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What Commuting Taught Me About My Career

SAP Drive.jpg

Before I dive into the pearls of wisdom I’ve picked up from the road, I need to give a little context. I am from a small town in Southern New Jersey and up until being employed by SAP, I never left my county. I traveled on only familiar roads unless I had my route to my destination memorized.  So when I decided to take a job that involved a 70 mile commute one way, you could imagine that my family was a little shocked. I just couldn’t pass up an opportunity to 1) have a job secured before graduation and 2) work with an innovative and people-friendly company like SAP. This did not, however, stop me from being epically terrified when I set sail on my first day.  I was surprised and inspired by my own willingness to move so far outside of my comfort zone. I have continually adapted my driving techniques to increase my comfort level and success on my commute, something that is transferable to my new career.  This prompted me to share some things I learned about myself and my career while out on the road.

#1 Don’t Blame Your Car- The first couple weeks I was on the road, I was hyper cognizant of every noise and vibration coming from my car. I immediately assumed that there was something wrong with it, and vowed to take it to the shop at first chance. As I continued on my commute, I realized that it wasn’t my car that was the problem. It was the road! Just like roads have cracks and flaws causing our cars to tweak and turn, so too does the career path. When my previous career wasn’t going the way I hoped, I assumed it was my fault. Truth is there will always be bumps in the road. Eventually they just become less noticeable as the focus shifts from the road to the destination.

#2 Take Risks: Being a newbie on the road, I would stay in the right lane at all costs if I knew my exit was on the right side. I didn’t want to run the risk of not being able to get where I wanted to be because I was stuck in the wrong lane.  While yes this strategy works, it would undoubtedly add unnecessary time and frustration to my commute. It’s a good thing to break out of the pack and mark your own pace. Use that passing lane! Don’t let the behaviors of others dictate your journey.

#3 Find a Rabbit- This piece of wisdom comes from my husband’s desire to flagrantly disregard speed limits. Say you’re driving along and someone speeds past you and you think to yourself, “If they can get away with going that fast, then I can too!” So you pull out behind them, and ride their coattails. Rabbits are great because if there is a speed trap, they hit it first and if they swerve to miss a pothole, you can follow their lead. Mentors are the rabbits of the professional world. They can accelerate your career by paving the way and can also help you avoid some pitfalls.  I can attest to the positive impact that a mentor can have, and also the stalling affect they leave in their absence.

#4 Explore Alternate Routes- Once I became secure in my route, I began experimenting with different routes to get me to my destinations faster. Some routes were successful in this task, others were not so much. In every instance I ultimately ended up where I wanted to be, and even saw some beautiful scenery along the way. Development is a fundamental part of career success. Branching out and trying something new can only enrich your career, whether not it leads to an immediate promotion. In my field of HR, it is important now more than ever to have business intelligence to better serve the employees. So why not spend some time in sales? It may seem like a detour, but who’s to say you won’t pick up some souvenirs of wisdom while you’re there.

#5 Turn on Your Blinker- Have you ever tried merging into a lane without putting on your turn signal? It can be difficult and frustrating. The frustration can be eased by simply making those around you aware of your intentions. Without a blinker, the drivers around you may not realize that you’re trying to make a move. With a blinker, they may put on the breaks and let you in.  I have been learning a lot lately about how to build my personal brand in the workplace. Presenting your brand is your way of saying, “This is who I am and here I come!”. In order to get where you want to be, you have to make yourself and your intentions visible. Network, network, network! You can’t get the help or support you need if no one knows your looking.

#6 Keep Gas in the Tank- When it comes to your car, this is a no-brainer. However, when it comes to your career this aspect is often neglected. Until working for SAP, I thought “Work life Balance” was a professional unicorn- mythical and unattainable. It is so important to remember what motivates you to work as hard as you do. When I work from home and get to spend my lunch with my son playing outside in the sunshine; that is what keeps the gas in my tank. It gives me time to be a better mom and motivation to be a better employee. Take vacations, relax on the weekends, and at 5 P.M. turn off the work phones. Don’t let the gas in your tank burn so low that you’re running on fumes.

            I have laid before you here the challenge that I have placed upon myself. I am still very early in my new career (weeks, not years) and my goal is to turn my career into the shining example of all you can accomplish with these lessons and hard work. I believe I made the first move towards success by getting over my fears and beginning the journey down this road… and by writing my very first blog post!

SAP Drive.jpg
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  • Great advice and so very well written! You've made a stellar start to your SAP career and your SCN blogging career. Welcome and well done!

    Best regards,


  • Hi Jessica,

    This is a very nice article. Well written, good advice, brilliant analogies (eventhough you shouldn't let your rabbit take all the beatings when he's speeding)

    I'm looking forward to seeing more of your musings.


    • Hi Tom, thanks for your wonderful comments. "Beatings" is such a strong word! On the road, I think the rabbits are going to do what they are going to do, regardless of who is behind them (unless it's a cop!). As far as mentors go, my hope is to reap the learnings of those beatings, especially if their speeding (up the corporate ladder 🙂 ).  Thanks again for your comment!



      • Beatings is a strong word, but not far from the reality.

        Often times, mentors will also take a protective role over their pupils. That also means that, when one of their pupils makes a booboo, the mentor will take responsibility over that and protect their pupil. (aka, take the beating)

        At some point however, the pupils grow up and will (have to) start taking responsibility over their own actions. (which I meant in the reply)

        Further down the line, the former pupils will become mentors themselves and protect the newcomers (closing the circle)

        Taking a beating is not necessarily bad either. It's OK to make a mistake, as long as you commit to resolving it. That's how you learn from it. (I know I had my fair share of beatings)

        That also still holds true in your analogy of the freeway rabbit/hare. Sooner or later, the Schumacher in front of you will take an exit, and then you either slow down, or you take the beating and pay the fine.

        (I really do like your analogies, they go further than at first glance 🙂 )

        • Hi Tom,

          You've made many excellent points. I definitely agree that pupils have to grow up and take responsibility for their careers. Sometimes pupils can become so dependant upon thier mentors for damage control or career advancement and get into a state of learned helplessness. And worse yet they may not even realize now much of a crutch their mentor is until it gets kicked out from underneath them and the first beating comes. So I guess the moral of the story is, while you can caravan your way along the road, you still have to drive your own car! 🙂   Thank you for your continued engagement, I'm learning quite a bit!

  • Hi Jessica,

    I like your reflections. So I congratulate you on your first blog post.

    The comfort zone appears in different day-to-day activities and it’s a great opportunity to move outside of it.

    Talking about your road experience, I had a similar feeling the first time I drove from Spain to Hungary, my wife’s country, on holidays. I had planned the trip, prepared mentally my daughter and serviced the car at a garage, but I was afraid of driving on foreign roads. But the experience was exciting. I found out that abroad people drove much better than in my country and it was a pleasure. We could get to know new cities and we enjoyed this experience. Since then we have repeated these European trips twice and we are looking forward to driving through Europe again.

    Good luck in your new career!

    Best Regards


    • Hi Paco,  thank you for sharing your experiences. I can't imagine driving to a completely different country, and it's great that conquering that fear has such a great reward. I once went on a cross-country trip with my husband and father-in-law, where we were all supposed to take turns driving. I drove about 20 miles before they kicked me off for doing 5 miles under the speed limit. It is still a running joke in my family.This commuting experience has broaded my horizons, but I still have quite a way to go! Thanks again for the comments!



  • Jessica,

    This is an excellent write. I loved it that you have related it all with *commuting* when it comes down to the very basics of being successful in one's career.

    ATB for your destination ahead...