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Spotlight on Women Leaders at SAP: Diane Fanelli

Feature Article | March 16, 2017 by Susan Galer

Diane Fanelli, senior vice president of Global Channels & Digital Enterprise Platform at SAP, hasn’t looked back since trading in her role as the “super star” who saves the day for customers to become a global leader. In fact, she sees her combined passion for innovative technology and efficient processes coming together in a natural fit to help partners and customers transform their business.

Fanelli thinks businesses can attract more women to high tech by being more flexible to what’s going on in the marketplace. Image via SAP

Born and raised five miles from SAP’s North American headquarters in Pennsylvania, Fanelli’s lifelong educational journey began with tutoring from her business-savvy older brother when she was young. After earning her degree in accounting from Drexel University, and working in Boston and Chicago, Fanelli returned to Pennsylvania where she eventually joined SAP.

Now with the company for over 20 years, Fanelli has dual roles expanding co-innovation with partners on SAP’s platform portfolio and leading the company’s platform go-to-market strategy. There’s nothing that satisfies Fanelli more than gaining an understanding of new cultures for a greater appreciation of business and people as she travels the globe talking with partners and customers in over 70 countries each year. Laser-focused on high impact and high value performance, Fanelli sees herself ideally positioned to help SAP transform its traditional channel strategy and explore new digital business opportunities for customers.

In this exclusive SAP News interview, Fanelli talks about how she was bitten by the software bug while she worked in accounting, why women need to take charge of their career journey, and what pushed her to assume a leadership position at SAP.

My fascination with technology began when…
I was an assistant controller managing a software implementation project. I understood the business and could immediately see the impact of technology on process improvement. A friend told me about an opening at SAP, saying ‘if you like technology, you’ll love SAP!”

One pivotal attribute that has brought me to where I am today is…
My intense curiosity to understand new things and apply them for improvements.

People had to convince me to become a leader because…
I was very happy as an individual contributor. I loved being a super star who saved the day for customers and when you become a manager you divide your time between leading the business, solving for customers, and mentoring and promoting other super stars.

What’s amazing about SAP is…
That you can know virtually nothing about a topic and because you’re surrounded by so many smart people with so much information available, in a few short weeks you can become proficient on a subject if you apply yourself.

My role gives me the freedom to…
Be creative, fail small, and infuse lessons learned. I can pilot channel models, learn from what works and what doesn’t, and ultimately launch successful initiatives.

In a sea of fast-paced innovation, I stay centered and productive by…
Mindfully allocating time in my schedule for conducting the business at hand, learning the next frontier, and balancing my personal life.

My advice to women considering a career in high tech is…
Don’t sit back and let someone else chart your journey. Commit to a fast pace of constant learning and communicate what you want and need for advancement at every life stage.

Like some companies, SAP has made great progress around diversity and inclusion but…
We’re not finished. We have to keep pushing forward and aspire to 50 percent of women in management and leadership positions. After all, women are 50 percent of the overall population.

Businesses can attract more women to high tech by…
Being more flexible to what’s going on in the marketplace. That’s why people on my team are supporting SAP’s Back2Work Program, which offers an easy on-ramp for women who want to return to the workplace.

I’m helping women get ahead by…
Mentoring and sponsoring women at SAP. I’m also Executive Sponsor of our Diversity & Inclusion program, giving voice to what I think we need to do to move the needle.

The trend I’m obsessed with is…
How new partnerships are transforming industry disruption. Many of our customers – both consumer and B2B — are creating internal technology divisions exploring ways to help their customers get the most out of their products through services powered by innovations like IoT and cognitive computing.

Some of the most influential roles models in my life have been…
My mother who was an accomplished women with a very independent mind. I also admire Eleanor Roosevelt, who never took a back seat; she had her ideas and opinions and proved that if you’re passionate about something, you have to keep pushing your cause.

During weekends I kick back and relax by…
Taking 30 to 50-mile bike rides with my husband, something I find therapeutic. I also try to take a week’s vacation every quarter to step away and recharge throughout the year.

Follow me: @smgaler

Top image via Shutterstock

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2 comments

  1. Victoria Joy

    This quote is important to me because I think leaders ARE contributors who are willing to both follow AND lead.

    People had to convince me to become a leader because…
    I was very happy as an individual contributor. I loved being a super star who saved the day for customers and when you become a manager you divide your time between leading the business, solving for customers, and mentoring and promoting other super stars.

    Victoria

  2. Afifa

    Very impressive. I look forward to be mentored by someone like Diane Fanelli who have accompalished so much and is willing to share her wisdom and experience. She is truly a role model for women in technology and an inspiration

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