SAP’s CMO Shares How Being a Mom Shaped Her Approach to Business

There’s nothing like parenthood to fine-tune your management skills, notes SAP’s Alicia Tillman. While seamlessly blending career and family can be a challenging feat, parenting provides life skills that are transferable to the workplace. Here, Alicia shares how being a mom has shaped her management style and other helpful insights on how to be a strong leader.

Tell us about what you are doing now. 

I’m responsible for creating and accelerating our marketing strategy and brand recognition at a global level… My role is all about creating meaningful brand experiences that drive deep customer connections and enable our customers to improve the world. I see it as my responsibility to be the voice of our customers and communicate our company story, what it is and stands for in a way that is reflective of what buyers are looking for, which is truth, authenticity, and courage.

How did you get to where you are today?

After college, I started my career as a management trainee at Rosenbluth International, a global, B2B travel management company. This role gave me the opportunity to spend two weeks in each department of the organization. After two months, the CEO offered me a job as his head of business management. In that role, I learned all aspects of how to run a business – from finance, tech, HR, PR and marketing and I was able to learn how all of these different business functions work together to sell a product or service.

Rosenbluth International was later acquired by American Express and eventually where I built an 11-year career year, working my way up to running the marketing for the company’s global business travel division. My introduction to SAP came when I was hired as the CMO of SAP Ariba – the world’s largest business-to-business marketplace.

What pivotal moments did you face along the way? 

“Being a mom… has taught me the importance of having balance in your life.”

One of the most pivotal moments in my life was becoming a mother and learning how to fit all my responsibilities together and feel a sense of organization, and pride. Being a mom – to now two amazing children – has taught me the importance of having balance in your life. It’s shown me that I’m incredibly strong and that it’s okay to ask for help. At the same time, having children has completely shaped my approach to business and working with people. It’s made my approach increasingly human, and I couldn’t be more proud and honored to juggle both mom-life and my career!

I’ve also had the challenge and opportunity of working at companies during great periods of change. For example, the rebrand of SAP Ariba and the reinvention of our brand story at SAP, both of which are changes I oversaw as the CMO of these companies. I’ve come to realize that change is inevitable so it’s important to be able to adapt and be agile. During these times, it’s also important to listen to new ideas and what people are thinking, what they desire and value in life. Too often, I see leaders come into roles and they are so anxious to prove themselves that they don’t take the time to listen to those around them and ultimately, they don’t get the followership that they need to be successful long term.

What do you see as the major opportunities and challenges for women today?

I think one challenge is not getting caught up in all of the issues that often plague women in the workplace. While we’ve come a considerably long way, there are still many injustices that exist. As women, we must not let these hold us back or deter us from going after a promotion we want, for example. While we may need to speak a little louder to have our voices heard, it’s this very fight that will ultimately help women advance in the workplace and earn their seat at the table.

@lgranatstein lisa.granatstein@adweek.com Lisa Granatstein is the editor, svp, programming at Adweek.
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