Grace Hopper Celebration: What Do You Get When You Put 22,000 Women in a Room?

It sounds like the beginning of a joke. For me it was the beginning of an epiphany. I had the honor to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration several weeks ago where 22,000 women in technology assembled.

This was the culmination of intersecting points in my 17-year career at SAP. Should you stay at one company for this long? More on that in a bit. First, I’d like to share with you my “aha” moments from three days, 16 presentations, multiple panel sessions, workshops, and more than 100 speakers.

  • Our behavior teaches people how to treat us. All the little impressions you leave over time impact how others perceive us; this is what builds our personal brand. Most people’s brands are built by default, not by design. Make yours intentional.
  • If you are known as a hard worker, what does this attract more of? Work! Take time to step away. Do the things that make your brand and accomplishments visible. Work hard on the right initiatives.
  • Leaders have people rally around a cause, not a project.
  • “Don’t wait for the recognition fairy.” – Dr. Francine Bowman. I hope I’m not ruining anyone’s fantasy here, but like the tooth fairy, the recognition fairy does not exist!
  • At senior levels leaders are expected to be a complexity translator, not an update giver.
  • When you are networking and people ask you what you do, they mean, “What can you do for me?” This means you have to say what you’re good at and brag. For some this can be uncomfortable. The next time someone asks you what you do, tell them what you love to do — what you’re good at — then add in an offer to help them with that area, following that up with what you could use. Still not comfortable? Throw in a comment about another person in the room and brag about them. It negates your brag!
  • When is the right time to make a career change? When you are doing really well in your career.
  • Don’t wait for other people to open the door for you and don’t wait for the perfect door.

These are gems I took away from the conference that made me reflect on what I’m doing right and, more importantly, where I need to pivot. This brings me to my epiphany. Get ready, I have a secret to share. Four years ago, before an all-hands call, an executive asked me to speak about diversity and inclusion in the workforce. I was uncomfortable. I didn’t have the vocabulary. I didn’t know if what I would say would offend anyone. Let me lay this out for you: I’m a woman and a member of a Native American tribe. I was uncomfortable talking about diversity and inclusion?

Now four years later I’m leading diversity and inclusion efforts. Something has happened to me in the last year. I have a new manager — a manager who pushes me, supports me, and gets it! My manager, Carlos Granda, senior vice president of Global Customer Success at SAP, was recently named one of the top 100 influential and notable Hispanic professionals in the technology industry by HITEC. Carlos challenged me to work with other strong leaders on my team to create a Business Women’s Network for the Cloud Services team at SAP. With this initiative we are helping women in Cloud Services advance their careers and keep leadership in the forefront.

I have a mentor for the first time. My mentor, Maggie Buggie, senior vice president of SAP Leonardo Services at SAP, is a force. If you haven’t heard of her, look her up. You won’t be disappointed. Do you have a mentor? If not, what are you waiting for?

And then finally I attended the Grace Hopper Celebration where the smartest women in technology come together to share their trade secrets.

Some say you shouldn’t stay at a company for a long period of time because you will limit your potential to learn and grow. I’d challenge that because after 17 years with SAP I’m still growing by leaps and bounds. Thank you SAP for investing in your people, your diversity and inclusion efforts, and for making this a company that is leading the Human Revolution.

Is 22,000 women in the same room the beginning of a joke? I call it a good start.

Welcome to the Human Revolution. We are here to proclaim that the old ways of working no longer work for HR. SAP SuccessFactors helps you bring your organization’s purpose to life and more meaning to people’s work. You can instill intelligence across your HR functions to develop engaged, motivated teams. Together, we’ll create an inspired workforce that improves both performance and profit.