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Last day in NYC 1955.jpgIt is my pleasure to go ‘Behind the Scenes’ with our very own Director of Community Advocacy SCN, Marilyn Pratt! It is especially fitting in honor of Community Manager Appreciation Day #CMAD, this Monday, January 27 as Marilyn is one the SCN’s most beloved community managers!

Marilyn is a wonderful speaker and educator. As a true mentor, she excels in her listening skills. She ‘hears’ the community daily and tirelessly fights for their needs behind the scenes. I have had the pleasure of personally working with and learning from Marilyn since I joined the team in 2006. I admire her passion, empathy and sense of justice and am proud to call her a friend. Read on to learn more about Marilyn. 


Please share some personal details: I’m officially a senior citizen this year with a beautiful family that includes a geographically dispersed group of 5 children (3 of them married), 2 granddaughters and another grandchild “on the way”.

We love to surprise one another with visits.  All my kids gathered for my 60th birthday, for example.

marilyn family portrait.jpg

Photo credit to Lyn Ofrane.


Gali: Marilyn’s home base today is New York and her ‘Mentor basement’ is well known to many. The baby picture above is Marilyn on her last day as a native NY’er in 1955 and below is her first day back in NYC with her parents in 1998.

First day back in the NYC.jpg

You have a unique title, could you tell us a bit about it? Thanks to my manager, Jeanne Carboni,  I have a title for what I do.  She helped me chose it and promoted me as the Director of Community Advocacy SCN working with the “Collaboration Team”.

What brings you the most satisfaction from your role? I love the name Collaboration Team because that is exactly what we do.  We work together in the truest sense of the word. I’ve often quipped that Jeanne manages some of the feistiest bunch of people in SCN.  We are all pretty strong “personalities” and consensus building and our collaborative work is one entailing a great deal of dialogue, sometimes dissension, but always with a great deal of listening and respect. I’ve worked for SAP for 15 years in various teams and roles and I can honestly say, I’ve never worked with a more caring, committed and professional group of people than I do now.

Can you share about an interesting project you’ve worked on? One of the more interesting projects I’ve worked on entailed creating context for coding jams and getting a deeper understanding of how a business case is articulated.  As a former developer, I often looked at coding from a pure “specs” perspective which was often a rather narrow scope.  Learning about process analysis and translating business needs to implementable code after getting deep guidance from domain experts really changed my views on the value of the Business Process Expert.  Helping create the Business Process Expert community was probably the most challenging work I’ve done for SAP.

What is your favorite SCN space and why? Hands down, I’d say that the Design Thinking With SAP Space is my favorite topic area.  I know there is a bit of contention around the term but I love the definition of the space: 

“Design Thinking is a mindset backed by a suite of tools that gives us a powerful new way to solve problems and unlock potential. It complements our existing approaches by focusing on understanding the human side of things — what our technology is and what that technology means to you and to your customers.”

While I love technology, coding, coders and all things geeky, it is the human side of what we do that most intrigues me.

What would the community be surprised to learn about you? I once helped inoculate thousands of chickens against Newcastle Disease while volunteering on a farm.  I was tasked with catching those 3 to 5 at a time, and holding them upside down by their feet, which I was told hypnotized them.  I now have a bad feeling it might have actually made them unconscious…. For days afterwards whenever I saw any kind of bird, pigeon or sparrow, in my vicinity, I felt the instinct to run after it.  It wasn’t my favorite work experience.  I’m sure it wasn’t the favorite experience of the chickens, either.

Please help us grow from your personal experience;  share one tip/resource/guide/experience that you recommend after finding it helpful from personal experience One of my work colleagues at SAP introduced me to the idea that all things be they pleasant or unpleasant are impermanent. Another helped me understand that “perfect” is the enemy of good.  These ways of thinking have given me the confidence and freedom to “ideate” without being so married to my ideas that I’m unable to modify them or even realize them, yet has enabled me to create events and activities that evolve and build on input from others.  They may not be perfect events, but they are good ones.

