI Java SDK - so i was always a bit of an iconoclast, doing developer documentation, API, SDK stuff, that didn't really fit into formal info dev...

        maybe you can revisit your old wedding location at teched this year:?

  • Hi Audrey,

    It's great to meet some of the people we interact with on the @scn team!  And with some very interesting projects - the chicken coop (sounds cool!) and bringing up the BPX space - both are very impressive.

    I may be most impressed with your answer to the 'empathy' question - remembering the good in ourselves can help us see the good in other people.  Wow, powerful stuff. 

    I do love the #WWMD (or was it #WWMPD?) hashtag because it reminds me of Marilyn, so that's a pretty good model. 

    Thank you for taking time out from reading other blogs to post this #blogitforward.



  • Wonderful to see the warm comments here to my hard-working, conscientious and "full of interesting surprises" colleague, Audrey.

    Although I thought I knew quite a bit about her, I was "Gob-smacked" (as my friend Dennis Howlett  might say) to learn that Audrey translated my personal ABAP bible by  Bernd Matze .  It was the book I most referenced the first years of my SAP career as a developer and ABAP instructor and now I know that I wouldn't have had access to Matze's wonderful book if Audrey hadn't made it accessible to thousands of English readers.  WOW.   You see, content is only valuable if it is accessible and she daily does that work for many of our community: highlighting and making available, gems of content that might otherwise be overlooked.  She's also great at discovering "new" voices.


    Organic farmer, excellent cook, accessiblity expert, editor, content strategist, those were things I might expect LOL.  But ABAP content translator?  I can't even check that in my original volume of the book because in "pay it forward" style, I donated all my ABAP books to two mentors to distribute in India and Brazil.  So someone please scan the credit.  I'd love to see that in print (for sentimental reasons).

    Thanks for the incredible response to the Empathy question Audrey.  Really thought provoking because I'd never have placed that word introspectively.  The way you articulate it makes sense and its something some of us need to cultivate for ourselves so that we can be more available to others.

    • Marilyn, you mention accessibility. Let's see if I can throw one more Gob smack at you: in my incarnation at SAP prior to this one in SCN (after the islands), I was an accessibility specialist in the User Experience Group. Working with the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI, part of the W3C World Wide Web Consortium) and Section 508 of the ADA, I and my team mates created the original accessibility checklist for SAP web application development. How's that for an interesting twist in my career?

  • Hey Audrey...nice post :-). When I first met you and got to know that you ride a bike, I was fascinated. Now I know the full's so cool!

    In India, most people ride two-wheelers, but that's more out of necessity & convenience than a hobby/fun activity. I used to have one too (not heavy duty, of course), during my college days.

    • Hi Shweta, as we sometimes like to say over here: "it doesn't matter what (brand of motorcycle) you ride or why you ride, it just matters that you ride!"  🙂

  • Hi Audrey, great blog. I know we have exchanged various email before but I never suspected you to be a biker! My father has the same Beemer ar you, I have a full license but so far haven't managed to persuade him to allow me to have a go 🙁

    Keep up the good work with SCN, I think I speak for most when I say the look, feel and functionality is absolutely great and still evolving as you guys do listen to us.


    • I was kind of hoping to find out if any of my fellow SCNers are riders as well, and I'm glad to hear you are one among them. I'm sure at some point you'll be carving the curves on something, even if it's not Dad's!

      And thank you for your kind comment about SCN. I, too, am still sometimes frustrated with its limitations, but there really are some cool things about it, like how much easier it was for me to write this blog post than it ever was in the old SCN.

  • Hi Audrey,

    Absolutely loved your blog! Such an easy read.

    I can relate to so many things... you hit the nail on the head when you said "women in technology... forget to empathize with themselves" - it's so true!

    I love scuba diving - it's one of my many passions.

    I still want to learn how to ride a motorcycle - but I prefer Harleys. Great photo of you riding and the veil on the bike helmet 🙂

    At one stage I thought of getting a chook pen but after a lot of thinking I decide not to do it. A lot of work!

    It's amazing how many people we are "meeting" through BIF and great to find out that we have so many things in common.



    • Hi Alexandra,

      If you prefer Harleys, you will be interested to know that our Senior VP, Mark Yolton, rides one! I can't find the link to his photos right now, but perhaps he would be so gracious as to post it in a reply here.

      Regarding getting chickens, maybe you'll reconsider? If you start small (say, 3 hens), and if you actually purchase a coop instead of making one, I can say that once everything's in place, they are actually pretty low-maintenance, with such a great reward.


      • Hi Audrey: Great post! Loved it.

        Hi Alexandra: As Audrey mentioned, I have a Harley-Davidson Road King Classic.   Here's an easy-for-me-to-find photo of my bike from a recent ride to the top of Mt. Diablo in the SF Bay Area. Better yet, come take a ride with me and some friends east of the Sierra mountains via video ... 😎

        • Hi Mark,

          Wow - amazing photos and your bike is just jaw dropping. Great video - I felt as if I were riding with the group. It's mind blowing!

          I love Harleys - but have to learn to ride first. And would have to buy a tiny one - with that sound of a Harley motorcycle 🙂



  • Great blog! Like we say in the hood which I didn't grow-up in "Respect":) You are defiantly one of the coolest SCNers ever. Living on an Island, the Motorcycle and the Coop. Also the country life is very cool:)

    Thank you for joining the BIF family,


  • Thank you , girlfriend for blogging it forward to me.

    I am super glad we met at SAP and I love visiting you, Clint and the chicken at Fort Knox.

    You are a key part of making SCN what it is. You taught me so much when I joined about community and kept me from doing a lot of stupid marketing things that I thought were cool ideas. LOL.

    BIG VIrtual Hug Audrey Stevenson as Michelle Crapo would say :-),


    • Natascha, right back at ya: you taught me so much, and while I wish you the best in your newt endeavor (you will be very successful!), I can't help but miss you here at SAP. I'm glad you're staying in touch with the community.

  • Hi Audrey,

    What a great BIF blog post. I loved reading it. I thought I knew a little bit about you - well, I guess after reading this post, a little was actually nothing 😉 . There is so much more I didn't know and it's so interesting and fun to find out (I love the wedding in Vegas before TechEd fact most 🙂 ). I yet have to finish my BIF blog - it's about time...

    Thanks for sharing so much about you with all of us.


  • Aha!!!!

    finally we know the answer to the age old question about, "What came first? the chicken or the egg" 🙂 .....the chicken came first, then the eggs and finally the scrambled eggs 😆

    Thanks Audrey for this wonderful blog. You must surely be a fun person to work with 🙂

  • Hi Audrey,

    Thank you so much for sharing about you and your experience. It was very interesting and different to read you BIF. Keep up the good work. Thanks for sharing fantabulous blog. Keep rocking and sharing new innovation and ideas. I love to read your blogs and happy to comment it.

    Have a nice day! 🙂


    Hari Suseelan