This year SAP is fully integrating its cloud group by bringing Ariba and SuccessFactors on board. This is an exciting transition and an opportunity for three companies to build something really big. As well, this is an invigorating time for the Virtual BWN. SuccessFactors and Ariba have up to 50% of employees who work from home or on-the-road rather than in offices. The Virtual BWN is a place for all of the virtual employees to engage, network, and grow as professionals.
As our contribution to the BWN’s Blog series in honor of International Women's Day, I sat down to speak with a virtual employee who comes to SAP via Ariba and has seen great success in her career. Erin Fravel is a Senior Director and Regional Network Executive, and she’s also the new Communications Director for the Global BWN.
I talked a bit with Erin about her experience as a virtual employee and how she thinks it affects women and diversity in the workplace.
Amanda: Hi Erin, so how long have you been a virtual employee?
Erin: I began working at Ariba 2 years ago, and that was the first time that I was fully working from home when not traveling. It did take some time to get accustomed to, given I’d gone into an office for 20 years. But now I love it!
Amanda: One of the issues that employees worry about is their career stagnating if they leave the traditional office environment. There’s a feeling of "out of sight, out of mind" when it comes to promotions and new positions. Have you been promoted as a virtual employee?
Erin: Yes, actually, I was recently promoted to Network Executive at Ariba. I am also soon moving 1000 miles away and my new manager, Eric Washer, was completely supportive. He had no issue with me moving or continuing to work from home.
Amanda: It sounds like you’ve found a place where your performance speaks for itself! I know it can also be difficult to network and make connections when you’re remote. How do you build relationships and connect with those outside of your direct team as a virtual employee?
Erin: I do try to go into the two Chicago offices from time to time. Ariba has about 50% of its employees working from home so we make an effort to be together for QBRs and team meetings as often as possible. Many of us are on Skype and we reach out to each other daily.
Amanda: Skype and Jabber are really important to my team as well. It's kind of the virtual equivalent of peeking over into the next cubicle. One of the other things that is really important to the goal of all of the BWN Networks is helping to promote women, diversity and engagement at SAP. Do you think that offering flexible working arrangements benefits diversity and women employees at SAP? Do you have any examples?
Erin: Absolutely. I needed to find a company that allowed me to work from home as my children were getting older. People think that the important years are when the kids are babies. It’s actually the opposite. Anyone can put the baby down for a nap or change a diaper. It’s when they get older that you need to set the example for what a woman can do both as a mother and a worker. Most importantly, as my oldest daughter entered middle school and soon high school, she needs to feel that I am present in the house. My home is not going to be the house that all the high school kids come to because no one is home. I want my daughters to know I am here and expect they will respect our home, do their homework, and behave properly. I may be busy working, but I am present. They don’t realize it, but they know I am there.
Amanda: This has been amazing. Thanks for talking. One last question: Do you have any advice for individuals seeking flexible arrangements?
Erin: Find a company that gives you the freedom to do your job well. Working women know how to handle time management, be efficient, and get results regardless of where they are. When companies give their employees locational bandwidth, the productivity skyrockets, and everyone wins.