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Preaching diversity is one thing, living it is quite another. Technologist Moya Watson evangelizes the benefits of diversity and authenticity for innovation at tech companies.

Most of us spend our lives sailing comfortably in the sheltered wake of those that have journeyed before us. At some point, Moya Watson must have chosen to be a path-maker rather than a path-taker – applying her affinity for communications and technology to lend more muscle to her cause.

The San Francisco native has ploughed new furrows in several areas of her private and professional life. As an innovation product manager at SAP, for example, Moya led a team that invented and drove an internal video platform to adoption. Its successor is now one of the company’s most popular knowledge sharing assets for employees.

As an SAP Mentor, Moya also takes the opportunity whenever she can to facilitate dialog between the company and the technologists from customers, partners and consultants – relationships at the grass roots level that have proven invaluable at contributing to product acceptance.

Moya currently works on the SAP HANA Cloud Platform product management team, responsible for driving adoption of the company’s new platform for developing and extending enterprise applications in the cloud. Software developers worldwide can design and create innovative services and apps on the platform that are available from anywhere at any time.

“We work at our best when we don’t have to hide who we are.”

But Moya is also a company spokesperson on the topic of diversity. And as an openly gay women and leader in LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) matters at work and in the Bay Area, she can speak on the topic with honesty and authenticity.

“The diversity of the people from over 140 countries is one of the biggest challenges, but also the biggest privilege about working at SAP,” she says. “Diversity creates the best technology and technology is also one of the keys to diversity,” Moya says, adding “We work at our best when we don’t have to hide who we are.” Her motto is: “Be yourself. Everyone wins”

Moya holds numerous leadership roles in the LGBT community. At SAP she is co-lead of “Pride@SAP North America,” the LGBT resource group in North America. In 2008, she even took a leave of absence from SAP to campaign for the rights of gays to marry in California. Pride@SAP has also joined forces with LGBT interest groups from other Silicon Valley tech companies to raise awareness and money for local community projects.

Although Moya has had a lot of support from SAP to be open about her sexual orientation, she is also keenly aware that not everyone around the world is so fortunate. With new acquaintances, Moya still weighs the pros and cons of sharing too much detail about her life. “It’s a constant choice to figure out with whom I can be open and under what situation I can say that I am a gay woman with a wife and a child,” she says.

But progress has been made. In 2015, more than 300 Bay Area SAP employees and friends participated in the LGBT Pride Parade in San Francisco. SAP executives have been outspoken in calling out for diversity as a driver for innovation. The executive sponsor for the LGBT community in North America is SAP’s Chief Learning Officer Jenny Dearborn. In February, SAP will be a major sponsor for the Lesbians Who Tech Summit 2016.

One of Moya’s proudest moments at SAP was in 2012 when she coordinated the production of a company video for the “It Gets Better Project.” Over 40 employees encouraged young people to reach out to get help if they are experiencing bullying and rejection because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

If things have gotten better at SAP and other tech companies in the Bay Area, then it has something to do with Moya and the people like her that are breaking new paths for others to follow.

Profile: Moya Watson

//job title: HANA Cloud Platform Product Manager, SAP Mentor, Pride@SAP North America Co-Lead

//team: Product Management, SAP HANA Cloud Platform

//years at SAP: 15

//SAP Lab: Silicon Valley

//passions: Innovation, communication, social justice and equality, human rights, cocktails and cats.

Video: Natalie Hauck and Alex Januschke, SAP Development University; Text: Paul Baur, SAP Global Corporate Affairs Content Team.