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!
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.
My 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:
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!