The next four questions are taken from the Actor Studio interview questions:

What is your favorite word:  Gratitude (this year especially) Empathy, Inclusion, and Advocacy are some other close favorites

Least favorite word: Impossible!

What sound do you love:  Unrestrained joyous laughter (I know, many of my colleagues agree)

What profession other than yours would you love to attempt: Writing fiction

Knowing the topic of empathy is near and dear to your heart, could you answer your own BIF question: Describe an instance when empathy in a project, development, collaboration, work experience, or community interaction turned a situation around (or should have).

That’s an easy one. I once taught a class in SAP Canada on graphic screen development (ABAP Screen Painter).  One of my students was a developer who was blind from birth.  I struggled during the week’s course to translate everything I was “showing” the class by demonstrating the tool,  to an audible series of keystroke definitions so I verbalized in a kind of simultaneous translation all my actions and visual activities to audio ones.  It was challenging and I was a bit “put out”.  The final hour of the week long class we were to share an exercise and explain the coding.  Suddenly there was a blackout in the building and while all the students sat in front of their darkened screens in a totally pitch black room, the blind student led everyone through his coding, verbally.  He was given resounding applause at the end of his performance, done from memory and very well executed.

It’s well-known that you love traveling.  Do you have a favorite travel location? Chendamangalam (Kerla, India) – place of incredible inclusion

http://grannimari.blogspot.com/2008/01/chendamangalam-my-kind-of-shangri-la.html

How about one from the to go list: Mastering SAP Technology, Australia 😆

In SAP TechEd Madrid 2011 there was a famous flashmob (video credit to Dennis Howlett) in your honor, which was an outpouring of love and admiration. If you could, who would you organize a flash mob for? That’s a terribly difficult question because I admire many, many people in our community and would like to find additional creative ways to acknowledge them, but I’d love to give special honor to Tammy Powlas. From an SAP SCN perspective I’ve rarely seen anyone as active and dedicated as she is online and off. Every Inside Track, every blog, conversation, dilemma, tweet seems to never escape her sharp eyes.  But I think she would kill us if we did a flash mob for her!  And embarrassing someone would hardly be gracious.

In past SAP TechEds your topics have covered; diversity, inclusion, empathy and most recently failure. Would you be willing to share an example in which you learned and grew from your failure?

My famous example is the non-inclusive, inclusion event (first one) where the panel didn’t include enough perspectives.  This was remedied by giving more autonomy to the people who explained to me what didn’t work and including them in iteration greatly improved the format and outcomes of additional events. (Shout out to Matthias Steiner, Thorsten Franz, Tobias Trapp, Jon Reed and especially Heike van geel.

Could you give the community a hint on what the 2014 topic will be? Thinking “R” words: Retrospectives, Reflections, Resilience vs. Robustness

Do you have any thoughts on how our community can be more inclusive, empathetic and open to failure? I’d like to see us return to a state of really welcoming newcomers. Embracing the idea that without newbie presence (blunders and all) the community will wither and die or implode.   I think (self -included) that we have forgotten how to be truly gracious to first-time participants and we all might reflect on how it feels to walk into a room of strangers and be viewed with suspicion and intolerance.   I feel a blog coming…..

Marilyn truly cares, listens and works tirelessly for the good of the community. Our colleague below said it best when he wrote, “… Marilyn is the heart of SCN”. Please read further for this and other SCN Team quotes:

