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Empathy + Serendipity = #likeneverbefore


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Community spirit at it’s best

When Marilyn Pratt hosts a session, you don’t want to miss out. Due to the strike in Madrid, the SAP TechED evening session on Empathy & Design Thinking got cancelled.

Something magical happened though. Serendipity kicked in and a number of community members forged a plan to get together with the aim to get an introduction into the topic of Empathy & Design Thinking. We ended up in the NH Eurohotel with a decent group of community members (~20 community members).

I can’t voice for other community members but #SAPTechED changed my perspective on life. Last year I really thrived at SAP TechED and I thought nothing could surpass it but this edition did. It really was #likeneverbefore.

After an introduction to empathy, Marilyn introduced the group to Julia Dorbic, a Design Thinking consultant who works for D-LABS in Potsdam, Germany (Hasso Plattner High Tech Park). She has been training SAP employees in the topic of Design Thinking. She talked about how empathy is closely related to finding proper solutions for existing problems and how Design Thinking is often misinterpreted and underestimated since it has become such a buzz-word. She added that the methodology, applied in the right context, allows finding new solutions, or optimizing existing ones, to meet real user requirements.

Once in a while you meet someone special, someone who has a spark in their eyes. As such I hope we can soon welcome her to the SAP community network. 

Jeanne Carboni chimed in and talked to the group about the importance of trying to understand others by placing yourself in their perspective and how you can benefit from being able to do that. It’s definitely not easy and not something you learn over night. It takes time to get to that point but it’s definitely worth pursueing.

This informal get together was extremely valuable. Serendipity kicked in and introduced us to new persons, new relationships got forged, existing relationships became stronger. It feels so good to be part of this community.

An introduction to empathy


Image source: Replay of session The Role of Empathy in Design Thinking

The SAP TechED Live session on the role of empathy in design thinking serves as a good introduction into the topic of empathy. You can also check out the website of slim for more information:

I took the opportunity to write out a short part of the SAP TechED Live session:

It has to start with yourself. Because we have biases, prejudices and narrow-mindedness just to be candid that will prevent us from getting to that person, to connecting to that person, even before we engage in any kind of conversation and this is not just the other but also yourself. The idea of “self” is kind of a lucid thing, what does that even mean? Yourself? And in order to get to the heart of that you really need to practice what’s called self empathy. Where you try to understand, why do I think the way I do? Why do I judge people the way I’m judging them?


Ariving back home after SAP TechED I felt sad. It felt like I was ripped out of a world where everyone seems to understand me. Of course I was happy to see my family but a part of me was not back yet. A part of me was still living the fantasy, a part of me was still in another world. A world where people believe in me, a world where I can thrive, a world where I get inspired, encouraged and mentored to a much larger extent.

It made me think. What do I want out of life? What am I doing right now? Does it make sense? What is the meaning of me being in this world instead of the fantasy world that I seemed to have lived in for the past week?

And then it hit me. I figured out that in order to be happy, to do what I love to do, I have to balance both worlds because in both worlds there are people I care about and in both worlds I can do what I love.

I want to inspire others to step up and pay it forward, much like others have inspired me to do the same. I have never been more inspired in my whole life. This is a moment for life.

I can truly say SAP TechED was #likeneverbefore


A very inspired SAP Mentor

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  • Hi Tom,

      very nice and touching blog. We can feel it came from your heart.

    I have been part of the last events organized by Marilyn, either official or unofficial as our dinner at NH hotel in Madrid, and I share the same thought as you: "When Marilyn Pratt hosts a session, you don’t want to miss out.". I had the same feeling about this Teched: likeneverbefore. I still have to write my own blog about my awesome experience.

    It was great to meet you guys again after our Design Thinking event in Madrid 2011. I also felt the relationships got stronger. I felt so comfortable between you all. It would be nice if we could have had Slim with us as some of you could not be in Vegas, but at the same time, by magic (magic = Marilyn) we could have the pleasure to meet Julia. We had great moments with her after that, specially during Supertramp concert 🙂 .

    Please keep being so inspired as you always inspires me, and for sure many others.

    Thanks for sharing.



    • Hi Raquel

      Thanks for your comment and kind words.

      Thanks for being one of the organizers as well (I didn't exactly knew who the persons where that got it going).

      I felt very comfortable as well, it was more or less like being at home (except for the ATM that ate my bank card 🙂 ). The Supertramp concert was great fun, I knew much more songs than I realized.

      You also inspire me so that's a good thing we got going there 😉 and I will keep going as I love to write as well. Writing a book is on my todo dream list.

      Looking forward to read your blog post.

      Best regards


  • Great blog post Tom! Really loved the workshop in Vegas, but I also enjoyed the informal meeting in Madrid. I role by the same rules... if Marilyn runs an event, I'd got the extra mile to attend 🙂

    BTW, the effect you describe once you got home is known as PSTW syndrome = "Post SAP TechEd Withdrawal" coined by Gretchen Lindquist in this blog...

