Community is the thread that weaves us together and unites us in a common goal. The strength of that thread, or the social ties of the community, imbues a sense of belonging and trust. In a community, we feel like we are part of something bigger than ourselves.

Whether at the town hall, marketplace, or meeting house, there are people that strengthen a community’s culture through their generosity, fellowship, and compassion. Often these selfless individuals are volunteers dedicating their time and talents to ensure the betterment of the community and well-being of its members.

“Community is so important. We have to take care of each other,” says Marissa Baum, customer program manager, Customer Growth & Advisory Programs team at SAP SuccessFactors. Based in SAP’s Newtown Square office, she fulfills her passion for building strong communities through her work leading high-touch customer programs for SAP and volunteering with not-for-profit organizations in the Philadelphia area. “The pandemic and the years following have taught us that your community is what can bring the most joy,” she says. “You can have all the material things in the world, but the people who surround you matter most. If they prosper, you prosper.”

SAP Customer Community: Where You’ll Meet the Most Incredible People

At SAP, Baum oversees her team’s communications strategy and helps lead a portfolio of customer programs for SAP SuccessFactors, including customer advisory boards – such as, the CHRO Advisory Board, Sales Performance Management Advisory Board, and Learning Advisory Board – and several user groups. “I love our customers,” she says. “They are some of the most incredible people I’ve gotten to meet, work with, and learn from. I discover something new every single day.”

“SAP Partner Speed Dating” is one of the innovative programs that Baum and her team launched this year. It allows SAP partners to present pitches of their solutions to a set of customers, who can then decide to follow up for more information or a deal. The sessions are fun, fast-paced, and beneficial. These sessions have had a direct impact on the sales cycle, which Baum says “was extremely rewarding, because we’re adding value for our customers, our partners, and sales teams. And when they win, I win.”

The team also recently launched the Sales Performance Management Advisory Board, now preparing for its second session after its highly successful premiere, which was rated by customers at 100% “would recommend this to a colleague.” Baum is proud of having built this group up in less than one year. “All the hard work that went into making that advisory board a reality was amazing,” she says. “We had a great first session. The customers were super passionate and excited. I am looking forward to this new adventure with this great group of executives.”

Warm Clothing and Reassurance Sustain a Community in Need

When she is not engaging SAP customers, Baum spends her time volunteering at not-for-profit organizations like St. Francis de Sales Parish, where she helps to collect gifts, grocery cards, and other necessities for families in the community. Located in West Philadelphia, the parish has many immigrant families who are struggling to make a better life for their children in a new country. Baum helps to distribute warm winter clothing at the holidays, which she wraps as Christmas gifts for the children to open. “Our main mission during the season is collecting and buying winter clothes, including coats and boots, because Philadelphia can get very cold and those [clothes] are expensive, especially if you have a big family” she says. “Talking to the community and learning about the kids and what is on their holiday wish lists helps us to spread joy and compassion. Seeing their faces light up when they get presents of their very own is exciting. They can’t wait to go out and play in the snow.”

Creating that personal connection is an important part of Baum’s volunteer work and flows from her belief in creating an inclusive community where people have a sense of belonging and feel supported. “I think it’s really hard for people to ask for help,” she says. “I’m an independent person and asking for help can feel like a weakness, but I’m always there to reassure our community members of how proud I am of them to seek help and that I am glad we were able to get connected.”

She offers her ongoing support as a point of contact for people who are rebuilding their lives. “I tell them that if there’s any other way in which we can help, please be open, call me. That’s all; I will be there without hesitation. I always give out my cell phone number or e-mail. Taking care of one another is the most important thing we can do as humans.”

From School to SAP: Live Your Passion

Baum’s passion for community building and volunteer work stems from her upbringing. “I went to an all-girls’ school and absolutely loved it,” she explains. “It really taught me so much in terms of my independence, but also being very observant of how I can be a helper, and there were many opportunities for me to do that.” In school, she worked with younger students, assisted at partner schools in the inner city, and organized fundraising for cancer research.

Finding her passion gives her a sense of meaning and purpose, she says. “The best advice I received from my teachers and family when I was younger was to find what you’re passionate about and discover how you can help people through your passion. And so I took that with me into college and then SAP.”

