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By Fred Isbell, Senior Director and Head of Thought Leadership, SAP Global Service and Support Marketing

Last month, I wrote “Modern Marketing and Digital Transformation: A View from the Duke Fuqua 2015 Marketing Conference,” covering my experience at the Duke Fuqua School of Business annual marketing conference. It’s a perfect example of how my day job and midnight projects have recently converged. I received some great feedback and concluded my blog with the comment that I could not wait to be back on campus for more. Well, time flies when you are having fun. Before I knew it I was back on campus! This time with a team of my talented colleagues from SAP.

From time to time, people ask me why I have been at only a handful of companies since graduating from the Fuqua School of Business 30 years ago. For me, the answer is simple: Constantly shifting challenges; an opportunity to regularly transform and redefine myself and my career; and most importantly, working with some of the smartest and most-talented colleagues in the world. As the SAP ambassador to Fuqua and in my work with the SAP University Alliances team, I’ve had the chance to drive some fun initiatives – especially sponsorship of cool events with Fuqua’s student-run clubs.

After sponsoring the Fuqua Marketing Conference last month, we scheduled a corporate education session to coincide with our sponsorship of the Fuqua Tech Symposium “Duke Disrupts.” How do we provide a great introduction and overview of SAP to participants at a tech event? It’s not a problem when you have talented colleagues with you! In my case, they were Mary Lange, global vice president of pre-sales for SAP Global Customer Operations  University, and Dinesh Sharma, vice president of marketing for the SAP Marketing Strategy and Portfolio Marketing team.

Educating and inspiring future talent on progression, reinvention, and transformation

As an education session, we showcased SAP and imparted some lessons learned without delivering an extended sales pitch. We kicked off the event by showing the video “SAP Fast Facts,” covering the incredible reach and depth of SAP with our customers, such as 74% of the worlds’ transactions touch an SAP solution. We then discussed how SAP supports digital transformation and highlighted our capabilities, customers, and leadership in the market as one of the largest ERP and networked business solutions provider. As a long-time SAP services marketer, I showcased the role of SAP Services – 30,000 of the 75,000 SAP employees worldwide who play a critical part in making digital transformation a reality for our customers.

Mary took a moment to talk about her career progression at SAP and her role in SAP Academy for Early Talent, which is developing millennials and new hires into our future leaders. She helps plan and execute the strategy for SAP Academy for Presales – an absolutely amazing program that has graduated more than 400 academy people each year. True to its motto “Explore, inspire, ignite”, it’s uniting people from all around the world. Fuqua has placed multiple graduates into this program, which proves how a business can transform and bring emerging and top talent into its workforce.

Next up was Dinesh – a great example of reinvention, marketing leadership, and a passionate “voice” of a program and marketing theme. His program advocates the Internet of Things (IoT) and the digital economy by placing thought leadership at the center of the customer conversation. Dinesh talked about driving a global, customer-focused program that engages in an innovative way.

I then gave an overview of one of my day jobs, thought leadership, and the “modern marketer” revolution that is transforming the marketing function. My case study was SAP Digitalist Magazine and its online community – a thought leadership program that brings millions of views per year and engages people in a new and exciting dialogue.

After we wrapped up the case studies, I fulfilled a promise from the September marketing conference – providing more detail on how to navigate key innovation technologies such as cloud, Big Data, analytics, social media, and enterprise mobility.

To demonstrate the real-time nature of social media, I took a “selfie” of the group and tweeted it out – something that was impossible back in my day at Fuqua. I also linked this back to marketing technology and a recommendation for Fuqua students to focus their education in several key areas such as customer applications, Big Data analytics, reporting, and dashboard and predictive analytics.

I then displayed a map of marketing technologies that has only become more complex. I contrasted that with the complexity of my personal tech stack, comparing what it is now and how it looked 30 years ago. Although I now have  several orders of magnitude more functionality with multiple devices and technologies all working together, it is more complex than a single device with absolutely no mobile component. However, this does not mean we shouldn’t embrace this technology revolution. By applying the SAP principle Run Simple, I discussed how the simplification mindset is the new normal amidst digital transformation that is bringing an unprecedented rate of change and disruption.

Click here to see the slides from our Fuqua SAP Corporate Education Session on SlideShare.

Taking these lessons one step further

Just when I thought we couldn’t top this marketing conference, Mary and Dinesh proved me wrong.

Mary was on a panel of three speakers at a breakfast sponsored by the Fuqua Association of Women in Business (AWIB). Being a “reverse-mentored millennial baby boomer,” I tweeted her advice on how to succeed in the business world:

  1. 1. Think boldly.
  2. 2. Speak up.
  3. 3. Give back.

Having been one of handful of males at the Fuqua AWIB event last spring, I found this event to be very educational for me. In fact, I challenge all of my male colleagues to embrace opportunities like this to observe and take part in this essential dialogue of diversity and gender equality.

At a breakout session later that morning, Dinesh spoke about the “Digital Economy in a Hyperconnected World with multiple real-world examples

of companies using SAP innovations to transform their businesses and industries. Even the closing speaker from Google backed up Dinesh’s points by featuring a mobile app that allows subway riders to order groceries by scanning QR codes on the side of a subway car entrance – powered by SAP.

A great panel of fairly recent Fuqua graduates working in tech followed a networking lunch, and many of the themes from the morning carried over. I was impressed again how articulate these Fuqua alums are and what they are doing in their careers. We concluded the conference with a networking hour.

Although I often joke that I get to work half-days while attending to my ambassador duties at the Fuqua

campus, it’s really a 12-hour day on campus! What’s next you might ask? After I catch up on my sleep after an amazing 48 hours,  I will be attending more activities at Duke University for the rest of 2015 and beginning of 2016 – including on-campus recruiting, collaboration events, and another Fuqua AWIB event.

So what do SAP, Duke Fuqua millennials, and the digital economy have in common? Amazing smart people, disruptive change, unprecedented opportunity, and a future that, like the 1980’s song, will beso bright you gotta wear shades!”

Click here for my Storify trip report from my social media ambassadorship and tweets at these Fuqua events.

Fred M. Isbell is the senior director and head of thought leadership for SAP Services and Support Marketing.

Join Fred online: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn,, SAP Services Hub

[SD1]Instead of a bullet list, is it possible and insert an image of each of your tweets?