Channelling the power of difference to grow stronger for the future

Sandrine Pons
Regional Vice President, Head of Solutions Sales & Innovation, SAP MidMarket EMEA North
Enda Kilroy
Senior Business Development Specialist
Automatic Summary

Embracing Diversity and Inclusion in Business: An Interview with a Veteran Leader

With three decades of leadership in the business world under her belt, one insightful and inspiring business leader shared the valuable lessons she has learned along the way, emphasizing the essential role of diversity and inclusion.

Understanding the Importance of Customer Diversity

"The customer needs to be at the heart of everything we do. We need to understand them, anticipate their needs, and respect our customers in all their diversity,” she shared. The leader explained that the modern world is a melting pot of cultures and perspectives. For businesses to create effective solutions for their diverse customers, they have to embed diversity into their thought processes and team makeup.

The Power of Diverse Perspectives

She strongly believes that diverse perspectives breed diverse solutions. "Without diverse perspectives, you lose diverse solutions," she reiterated. The leader revealed how she saw her male-dominated team transform into a more diverse group. Currently, 60% of her team are women, and they represent 18 different nationalities. She emphasized that every member of her team, regardless of their backgrounds, brings unique ideas and innovations.

Diversity: At the Core of Innovation and Success

Diversity and inclusion form the cornerstone of her team's success. To her, collective differences and intelligence make a proposition powerful. She further noted that it's impossible to fully understand customers without a team that mirrors them in some way. Strategies and solutions, she believes, are powerful regardless of their origin. "A solution is a solution no matter where its origin lies," she stressed.

Fostering an Inclusive and Diverse Working Environment

The leader strongly advocates for open dialogues and listening in creating an inclusive and diverse environment. She highlighted that ensuring every team member feels supported and is given an equal chance to reach their full potential is essential. Through leading by example, she pushes for diversity and inclusion right from the recruitment stage and plans to continue doing so.

Words of Wisdom for Business Leaders and Aspiring Business Women

For Current Leaders:

She encouraged leaders to embrace diversity of talents and promote the right people regardless of their gender. She said, "But if all other things are equal, I would probably choose the woman," due to the prevalence of male dominance in the business world.

For Aspiring Business Women:

"As a woman, you learn from a very young age to do many things at the same time and adapt to change, use that super power and go where you want to go," she advised, "No dream is too big."

Summing It All Up

Looking back on her career, she appreciates how much she has learned and grown in the fast-paced tech industry. Diversity, inclusion, and sustainability have been her guiding lights, leading her to push boundaries and create equitable opportunities for everyone. This female leader looks forward to continuing this journey and encourages others to embrace their identity, and never limit themselves. Diversity, in her eyes, is a strength, not a weakness.

Video Transcription

I've introduced you and told everyone about you. You've been in business now for like 30 years. Almost ha have things changed much since you started something?

Yes. And uh um when I started out, uh things were very different, a lot has changed, more change is needed. Of course. Yeah. And uh I've learned a lot on the business side. I can tell you that the customer needs to be at the heart of everything we do. We need to understand them, anticipate the needs and by them, of course, I mean, our customers in all their diversity.


Thankfully we don't live in a world where everyone is the same. Yeah, we live in a multicultural, multi gender, multi everything world. Yeah. If you want to find solutions for diversity of customers, you need to reflect that diversity in your way of thinking and in the makeup of

your team. Yeah, I, I, you, I, I've read a quote that you used um in a world without diverse perspectives. You use diverse solutions.

Yes, exactly. And that, yeah. Um I'm aligned with you on that. I, I lead the solution State Innovation team um for SAP uh in Yo, we have a 3050 members today based across Northern Europe. We have around 200 matric members, but we are working very closely and more than 200 yes, closely. We and working all together. And if I look at uh the setup of our team, 60% of my mm multinational uh diversity uh women today. And I can tell you and that when I started, it was very, the opposite way. It was more like 80% men and it was a little bit 20% of women at that time. Uh There are 18 different nationalities um of all ages and the cultures represented, they come from different carrier backgrounds. Yeah, tech and new tech. And our team is still growing. Uh It's now twice the size. It was in 20

21 that so diversity and inclusion is central for you. It's really the heart of everything.

Yes. Yes. It's uh it's at the heart of my team's success, my own personal growth as a leader and the business we work for. We have always promoted the DN I for every aspect of our work because it's the engine of our innovation as

success. You once said, Sandrine, um I think I get this right. No. Single person can know everything but together our collective differences and intelligence builds a strong proposition and makes us very powerful. It. Grace.

