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Author's profile photo Naomi Thalenberg

Finding Your Strengths: A Q&A with SAP HR Leader Kelsy Trigg

Kelsy Trigg says she’s always been intentionally stubborn in her pursuit of excellence. This persistence is what led her not only to be recognized as an HR leader at SAP but also as an ultra-runner outside of work.

Kelsy joined SAP (through the Business Objects through acquisition) in 2006 and has held positions across a number of different business units including Consulting, Customer Support, Maintenance Sales, COO and HR. She has a background in Computer Systems, and she’s combined this with her focus on  leadership, project management and business operations. “I love leading teams and have a knack for seeing how people, problems and puzzle pieces fit together,” she said.


Photo credit Trevor Brucki courtesy of Kelsy Trigg.

Now, as VP and Global Head of the HR Project Office, her team delivers key HR projects to SAP’s 87,000 employees, leading process and system improvements, post-merger integrations, change management projects, transformations and more.

This November, Kelsy is slated to be a keynote speaker at Vancouver’s first SAP iXp Summit. Her talk is called “Lessons from the Mountains.” We feel like we have a lot to learn from Kelsy, so we reached out to her to learn more about her background and career insights prior to her talk:

Q: What’s a fun fact about you that not many people know?

A: The last several winters, I’ve worked on a huge puzzle of the world that overtakes our kitchen table. I enjoy putting this together and learning the different countries. My goal is to eventually know all of them, but right now, I mostly just like figuring out how they all fit together. It reminds me we’re all connected and that there is so much to explore and keep learning about.

Q: Was there anyone who inspired or taught you an important lesson in the start of your career?

A: One of my first managers was a big influence on my career. She saw my potential far before I had the skills or confidence to take big leaps. She gave me projects I was underqualified for, expected great things of me and encouraged me to reach outside my comfort zone. Her influence early in my career was pivotal and to this day, I think about how I can create that type of environment for others.

Q: Outside of SAP, you’re known as an avid ultra-runner on the trails. Tell us a bit about your passion for running and racing.

A: My first race was in 2001. I had only ever done a 10km fun-walk/run before, but I trained for my first 30-mile (48.2km) race, the Knee Knacker and was hooked. I’ve run the Knee Knacker 13 times and have been Race Director since 2005. I tell participants, the race gets in your blood! I had no idea ultra-running would become such a big part of my life.

The longest single day race I’ve done is 80km, and the last two years, I’ve done the Transalpine Run, a seven-day stage race over 250–270km. I’ve had the opportunity to run races in Canada, the U.S., Australia and Europe.

Photo courtesy of Kelsy Trigg.

Q: Was there a particular time in your journey you struggled to run or had to overcome a particular challenge? If so, how did you overcome it?

A: A recent example of this is the Transalpine Run that I just completed. I was reminded of how important it is to stay present and to make the best decisions we can in that moment. It was day six, a 46km day that was a big uphill climb and then a 20km descent through the mountains.

I was  running strong for the first ~26km uphill but my legs pretty much shut down for the downhill terrain. All I could do to was just keep moving forward. For hours and hours as I struggled, I kept telling myself, “in this moment, I am okay” and “one step at a time.” It was some of the hardest trail time I’ve experienced, but an important reminder to manage the situation in the moment and literally and figuratively take one step at a time.

Q: You’ve spoken about finding strength and pushing beyond the comfort zone. What would you recommend to someone who struggles to find their strength or overcome a particular hurdle?

A: I really like Marcus Buckingham and Gallup’s books on strengths-based leadership. These include tools to identify strengths, and have helped me and a number of my team members focus on how to tap into them.

Q: For many of our SAP interns, this is their first professional experience. Do you have any tips for personal growth in the workplace?

A: Keep listening, learning and playing to your strengths. Don’t feel like you need to have your whole life figured out right away. Look for unexpected opportunities, be generous with your knowledge and time, and be appreciative of those who take you under their wing. Focus on building genuine relationships in your teams and deliver great results.

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