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A rollercoaster of emotions at SAP TechED Barcelona 2016.

Having had time to reflect on one of the most amazing and rememborable SAP TechED’s over the past years I come to realize that the topic of Empathy has played a big role in creating an experience that will be hard to superseed. Let’s call it a challenge for next year!

Some years back, I got a small glimpse of the topic of Empathy at SAP TechED and it made a lasting impression. I feel strongly that this is an important topic. We have a SAP Mentor in our wolfpack group nicknamed Slim who practices empathy on a daily base, as part of his professional career as an executive coach. The ideal person to gather everyone around and get everyone to experience empathy I would say rather than to work around empathy.

The topic surfaced up again, for me personally, after SAP’s CEO Bill McDermott keynote at SAPPHIRENOW in May earlier this year. I could feel his words flow to the very spot where I was sitting, way in the back of the giant hall that hosts SAPPHIRENOW. He called out to the audience to drop him a mail if anyone had concerns and I took the opportunity to do so and bring up some concerns that I felt were important. He inspired me to take action.

As a SAP Mentor, I feel strongly about influencing SAP for the better. I love challenges and it felt like a secret mission that I could embark on so I want to help drive this topic now together with the SAP Mentor group to make empathy stay on top of the mind of SAP’s community, SAP’s customers and SAP themselves.

SAP TechED Live interview

Slim was invited into SAP TechED Barcelona to influence SAP on the topic of empathy and to lead an evening of empathy. An event sponsored by SAP, hosted by Slim and set up and supported by the SAP Mentor team. Slim hosted expert networking sessions at SAP TechED and we did an interview SAP TechED live of which you can watch the replay online.

If you watch the replay, you can already sense the presence and emotion that Slim puts into the topic and having talked to him on several occasions throughout SAP TechED, I felt blessed to be able to have these conversations and learn more about empathy.

The above tweet made my day: a shout out from SAP’s CEO Bill McDermott after I shared the live interview in a tweet. He inspired me to take action on the topic of empathy. Most credit goes to SAP, Bill McDermott himself for his leadership and passion on the topic, including SAP’s SVP Marketing Sian Smith and SAP’s CIO Thomas Saueressig for sponsoring the empathy evening event, to Slim for preparing the event,  for coaching us on the topic, sharing his knowledge and to the SAP Mentor team who have put a lot of work into getting everything ready and really making it happen. In the end I was merely one of the multiple SAP Mentor who are passionate about the topic and want to make a difference.

An evening of empathy

Although I believe I try to understand the perspective of my own customers and colleagues, sometimes it’s really hard. Humans have a tendency to be irrational from time to time, it is what makes us human and it is also what makes it hard to be anything like us. We are super complex and that’s what makes us great as well, our limitations lie where our imagination stops. This is where the evening of empathy steps in.

The “evening of empathy” event was hosted at a local restaurant in Barcelona where Slim explained to participants what empathy means to him while using examples from real life experiences. We experienced empathy by participating in exercises. By reflecting and talking with and to other participants about real life, business related situations where we’ve experienced a lack of empathy, we pushed the needle to come to insights and to prepare ourselves for the next steps to take to realize empathy.

Leaving the “Evening of Empathy” event also meant closing down the SAP TechED experience for 2016 for me. My flight left in the early morning the next day. Going outside of the restaurant where the empathy event was hosted, I felt the warmth of the SAP community. You could feel the empathy flow. A goose bump feeling came up, having had the opportunity to be part of something unique, to learn about empathy and discover new insights which I had not thought about before.

The impact on the participants

Afterwards, I received multiple e-mails from colleagues and friends who expressed they felt blessed to have been part of this experience. This fills my heart with joy as it shows the strength of the SAP community. It’s a one of a kind community and while it surely does have a strong online presence, the real life, face to face conversation and experiences make it even better. To experience it you have to be there, in that moment.

Wave good bye, smile and see you next time!

Back home, I’ve started reading Slim’s book on Realizing Empathy and I’m enjoying it every bit of the way.

“Call for action”

Keep an eye on SAP’s community and social media for more on #empathyatSAP as we drive this topic further.

We don’t only want to bring this topic to everyone’s attention, we want to inspire both SAP and the SAP community to drive this topic and take action.

You can find out more about the evening of empathy event in blog posts from other SAP Mentors:

Jason Cao: https://blogs.sap.com/2016/11/18/empathy-leads-to-action/

Florian Henniger: https://blogs.sap.com/2016/11/20/x-y-empathy-or-my-recap-on-this-event-at-barcelona/

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2 Comments

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  1. Mario De Felipe

    Tom, I congratulate you for receiving a recognition from Bill MD.
    I also feel very happy to have been part of the empathy event and share some words with people I really admire such as you.
    Also, Slim did a great job and Jason a great introduction, it was complicated in the begining to share emotions with strangers, but in the end you create a bond with people you dont know but they open to you, and you to them.

    Thanks for this review, and hope to see you soon.

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    1. Tom Cenens Post author

      Hi Mario

      Thanks, Bill has inspired me to continue to thrive and to reach higher, he is in my opinion a great leader so I take his advice seriously. I consider him to be a SAP Mentor as well actually. We urgently need to give him a SAP Mentor shirt now that I think about it.

      Thanks for your comment and thanks also for attending the empathy evening event. It was nice to talk to you and great to hear that you enjoyed participating, stepping out of your comfort zone and sharing. I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback from attendees about the event which delights me.

      Slim is awesome, he gets the attendees going and has a compelling way to share his personal stories and experiences. Same counts for Jason, he leads the SAP Mentor program with great passion and he’s the kind of guy of which people would say he has a golden heart (figure of speech).

      The strong connections that are forged are something I’ve seen multiple times now when such evening events are organized. I believe we need these type of events at each large SAP event so hopefully there is more to come still on this front. There is more to getting customers to run better than just technology.

      If you’re attending SolEd in Sinsheim, I’ll see you next week 🙂

      Best regards

      Tom

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