Baum attended Villanova University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in communications. In her senior year, she broke down barriers to take high-level investment and management consulting courses at the business school, where she recalls what it was like being the only woman among 40 male students in the classes. She earned both the respect of classmates and top marks by offering a differentiated perspective on case studies. Today, she is an active alumnus who mentors female students and presents at professional development classes about the importance of moving beyond your comfort zone – and to always advocate for yourself because you are your biggest cheerleader.

Finding Purpose Beyond the Nine-to-Five

When Baum joined the workforce after college, she looked for an organization that valued community. “My motto is always ‘collaboration over competition,’ being able to work with others and having goals set so that everyone can succeed. Sometimes that’s hard to find, but that is always my number one priority in work,” she says.

Upon joining SAP in November 2019, Baum made a point of bringing the formative experiences, attitudes, and commitments that make up her whole self to her new workplace. A firm believer in the power of mentoring, Baum signed on to be an early talent ambassador, a pro bono role that helps recent university graduates and younger employees get comfortable within SAP through in-person events, executive speakers, networking opportunities, and occasionally meeting up for lunch. “It’s all-encompassing. Being a mentor brings me so much fulfillment and I loved every second of it. It is exciting to welcome new employees into the SAP fold,” Baum recalls.

Though her two-year rotation as an early talent ambassador came to an end in January, Baum is thankful for the experience – and very grateful for the support of her manager to take on the additional time commitment. “It was always encouraged to go after my goals and passions,” she says, reflecting on her experience volunteering at SAP, “which is why I always tell people to get involved, because new people and students coming into the workforce may think, ‘Oh well, my life is now my nine-to-five.’ I always explain to them that your nine-to-five is now a part of your life, but not your entire life. There are so many people to meet, things to do, and places to travel. The journey is just beginning.”

Paying It Forward by Keeping Memories Alive

In April 2020, tragedy struck Baum’s family when her father passed away after a long battle with cancer. His death came shortly after Baum began her job at SAP. Coping with the devastating loss, Baum recalls thinking, “I’m so young. I just started my first full-time job. It’s COVID-19. Everything’s locked down. And my father just passed away. What do I do?”

“That was extremely overwhelming,” she says. “To this day, I thank my lucky stars for my team.” Her SAP manager at the time, Jason Ludt, global vice president, Field Activation and Strategic Programs, SAP, led with compassion, telling her to take as much time as she needed to be with her family. “I will never forget the care and compassion that I received in that time, and I will always pay that forward. I still say to this day, that experience is what made me want to invest in SAP and it has led me to be a more compassionate and empathic leader, peer, and friend.”

Overcome with grief, Baum talked with social workers, hospital staff, and nurses to find a way to channel her anguish into a positive contribution, explaining, “I need something where I can use my hands and really help a community that needs it, maybe working with kids or young adults who have gone through what I did with the loss of my dad.”

That’s how she got introduced to Peter’s Place, a volunteer-led organization that helps children to cope with the loss of a special person in their young lives, such as a parent, sibling, or best friend. Peter’s Place provides weekly group therapy sessions free of cost for families. When Baum first entered the Peter’s Place meeting house, she noticed on the wall a tree of Post-it notes, each reflecting something that a child is missing most about their loved one. “The tree keeps their memory alive, which is so important to that community because these kids don’t want to make anybody uncomfortable or upset if they want to talk about the person they love,” says Baum, who contributed for a while as a group facilitator and now supports the organization with activities and fundraising.

“For these kids, it’s really about building a community of people, including adults who help the grieving process and other kids who know that what they’re going through, and being able to relate and understand that what they are going through is really hard right now,” Baum says. “They feel like no one understands them because most people are lucky enough to not have to go through such a massive loss when they’re that young. And the volunteers get it because the volunteers have been there and are able to make them feel less alone. It is all about support.”

For Baum, being able to provide support to the children at Peter’s Place is a tribute to her father’s memory and a way of saying, “I wish I had had a program like this when I was young, to have someone to relate to, but now I’m going to be that person for someone and help pay it forward.”

Workplace Culture for the Whole Self

Building a community doesn’t happen overnight: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Baum is satisfied that she can achieve a healthy balance with her work and volunteerism. She believes it is a benefit of a supportive workplace culture that encourages employees to be their whole selves. “I have been extremely lucky to have great leadership around me that encourages me to lead a balanced life, and I don’t think that’s unique to my team. I look around SAP and I see an abundance of strong, compassionate leadership,” she says.

Learn more in the SAP 2022 Diversity and Inclusion Report.