If you were given the opportunity to help others, build your professional skills, gain confidence, and feel more energized in your life and career, would you take it? SAP has dedicated over a decade to exactly that: creating volunteer and pro bono consulting programs that not only help the world run better and improve people’s lives, but also benefit employees, their teams, and the company as well.
Karen Vergara, from the Global Learning Services Enablement Program Management for SAP Concur, is an alumni participant from several SAP-driven pro bono consulting programs, as well as a mentor, trainer, and SAP Corporate Social Responsibility (SAP CSR) fellow.
Vergara always knew she wanted to help other people become successful and has taken that passion, along with the development of her own professional skills, to a new level. She began her career in education, but found that while she was making a difference, she wanted to do more. She leveraged her educational foundation to move into various roles at Microsoft, Accenture, and most recently SAP, earning a higher salary that allowed her to donate more to the causes she was passionate about but offered her less time for traditional, hands-on volunteering. Vergara decided to seek out opportunities within her professional role to make an impact in new ways.
What started as a way to get involved soon turned into so much more. With each experience, Vergara gained more than she expected.
“I’ve found that I’ve taken away as much as I’ve given, maybe sometimes even more,” she says. Volunteering, particularly skills-based volunteer experiences, provided her with the ability to do good and to keep learning and growing both personally and professionally at the same time.
From helping students find success to changing her career and making an impact through volunteerism and pro bono consulting as a part of the SAP community, Vergara’s journey is showing no signs of slowing down. Over the past six months, she has been working on a fellowship with the SAP CSR team to position every type of volunteering offered at SAP, particularly pro bono engagements, as an opportunity for learning, career, and leadership development.
“If you are already volunteering, it is a just a bonus and a way to think more intentionally about your professional development,” Vergara shares. “You can do good and learn, taking skills away from it and gaining experience that will help you in your own career.”
In fact, Vergara has taken this one step further, becoming a leader and champion for employee volunteering. She shared one anecdote from an SAP employee who was looking to gain specific experience to advance to a new role. Vergara pointed them to skills-based volunteering, and when it came time for the interview for the new role, the employee was able to share examples of the experience they gained through participation in these kinds of activities – experience that they otherwise would not have had – putting them in a better position to obtain the new role.
Thanks to Vergara’s work during her fellowship, as well as her own lived experiences as a corporate volunteer and pro bono consultant, she has demonstrated that utilizing skills and concepts through volunteering and pro bono consulting is career development.
Through volunteering in any capacity, there is always an opportunity to explore career interests and find a path forward utilizing the right opportunities. CSR activities represent an alternative form of experiential learning; it benefits every professional, whether employee or manager, to consider how they can be incorporated into our professional development plans and goal setting. Vergara’s work has highlighted that intentional and well thought-out engagement in these types of offerings can lead to the acquisition of new skills and chances to practice skills someone may have learned in an academic setting. It also provides an opportunity to learn from others, share one’s own skills, and build a network.
Everyone who participates in CSR activities stands to gain from the work that Vergara has done in defining how volunteering contributes to career growth beyond social impact. When thinking about volunteerism, often what comes to mind is doing good, serving others, giving back to our communities, and making a positive social and environmental impact. Beyond these more obvious benefits, there are powerful takeaways for the volunteer as well. Traditional activities are a fantastic way to build community with others who are like-minded and share common interests. Skills-based volunteering and pro bono consulting offers an opportunity to build a professional network, while practicing skills such as collaboration, creative problem-solving, and inclusive leadership behaviors. Like Vergara, many employees seek fulfillment beyond their day-to-day roles. Her story is one example of taking the initiative to make a societal impact and gaining so much more. She has found community in her career, opportunities to lead, and a renewed commitment to continue helping the world run better and improving people’s lives.
With a decade of success engaging employees like Karen Vergara, SAP, together with EY, MovingWorlds, TRANSFORM, and Unilever, continue to partner on the TRANSFORM Support Hub, connecting employees everywhere to social entrepreneurs anywhere through pro bono consulting, coaching, and more. If you feel inspired to build your skills as well as a more sustainable world, we invite you to join us!