  • “Marilyn Pratt is one of the most influential people in the SAP Community Network. I cannot count the number of times people have told me that she is the reason they engage with the community. She works quietly behind the scenes, encouraging individuals to share their knowledge, talent and themselves through SCN and SAP events. Marilyn drives goodness through projects like the World Food Program Points for Food, motivating thousands to give of their time to contribute to this great cause. I feel very fortunate to have met and gotten to know Marilyn.”
  • “Marilyn has been a role model for so many people in so many ways. I am one of those people, and I continue to learn from Marilyn every day. She exemplifies community spirit in all aspects of her life, not just online on SCN. Marilyn leads with empathy and always seeks to find solutions to challenges that meet the needs of all participants. I can’t remember who first coined the hashtag #WWMPD (What Would Marilyn Pratt Do), but I find myself using it at appropriate moments. I’m proud to work beside Marilyn and hope to get to do so for a long time coming!”
  • “Always there to offer a tender solution to a tough challenge, which was expressed by the meme “What would Marilyn Pratt do?”
  • “When I joined SCN, it seemed that every other person said, “If you really want to know what’s going on, you need to talk with Marilyn Pratt”. That first conversation I had with her, and the many that followed, provide me with an advanced degree in an esoteric, but totally applicable, course of study in human relations, SAP, developers, sales, sustainability, social media, kids, adults, CRM, influence, and God knows how many other topics that have been invaluable to me. To say that Marilyn is a mentor (or, Mentor) is to miss the point of what she brings to our team, and probably every team with which she is involved. She cares about things that many only give lip service to: passion, listening skills, and a desire to want to make things work better. But beyond caring, she commits herself and does the work required to make an impact. All of that adds up to the great intangible known as heart. Marilyn Pratt IS, without question, the heart of SCN.”

Join Marilyn’s twitter following 😉 @marilynpratt

In addition, both Marilyn and I invite the community to honor Community Managers on January 27, #CMAD.

See additional ‘Behind the Scenes’ with SCN Team members.
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25 Comments

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  1. Jitendra Kansal

    great Choice Gali. It always great to read about experienced leader like Marilyn. Enjoyed reading. Thanks for sharing.

    I have heard a lot about Marilyn and wanted to meet her at TechEd Bangalore but due to her son’s health problem she couldn’t come to Bangalore. I hope he is doing better now.

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    1. Marilyn Pratt

      Thanks so much Jitendra Kansal .  My son is doing much better now.  I was really bummed to have missed meeting you all and it’s not a secret that Bangalore is one of my favorite events.  But family first (as much as I love my community family!).  Hope we have other opportunities.

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  2. Tammy Powlas

    Marilyn – I am honored that you want to give me a flash mob but very relieved that this hasn’t happened.

    Thank you for all the advice, support, and community work.  I remember you saying that it is “community first” with you and I try to follow that too.

    I really enjoy the pictures of you and your family too.

    Gali – thank you for writing about the great Marilyn.

    Tammy

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    1. Marilyn Pratt

      Thank you Jeanne.  Our team is deeply indebted to you for the “backbone” you provide to us and the way you herd….us chickens.  (speaking of myself in that instance, of course, when we are clucking about). 😛

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  3. Raquel Pereira da Cunha

    Gali, what a great blog. I’m just back from some days off and the first thing I see in SCN is a blog about Marilyn Pratt. What a nice surprise! Thank you for letting us know more about our lovely Mentor.

    Marilyn,

    I loved to read about you and to see your pictures. You have a beautiful family.

    I have already mentioned here in SCN in other opportunities how much I admire you and how you have changed my life, and reading the quotes about you in this blog I felt all of them could be mine.

    Thank you for being an inspiration and making me and many other community members feel included.

    P7220249.jpg

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    1. Marilyn Pratt

      Thank you for your kind words! Whenever a new person steps forth and shows their skills and expertise, I feel like a proud parent who knows that their offspring are wonderful on their own merits and talents. You enrich us with your knowledge, your sense of participation and most lately your musical sense of fun.

      Marilyn

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  4. Kumar Mayuresh

    Marilyn It was an honor to meet you at SAPTechEd 2012 Bangalore and hope to see you soon. Thanks a lot for making me understand Design Thinking 🙂 & for your guidance and contribution to Community. I liked your pic and you have a beautiful family. 

    We are proud to have you with us,

    Gali Awesome choice, thanks for sharing,

    Regards

    Kumar 🙂  

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  5. Kumud Singh

    Thanks Gali for sharing this with us. I remember, when I had met Marilyn at TechEd 2012, I requested her to share with the community about her diverse and versatile experience.

