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Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in SAP’s Financial Services Business Women Network dinner in New York City hosted by Debbie Schmidt, SAP Strategic Industries COO. We also had the pleasure to be joined by Dr. Mary Kay Vona, Principal in the Advisory Services practice of Ernst & Young LLP as our guest speaker. Dr. Vona shared her experiences and thoughts on how women can realize their full potential.  She answered questions on her keys to success and how to effectively manage up. It wasn’t easy to make partner but her hard work paid off. Her wisdom and guidance was much appreciated by this audience, even the men. (Wait, men?) Yes, men at a women’s networking event. Simon Paris Global Head of SAP Strategic Industries, Karl Kesselring, Global Head of SAP Strategic Industries Ecosystem & Channels, Peter Krueger HR Business Partner, SAP Global Strategic Industries and  Andrew Berhle, FSI Human Resources joined us. At first, they seemed a bit uncomfortable but they eased in…It’s an interesting role reversal and allowed them to hear our perspective on careers, successes and challenges.

The dinner was different than other networking events I attended in the past. Sure, it started with the typical cocktail networking but led to a loosely structured dinner which was fantastic. We had a predetermined facilitator at each table guiding us through questions to start the discussion.  This structure enabled everyone at the table to interact and make personal and professional connections versus just meeting the person to your right and the one to the left.   What was the exercise? And what did it do? 

·         Tell a little known fact about yourself: A great ice breaker to make a more personal connection and it sparked a lot of dialogue. It’s amazing the odd things you can have in common with someone you just met.

·         What expertise or connections can you offer the women at your table? Who? Me? What can I offer people? (such a typical female response!) I’m always thinking what other, more experienced female professionals can offer me. After all, my experience pales to theirs.  BUT, I’m realizing, a fresh perspective is always valued especially with the change workforce demographics. These women are leading teams comprised of the younger generation. 

·         What help or connections would you hope the women at the table can provide to you? Ah, a question I can respond to.  The biggest learnings I get from networking is learning about different paths to success. It helps me reflect on my experiences and chart the path forward. 

A great event and a great exercise. Of course, we got off topic a lot but the structure ensured inclusion of everyone from the table.  Did you attend? Were you sitting at a table with Simon, Karl, Peter, or Andrew?  How did your experience differ?

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