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“Improving the state of the world” is the World Economic Forum mission which recently hosted the annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

Think about it, companies like SAP in its mission to help the world run better and improve people’s lives, were among the top world leaders discussing hot topic like how to defeat cancer, data security, employment and many others under a central theme “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.

It was breathtaking to see and meet so many Young leaders in attendance, or if you rather call them “Millennials”. Their fresh perspectives, innovative contributions and young but successful businesses are part of this elite. A generation that is eager to contribute and create a better world in look of opportunities to further develop their careers and gain skills. 

SAP recognizes this generation as the epicenter of the consumerization of technology, our next leaders and customers. Drivers of innovation and economic growth. Those who will become decision makers and that are already doing so. One of SAPs young talents had the privilege of attending Davos 2016 and shared his experience. Enjoy!

Written by: Bertram Strackhouse, Global Field Pricing COE, US NE Commercial Business Champion and Young Talent at SAP

Before I can share my perspective over the past week at the World Economic Forum (WEF), it is important for those who are unfamiliar with the World Economic Forum to have a general understanding of what takes place in Davos.

The World Economic Forum is like no other event on earth, it is a confluence of world power with 40 heads of state, 60 Nobel Laureates and 400 of the Global 1000 CEO’s. Davos is nestled in the heart of the snow covered peaks of the Swiss Alps, so heavily fortified, by the Swiss army, that it makes breaking into Fort Knox seem like a more plausible endeavor.  And all the security is for a good reason.  For one week, it is where humanities most elite and powerful leaders from the political, academic, business and cultural communities, converge alongside entrepreneurs, trying to promote their cause or find the right people leading to a revolutionary idea or enterprise.  With the aforementioned in mind I will share my story of what it was like to be a millennial attending the World Economic Forum for the first time and a bit of background on how I arrived there. 

My father has had the privilege of working as a trusted advisor to the founder of the World Economic Forum (Professor Klaus Schwab) for almost two decades, and has attended the annual Forum event over the past 12 years.  I have always known that it was a big deal to attend and was curious as to what really went on.  I knew that lots of powerful and influential leaders attended the event and he would always come back with stories of how he is now friends with the Crown Prince of some middle  eastern country or members of the media like Maria Bartiromo or Scott Pelley.  So, when he offered to take me with him this year, I packed my bags and was off, taking the red eye from JFK to Zurich. 

Knowing that SAP also had a presence at the WEF, I decided to connect with the SAP Global Strategic Partnerships team, in the hopes of creating a network of friendly faces in a strange new world.  Little did I know, that this would also be an amazing opportunity to experience firsthand all of effort that is required in order to host an event like this.  Soon upon my arrival and meeting Lourdes Rosales, from the SAP team, I was delegated the responsibility of managing social media and ensuring that the SAP digital magazine was readily available for the main event hosted by SAP.  SAP partnered with SABIC and world renowned architect, William McDonough, to create a new and innovative kind of venue, the Ice House.

The Ice House was built on top of the HUB cultural Pavilion, where I happened to spend most of my time during my first few days in Davos, using reusable materials that would allow for the temporary structure to be re-used at future venues with little or no waste.  That is what made the building such a remarkable feat in of itself, especially when put into contrast with the other temporary physical structures built just for this week by some other’s that were clearly destined for scrap.  The innovative nature of the Ice House was further enhanced by the opacity of the materials used, which created a unique ambient glow, reminiscent of sunlight passing through ice, that perfectly set the stage for SAP’s marquee event of the week.

The event hosted by SAP was the first I was able to attend where I finally had what is fondly referred to as a “Davos moment”.  It was during the SAP event that it finally dawned on me when I had Jim Snabe standing few feet to my right and Bill McDermott just a couple of feet to my left that I was in a special place, not to mention Steve Singh or Berndt Leukert mingling amongst the crowd of about a hundred or so people. While I was certainly excited to be amongst some of the most important leaders at SAP, I also had the opportunity to meet the CEO and Executive Chairman of the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE).  If I take anything away from this week, it is the goal of continuing to expand my engagement with NFTE and to become a more responsible citizen of the world.

With the SAP event now over and after making a few key connections with some members of the Young Global Leaders, I was introduced to a whole different side of Davos.  I became involved with an unofficial community of tech pioneers, innovators, and YGL’s collectively referred to as ‘UnDavos’.  Once I became connected with this group of tech-savvy millennials, I became instantly plugged into everything that was happening at Davos.  I was invited to join a group chat on Telegram where over 300 people were providing a live feed on what events where happening and whether they were worth attending.  As an unabashed outsider, with little or no agenda, outside of helping with the SAP delegation, I suddenly felt like I had the whole forum at my fingertips. 

I was in tune with events on a real-time basis that I never would have been aware of otherwise.  At the Sanctuary, I listened to a discussion panel led by Khalid Koser, who is the foremost expert on refugee’s and the crisis currently unfolding across Europe, to Obiageli Ezekwesili, at the Women’s lounge, emotional story about girls abducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria and the fleeting response from the world to follow up on finding a way to rescue these girls taken from their schools and families.  Did you know that every dollar Obie raises, she provides to the families directly affected by the abductions.

On one of the last nights in Davos I had the privilege of being able to join the Forbes Magazine/Ernst & Young event honoring this year’s 100 most powerful women.  Just to name a few of the notable attendees gathered on stage, I was able to snap a group photo including Christine Lagarde, Sheryl Sandberg, Arianna Huffington, and Ana Patricia Botín.  This is not even to mention the list of CEO’s who were also in attendance at the event including the CEO of Forbes Magazine Mike Perlis.

These are only a few of the anecdotes I can take away from my time at Davos and the World Economic Forum, but I believe they are indicative of what one can expect if you ever happen to find yourself with an opportunity to be exposed to the most powerful people in the world.  The World Economic Forum is an experience like no other and one that I have come away from inspired, by the people I met and the stories I have heard, to find success in my own life.  And to share one final piece of wisdom imparted upon me by Jim Snabe (Chairman of the World Economic Forum and Member of the Supervisory Board SAP SE) one evening last week, “Don’t be afraid to break the rules if you know a better way”.