    • Hi Matthias

      Thanks! I didn't know it had a name 🙂 but I did see the effect in some tweets from other SAP Mentors as well while I was heading home.

      Luckily I will be organizing a SAP Inside Track Belgium today! Yeah! So I can already recharge with a community get together. I'll try to not to catch the PSSITW syndrome. Thanks for the reference to the blog post.

      Best regards


      • Yep Tom, afraid it happens to all of us to varying degrees - I feel exactly the same way you do when I get home, glad to be home but also missing the place where my thoughts are so readily understood by the people at TechEd.

        I have had PSTW the past 3 years and it does not get any easier, to be honest I think the worse the PSTW, the more valuable TechEd has been - it is up to you to turn the PSTW into action and not wallow in it.

        Gutted not to be in Madrid and not seeing you - next year, perhaps PA for Cloud Week 🙂


        • Hi Chris

          Looks like many of us do experience it 🙂 . I didn't even know there was a "definition" for it. Glad you can relate and too bad you weren't there but like you say, perhaps sapvweek or SAPPHIRENOW Orlando? (I should attend both but then the balancing might force me to pick one of them).

          You are absolutely right on the action part. I have many ideas in my head and I'll definitely try to get change going and take action.

          Best regards


  • Sitting here in Bangalore, marveling at how Tammy Powlas and Martin Gillet and Tom Van Doorslaer Fred Verheul and many others keep the conversations alive and vibrant (Tammy at some god-awful hour in the morning too during #sitbru sessions). Looking forward to Slim and Julia meeting up with us in Bangalore + Mrinal Wadhwa and others. It's true Tom Cenens thanks for seeing that the party continues in Belgium helping us get sound and video too.  Trying to get back into the session now 🙂

    • Thx for all you have done Marilyn, much appreciated. I hope you have a great time in Bangalore. Wish I could be there 🙂 . It's great to be part of such a vibrant community. We have the most awesome community evangelist 😉 .

  • Hi Tom,

    Great blog, and I'm totally with you on the SAP Inside Track thing: it's a very good antidote to PSTW, as illustrated on Friday during sitbru . Just to make sure I stay healthy, I'll take one more dose at sitnl on Dec 8th.

    I loved the Design Thinking experience during Innojam, and the various discussions afterwards, culminating in the Wed night at the NH Eurobuilding hotel. Big thanks to Marilyn Pratt for pushing this through. Completely agree with all the others: if she hosts a session, you'd better be there!

    Cheers, Fred

    • Hi Fred,

      Thanks for the comment and thanks for being part of SIT BE. I was glad SIT was so close to SAP TechED Madrid because as you say, it's a good antidote 🙂 . Have fun at SIT NL!

      Best regards


    • Hi Jocelyn

      Thanks for the kind words!

      If you want to talk about #techedenvy, my mail is publically visible in my SCN profile. Feel free to get in touch with me.

      Best regards


  • Wow, Tom.  What you have written just confirms to me what an inspiration you are! 

    Many people may deal with #PTWS (Post TechEd Withdrawal Syndrome) and it's not 'just' TechEd.  It could be the feeling you get when you return from a wonderful vacation, or from time spent working on a different project.  When you get back to 'real life', even though it's filled with people you love, and who love you, there is sort of a let-down. 

    For you, you have incorporated the learnings from the #empathy and #designthinking workshops (and I am sure you had a healthy sense of empathy before) and turned them inward.  This introspection is key towards finding empathy elsewhere in life.

    I am so pleased that you chose to share this with us.



    • Hi Sue

      Thanks for the kind words! It's very comforting to read others experience the same kind of emotions. Life-long learning is something I embrace and we can all learn. I look forward to dig deeper into topics such as design thinking and empathy, those kind of topics are very interesting and intriging.

      Best regards


  • There is a (growing) group of people that I suspect to go through the same procedure every year:

    • find out about the next TechEd date
    • identify a business reason or personal budget justification to go
    • get there
    • drop the business reasons, i.e. miss previously important TechEd content in favor of meeting the people you just couldn't wait to meet again

    To me TechEd has always been about the people (as much as I'm in awe about the conference organisation!), the technical content is a bonus that gives additional inspiration for when you get home.

    The conversations and interactions I've had at various TechEds far exceed the technological knowledge gain, and I don't mind at all.

    Can't wait for 2013 😉

    • This thread highlights several things I really like about #SAP:

      * Tom's original post isn't about SAP technology or ever SAP per se, but rather the choices that all of us face in work/life balance, in feeling part of multiple families, and of the value of unexpected consequences.  This is the true meaning of community, the 'c' in SCN.

      * With more that 20K views and 20+ comments, it's clear that the post hit home.  But more than that, people managed to personalize the post to their own experience.  To me, this is the network effect.  The 'n' in SCN.

