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Blog It Forward – Heike van Geel

so, I am kinda 2+ weeks behind schedule and I better finish this today, in particular since I am not capable to find the blog draft that I already started. sorry for venting, but what’s happening to the draft versions?

now, rather looking at the up-side, I do feel very honored to being BIF’d by  Audrey Stevenson and mentioned in her BIF

I am expected to read all the blogs? Wow, that’ll keep me busy. I did read some though and do look forward to read more, it is exciting to see how the chain travels the globe.

introduction to myself. I had a nice segway for this, yesterday, now lost in that draft I cannot find anymore. oh, here it comes, I am German and maintain that habit of mulling over things, actually cry over spilled milk. meckern as we call it in German. so, I am not over that lost draft just yet. Once I am over it, it will be okay. My name is Heike van Geel, yes German, not Dutch. I started working at SAP in May 2000, I’ve never worked for SAP in Germany and I’ve never worked for any other company in the US.

fun fact about myself. my husband and I do not only share the same initials, we also have an almost identical SSN, only one digit is different. Whenever we apply for a new credit that is raising suspicions, the system says it cannot be that two people are married and have an almost identical SSN numbers, did they meet in the line at the SSN office?

a cool picture of myself or homeland/town.


This is me. Uwe Dune on the island of Sylt. Unfortunately I cannot call Sylt mine nor my home. Though in many ways it’s home to me and where my heart is. And, as you can see, it was pretty cool that day, minus 10 C.

How do you think the way you were raised affected your career?

Education, hobbies, sports, friends – all those things were pretty much my choices. I was fortunate enough to be raised by parents who’d never forced their children to follow a particular education path, hobby nor sports activities. Of course within certain parameters of the financial possible, but especially my mom would  never judge our choices. I think that gave me the confidence being comfortable to change careers.

If you were given by your work a full day every week to do whatever you feel like, what would it be?

Exactly that. Do whatever I feel like doing on that given day. 

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

Those who know me, know I am on a mission, on a mission to spread design thinking. Now empathy does play a key role in design thinking. So, here I am on my mission and I am very passionate about that mission and anxious if not impatient. I like to share the advice I am getting from one of my favorite colleague and friend, somebody who calls me her DT mentor (I am ever so honored), Deepa Iyer , she keeps reminding me of the importance of empathy. She does not say be empathetic, but whenever I am yet again about to lose my patience, she’d say “it has to work for them, right?”, them being the people I like to designthinkiefy. So simple, so true, the pace of change, a change of mindset has to work for the people it’s addressed to, at their pace and under their conditions, otherwise it simply becomes irrelevant as change cannot be forced. Thanks Deepa, for being a mentor and coach to me 🙂

We all know, the people who use the products and services we create will learn how to work around it if we don’t make it relevant to them. They don’t need us, they’ll find their way of accomplishing their goals.

I learned more lessons on empathy while working in SAP’s probably most diverse team, actually the most inclusive team I should say. I am talking 15 people, 9 locations, 12 different passports, x different spoken languages and more. Most fun team I ever worked with. One had to accept the other and be inclusive, otherwise you’d be on your own and that’s no fun.

What else?

Ah, yes, I have to blog it forward. The first thing I thought about after I received Audrey’s BIF.

I’d like to blog it forward to

Deepa Iyer – as mentioned 

Tobias Hildenbrand – who has a lot to share about design thinking and agile, lean and more

Tobias, sorry, but I warned you, the community has to hearyour stories 🙂

Cesar Rodriguez  – who currently works in my team to put rubber on the road how best combine DT, Agile, Scrum and PM – since we all know DT is complimentary to well grounded and established methods in the SAP world.

Olena Demeter – has a lot to blog about and who is lucky enough to currently reside with the most fun team at SAP 

Laure Cetin – she told me she has been BIF’d a few times already, of course she has 🙂 , lemme just increase that pressure a bit more – not being empathatic about the fact this we are in mist of TechEd season

Questions to you – chose any 3 from the BIF blog started by xMoshe Naveh (Old Acct)

Lost blog draft: i am over you!

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  • Heike van Geel

    I am sorry to hear about your lost drafts - did you try Browse > Content > Drafts ?

    I am glad your blog posted and I like the "designthinkify" new verb.

    I look forward to hearing more about empathy in DT



    • Thanks Tammy. I found the draft 🙂 - for some reason i kept looking under "create" and when looking under content my eye balls also never made it back to the left panel.

      See you at InnoJam? My first TechEd InnoJam and I am very excited to be part of it.

      • There was no empathy in that user interface sadly.  Ironically it was Audrey Stevenson who had to teach me how to find my drafts and I even posted about it because it was so non-intuitive (to me) . ThanksTammy Powlas who is one of the most empathic and supportive members of this community for reminding us all how to do that.

        Heike, love how you tapped some new folks (new to me) and I very fond of your "mulling" and your ability to create concept magic.  How did you say to me? Practice empathy to derive insights for novel solutions.  When you mull, gears shift.

        • I so much agree with you here Marilyn when you say Tammy Powlas is one of the most supportive members of the community. With her silent actions, she has been a great motivational source for many here. There is nothing much left to be said about her as all of us know that she is just awesome!

  • Hi Heike,

    It' very nice to see you here in the BIF chain. I hope you've found your draft now with Tammy's help. 🙂

    Please include me in your list of people who consider you a DT Mentor. Somehow you are. You opened my mind for that, I'm very thankful.

    Looking forward to meeting you again. I'm excited to participate in the Empathy event.

    See you in Vegas.


  • Hi Heike,

    Both of us share a common passion - Design Thinking. I am already looking forward to empathetic design thinking session at TechEd Bangalore with Marilyn Pratt.

    And for sure I consider you a DT Mentor! Thanks for letting us know you better.



    • Thanks Kumud, that is so nice to hear. I am so fascinated and impressed by the Indian culture and mindset - hope to get the chance to one day come back to visit.

      I loved you mentor of the month interview, i need to take you as a role model to get more activet in SCN.

      Your support for Bangalore empathy event will be needed i.e. probably be called on for.  Once we get infected by

      Marilyn Pratt  spirit and energy there is not pulling back because we know and trust that she drives the right things, what matters and what's important 🙂 .

      • It would be awesome to meet you in person, Heike. I am all in for any support and help that I can give for the event, in fact I would be delighted to do so! 🙂



  • Heike,

    By now you've probably found your draft based on Tammy's instructions. I thoroughly enjoyed getting a glimpse into one of the designthinkifiers. I was especially intrigued by the story about your SSN and also the fact that you have never worked for SAP in Germany!

    Thanks again for your post.


    • Thanks Audrey. thanks for including me. yeah, i found the draft and closed that chapter.
      it's a unique SSN too. i always have unique numbers, my northern california golf association number is my birthday - isn't that funny - i stopped playing golf though.

      we'll do more designthinkify in palo alto - people got bitten by the bug and

      practitioners likeGilles Atlan and David Ramsay (to only mention a few) make it happen internally and externally and jointly during events like TechEd mentioned in Marilyn Pratt's blog

      BTW: i love this feature typing @ + name to link a community member.  and totally over the challenge with the lost draft 😛

  • Great blog Heike! And funny. Thanks for sharing these details and stories about yourself and being such a wonderful resource within SAP with your Design Thinking knowledge.

    Do you play the lottery? Because with your luck with numbers you could win big 😉


  • Hi Heike,

    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 exceptional 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

  • Ha! found another source of wisdom to follow up on my new year's resolution of looking into DT 🙂

    There is one question you left mysteriously open:

    did you or did you not meet your husband at the SSN office? 😉