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Author's profile photo Former Member

Be Bold – Ask to Spend a Day Shadowing an Executive


Each year I find it harder to put together an aggressive career development plan.  Perhaps it is because I’ve been in Marketing for a few years, or perhaps I have been stuck in my comfort zone –taking classes, reading books, etc.  This year though – I decided to take a bold step. I decided to look to other leaders within the company that could inform and inspire me, then approach them for a chance to job shadow. 

I had never tried shadowing another executive, but spending the day (or longer) with a successful executive held great appeal. By shadowing, I would have the opportunity to attend meetings, observe leadership skills firsthand, and network with people I wouldn’t normally
have access to.

On a recent trip to New York, Denise Broady, the COO of SAP’s Industries group (Industry Cloud), offered to let me shadow her for a day.  To put things in context, I lead a team of marketers and she leads a related, but much larger, team that spans operations, content development and sales enablement.  Denise also has a very diverse and interesting background, which made the opportunity even more enticing.

As part of the shadow experience, Denise invited me to spend the entire day observing her activities, asking questions and peppering me with career
advice.   Here are some things I learned or reaffirmed around positive leadership:

  • Stay calm in meetings and conference calls.  It’s not uncommon for professionals to passionately disagree with one another, and Denise demonstrated the value of staying calm and keeping the conversation grounded on the topics, not the emotions
  • When challenged on a call – never go on the defensive, bring them into the fold with solid reasoning
  • Present with knowledge and confidence even if it was an assignment that was difficult or undesirable – you still want to show leadership
  • Lead by example. When dealing with employees, manage intelligently.  Be well organized and expect that of anyone you’re handing off to

I looked around to see which other companies have active programs and found that Deloitte has a robust Leadership Shadow Program including the CEO level.   One participant, Margaux Lisiak, Manager, Strategy, Innovation, and Corporate Development commented on her experience shadowing Barry Salzberg, Global CEO:

“During my two days with Barry, I attended the DTTL Quarterly Meeting, a Global Advisory Council workshop, and scheduling,
communications, and strategy meetings. I listened in on College Summit calls, had lunch with Barry and his chief of staff, and came away with a deep appreciation for the complexities of a leadership role and insights that will be valuable as I continue my career at Deloitte.”

The most important take away from my day with Denise – we need to do more learning through first-hand observation.  I intend to lead by example, by opening my schedule to others so they can benefit from my expertise and hope more of SAP’s senior leadership will follow Denise’s example as well.  If you’re worried about reaching out, Denise advises “Be bold – just ask.”

I’d be interested in hearing more about other’s job shadowing experiences, how it could be improved, and what others have learned.   Was it a powerful
learning experience?  Did you ask?

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      Author's profile photo Krysten Gentile
      Krysten Gentile

      Hi Joan-

      I loved reading about your experience in shadowing Denise. I also tend to stay in my comfort zone when building a professional development plan. But you've inspired me to step outside of the box and try something new. I haven't shadowed anyone in the past, but I will be sure to share my experience if/when I do. Great Post! Krysten