Yes. And that remains true. How can we understand that unless our team mirrors them in some way. Without diverse perspectives, you lose diverse solutions. Without a female perspective, you lose female customers and probably some male customers as well because a solution is a solution no matter where its origin

lies. Yeah. So together is better.

Oh yes, and far more productive. If you have a team with the ability to share a different perspective, then you have a team that can think new things. I believe the sum is always greater than its part. We all know the cliche thinking outside of the box where the box is the limit of our own perspective. And outside the box, the sky is the limit out there waiting to be discovered. But you cannot do that on your own. You need an ecosystem with different ways of thinking.

You speak uh many times before. In the past, you've even quoted Shakespeare and from Hamlet. And it was a great quote really stuck in my mind. There are more ways in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Oh, yeah, I've always loved that book called um No te His people have a own skills and mindsets that can bring you great ideas every day. The individuals within our team learn from each other, innovate and discover new possibilities. Yes, together, diversity encourages creativity and gives you the foundation you need to adapt to a changing world. Every time you look at a new challenge, you always manage to find a new way of delivering. It's all based on the collective intelligence you have in your team. Each of us, we continue on that learning curve in a safe space. Were you allowed to fail and learn from your mistakes? That's very important. We are always striving to think outside of, of a box and our diversity enables us to do that,

right? So clearly uh something you advocate a working environment, is it about leading by example, you know, teaching by your actions?

Yes. Very interesting. Yeah, listening and open conversations are key. It can be difficult at the beginning. But I always remind my team that no question is a bad question. Yeah, if you are thinking about something, then other people could be thinking the same thing as well.

So why not put it out there? Questions thrives no question, thrive innovation and provide information, the help the team understand the topic by inspiration. It's dangerous not to deal with the issue properly. You may end up with quality issues. Worst case scenario, you deliver the wrong solution, right?

I always have 1 to 1 sessions with my team, listen to them and support them as much as possible that helps taking or not taking. Always find that place within the team. We promote equity diversity and inclusion at every stage of the journey starting of course, with recruitment, choosing the right person for promotion. I also focused on having the right set up for each team member, each individual is on their own journey as well as working to achieve a collective course with trust and transparency. We ensure every team member is empowered, fully supported and most importantly, given an equal opportunity to achieve the full protection, we can make dreams come true. It's completely up to you don't let others decide on your dreams. If you are with the right people in the right company, we have all you need to develop no dream. It's too big.

That's a wonderful outlook, some dream. What would your advice be to women starting out in business today

as a woman, you learn from your very young age to do many things at the same time and adapt to change, use that super power and go where you want to go my advice and uh as a woman, you should promote other women, spend time with them, help them if somebody says there are too many female now.

Well, at least that inequality has been fixed, no one ever said, but there were too many men in the workplace.

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Obviously what a person brings to the table, regardless of gender and so forth is the most important thing that experience and talent value. But it's the best foundation for a team leaders need to be aware of that. It's important to have a diversity of talent. I don't just promote women. I promote the right person. But if all other things are equal, I would probably choose the woman. And I meant about those young women, if I can help them negotiate their journey towards success in any way, that makes me very happy.

And your record proves that yes, here,

over the last five years, um I promoted five members of my team to manage your positions and there were more women than men to also like that. Um Whether they, they stay in the team or start a new journey in a new team, I'm very proud of them and happy watching them growing and guess what they know that they can count on me. Of

course, lucky then. Yeah. So how would you, how would you sum up your career so far or something like how would you stom it up?

Um That's a good question. I learned a lot of the tech industry is the, is the fastest and most fleet of environment a, a place where I continue to learn and embrace the new every day. There are no boundaries in this industry. I can connect with colleagues, partners and customers all over the world, the world and help create the next generation of customer uh relationships. Maybe the more digital ones, technology is part of our lives now and I'm happy to be part of that process, innovating, providing solutions, helping companies run efficiently.

And has it been including yes

and including sustainability? Of course also in bad.

Yeah. Yeah. Sorry. Has it been a tough journey though? Has it been difficult.

Yes. Um sometimes, but I'm so lucky. I always have the support of other women in tech, especially when it comes to promoting diversity and inclusion within the industry. We tend to have to work harder as women as leaders. And I encourage my female colleagues to always strive for more. I want to instill a belief within my team but the more diverse we are the stronger we will be. The tech industry has opportunities for all of us. My advice to women who want to pursue care in tech, I would say don't apologize for who you are and don't limit yourself John accompany you while you can strike. The more women succeed, the more women will find that's a power of difference and the power of difference is not a weakness. It's a strength,

pounding pals. Thank you so much for your time though. It's amazing. Thanks guys have any questions here at the end or anything like that? No, I think we're good Sandrine. Thank you. Thanks for your time.

Thank you on that.