      * And Frank's comment inspired me because it reminded me of the real value on in-person events.  The people.  No matter how hard I work to replicate the TechEd/SAPPHIRE NOW experience online, it can never quite be the same.

      Thanks all.  You inspire me.

      • Hi Jonathan

        Thanks for your comment.

        I think it's safe to say SCN has evolved and is still evolving which is great. The way I see it, the community is shifting more to "social" over time. There is a good reason why this community is often mentioned in literature. It's best in class. It's a privilege to be part of this community.

        SAP is not just about technology, it's about far more than that which is one of the things I love most about SAP.

        Best regards


    • Hi Frank,

      Thanks for your comment and it was great to meet you.

      I agree with you, forging new relationships and strengthening existing relationships are more important than the technical content.

      Best regards


  • Great blog Tom, thanks for posting it.

    I didn't have the chance to join a Teched yet, but I know this #PTWS - Post TechEd Withdrawal Syndrome ( great term Susan Keohan ) from other events and even vacations - especially this year's trip to Greenland. What did hurt much was the incapability to share the impressions I had. Ok, I made pictures, but they couldn't transport the atmosphere during the trip.

    Best regards


    • Hi Dirk

      Thanks for your comment. It's comforting and nice to hear that other community members can relate to the story / feeling. I love to pour my heart out by blogging / writing about experiences but I do know what you mean, it's not easy to describe the feeling to others. Greenland is definitely one of the places I would love to visit. I can certainly imagine that it's special to travel around there.

      Best regards


    • Hi Kevin

      Thanks for your comment 🙂 . I hope so, are you going to any specific events? I should be either at Virtualization&Cloud week (April) or at SAPPHIRENOW in Orlando (May) or both.

      Best regards


  • Hi Tom,

    Very nice blog. I could very well relate to your experience. Personally I feel impact of design thinking is huge and it would need both maturity and experience to understand and practice it entirely.



    • Hi Kumud

      Thanks for your comment. It's nice to you can relate to my story / experience. I plan to follow a course or courses on this topic / related topics as I feel this is indeed very important. These kind of understandings and skills is what can set one apart from others.

      Best regards


  • Hey Tom! It was great reading this again! Straight from the heart! SAP TechEd has also exceeded my expectations by far- meeting you and the other mentors was a great experience! Thanks for finding such kind words for me Tom, and thanks to Marilyn for letting me be part of these great talks! Looking forward to meeting all of you again,

    greetings from Shanghai, Julia

    • Hi Julia!

      Great to see the SCN team fixed your login 😀 . Welcome to SCN! Thanks for the nice words and for commenting on the blog post. It was my pleasure to meet you at SAP TechED.

      Marilyn Pratt rocks 😎

      Greetings from rainy Belgium 😉 ,


  • Hi Tom,

    It really took me a awhile to find out about this blog and get a chance to read it.  Thank you to The specified item was not found. for pointing it out to me.  I didn't know about PSTW either, but it explains a lot!

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insights about the events, and for being so inspirational!

    I'm looking forward to reading more of your posts and seeing you at future SAP TechEds!


    • Hi Jeanne Carboni

      Nice to hear Julia told you about this blog post 🙂 . I didn't know what PSTW meant, only after reading this blog post, fellow SAP Mentors pointed out to me that this is something that was "well known" amongst community members.

      SAP TechED was wonderful, I really enjoyed talking to you, it definitely inspired me as well.

      Looking forward to the next SAP TechED already.

      Best regards


    • Hi Mudhun VP

      Thanks for your comment! I'm still empowered by this event, 8 months later it still feels like yesterday and the message and the sentiment still lives strongly within me, it lingers on and fuels me to go further & reach higher goals.

      Best regards


  • Hi Tom,

    I was just pointed to your blog yesterday, in a serendipitous kind of way. I loved it! Yesterday, we (SAP) launched something called "The Quick MIX" as part of an SAP M-Prize we are sponsoring. It's a thought leadership initiative that's all about crowdsourcing ideas around unleashing human potential. You'll see that Jonathan Becher, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer of SAP, contributed an idea in the Quick MIX related to empathy in business. Feel free to contribute an idea of your own for the one thing you'd change to help companies/organizations unleash and organize human potential.

    More info can be found here:

    • When ideas like DT, inclusion, empathy and failure resonate well with our executives, we know we are on "an effective track".  Thanks for the links Julie.  Glad our topics seem to grab your interest!

    • Hi Julie

      Great to hear you like the blog. Interesting also that you have been pointed out to this blog post. The topic resonates with many and the blog reached for beyond the SAP community as well which is amazing to see.

      Thanks for pointing out SAP M-Prize, very interesting, I will look into it.

      Best regards


  • Hi Tom,

    Thank you for sharing about SAP TechED Live session. This blog is very interesting and good!

    Keep up the good work! Still waiting to see new blogs from you! 🙂

    Good Luck! Happy New Year! 😎


    Hari Suseelan