    These blogs help us in getting a glimpse of her rich experience and expertise. Thanks!

    Regards,

    Kumud

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  6. Twan van den Broek

    I cannot count the number of times people have told me that she is the reason they engage with the community.


    I am one of them 😉


    Marilyn is our community mother! I do have really good memories with the initial community days, process design slam, her connecting me to other SDN rockstars like Richard Hirsch, and so on …


    Thanks Marilyn!!

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  7. Marcia Walker

    Such a beautiful, well-written blog about such a beautiful, well-spoken colleague.  Meeting Marilyn Pratt in person was a highlight of 2013 for me; I had already “met” her virtually in 2012, when I first joined SAP.  Marilyn was one of the first people to make me feel truly welcome in my “new home”.  Some of Marilyn’s characteristics that I find particularly exemplary are her ability to view any situation from multiple perspectives, question her assumptions, and lead from the heart.  She is an inspiration to me and to the SCN Community, and I am honored to call her a colleague.

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  8. Matthias Steiner

    Great portrait Gali, hence there’s little to add.

    Marilyn is indeed the “heart” of our community and a role-model for soo many of us. She’s been a great mentor and dear friend for me personally and I know I’m just one of many people she impacted on both a personal and professional level.

    Happy to see her getting the recognition she deserves (and never actively chases)!

    Warm regards to both of you!

    matthias

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  9. Somnath Manna

    +++1

    I am simply lucky to have known Marilyn right from my baby days in SDN (ok SCN now). She (along with Craig) stepped in and lent support to my very first blog “Journey of an SDNer” way back in end 2006. Her kind words lifted my spirit (I had a personal family emergency coming over within a week too) and led me to continue contribute in SCN which is the best thing in my professional life. I truly am indebted to Marilyn.

    I had been to 7 TechEds (counting 2013) at Bangalore so much so it has become a professional “pilgrimage”. This time Marilyn was not there and felt the gap as someone very close family was absent. She has been the philosopher and guide for me in SCN and anything to do with Empathy in Digital / Virtual Community.

    Gali Bravo for writing this BTS blog on Marilyn – truly deserving on Community Manager Appreciation Day #CMAD. On a side note would love to know the reason behind her internet handle being “grannimari”.

    Best regards,

    Somnath

    PS: First time I travelled to US after intoduction to SDN I visited Marilyn’s basement only to realise for more than a year I was staying just couple of miles away previously before my SDN days 🙁  

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  10. Suseelan Hari

    Hi Gali,

    Thank you so much for sharing about Marilyn & her experience. This is something new to me. I haven’t seen this type of blog till now in SCN because one person is posting about others. Its a different thought and for me its different experience. Keep up the good work.

    Marilyn- I liked the photos of your family members. Big Family ! Big Thoughts ! Big Achievements in SCN. All the best! Hope to meet you all soon.

    Regards,

    Hari Suseelan

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  11. Marlo Simon

    Thanks you Gali for sharing this with us,

    I felt like a fan reading about my favorite idol/artisrt and finding more ways to resonate with them.

    Marilyn Pratt you are one those people that can benefit others by any means possible, the closer you are, warmer we get. What a beautiful family!

    Love from us all,

    Marlo Simon

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  12. Tom Cenens

    Hi Gali Kling Schneider

    Great post.

    Marilyn inspires many.

    What catches my attention is “the human side of things”. Past SAP TechED events (organized by Marilyn) have placed this in my thoughts and it’s still brewing there. Ever since TechED two years ago this fuels me like a continuous stream of energy and I believe it to be highly beneficial to spend time on the subject. 

    Best regards

    Tom

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  13. Martin English

    This line caught my eye when I first read this back in January….

    How about one from the to go list: Mastering SAP Technology, Australia 😆

    Today I finally got round to registering for the SIT that’s part of this years conference, and guess who else is attending….

    Now to find that #WWMPD shirt ….

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