Feeling grateful

Well, it is finally time. I’m flying out shortly; the journey has officially begun. It’s been a long road to get here (sorry for the bad travel analogies) and part of me still doesn’t believe it is real. You know how you plan something for so long, you almost feel distant from it? That’s where I am.

One thing I am not numb to is the gratitude I feel to the people who have made this possible. It really took a large number of folks to get me here. Without them, this opportunity doesn’t exist.

First and foremost, my husband Brian… I was talking to a colleague last week who was being teased that he’d better not go on sabbatical. He said his wife would kill him. I know he was joking, but it reminded me that Brian was on board from the first mention of this program. I read him the invitation to apply and asked what he thought. He said he’d miss me a ton but I’d regret it forever if I didn’t try. Every day since, he has been supportive even when I know he’d rather have me tucked away safe and sound at home. I need to remember not to take that for granted.

Next, huge thanks to my VP and SVP… Kerry Brown and Greg Schroeder were incredibly encouraging. I asked if they had heard of the program, so they asked around to learn more and see if it would be something worth pursuing. They didn’t say I could apply. They said I should apply. I don’t know a lot of leaders who would happily give up a month of an employee’s time to allow them to do this kind of program. Neither of them doubted that I’d be selected. They had much more confidence than I did. They were and are amazing.

My teammates who are taking on a tremendous amount of work so I can leave for a month… Claudia Faerber, Traci Maddox, and Blake Hill are the most selfless, supportive colleagues and friends that one could hope for every day, and even more so now. They don’t complain; they encourage. Without them, I wouldn’t feel as comfortable leaving my worklife behind. And my new boss Mike Foley – he took on our team after this was all determined and even though we are all stretched thin, he never asked me to not go on this sabbatical. I asked him about it; he said he thinks I have earned this opportunity and he strongly supports my chance to grow and learn. It’s another sacrifice among many.

So many friends and family have been part of this journey and demonstrated how much they care, I can’t begin to name them all. I have more people praying for me and sending me warm wishes than I ever dreamed could care. My mom listens to every fear, concern, joy, and crazy thought that goes through my head. Like moms always do, she reassures me through my doubts. My friends at work and beyond have been curious and caring. What would I do without you? You are all going on this journey with me, and that helps lessen the fear and grow the excitement. I am so eager to share this with you!

With much love and gratitude,




What’s my project?

What a terrific question. People keep asking me this, and I’ve felt pretty dumb not being able to answer it. We had a call this morning (6 AM – ouch!) with our customer to learn more about the program. Here’s what I understand so far.

There are 11 SAP’ers from around the world who will be participating the Chennai Social Sabbatical program. I’ll be on a team of 3 people working with an organization called  Villgro. They are an incubator for social enterprises that are geared towards reducing poverty, improving access to health care, increasing education, and eliminating child labor. They provide funding for these enterprises to get started, followed by mentoring for the programs to build and sustain their business. Our specific role is to examine their current processes for selecting and aiding the businesses and provide suggestions and support for improving their business model. One of the ways we will do that is to interview some of their fundees; that will give us direct contact with people from all walks of life.

If that explanation sounded vague, it’s because I’m honestly pretty unsure of what exactly I’ll be doing. Am trying to sort through it and today’s call helped, yet I think I won’t really understand it until we get started. That’s sort of like every project we work in SAP – we think through the plan, but until we begin, it’s hard to be 100% sure of our goals and deliverables. What I do know is that I can’t wait to learn more about the businesses and people in this amazing program. They are directly improving people’s lives. It’s easy to write a check to an organization and feel we’ve made an impact. What they are doing to directly work with and help people is what leads to long-term advancement.

Hopefully by this time next week, I’ll be able to answer the title question with confidence. Until then, I’m working on going with the flow. 🙂

What am I afraid of in India?

SAP and Pyxera have invested a lot of time to make sure we are ready for this journey. On last week’s training call, I confessed to being a mix of nervous, excited, and even a little afraid. One of my new friends asked why I am afraid. It is hard to put into words, but so I can see afterwards if my fears were founded, I’ll try…

I’m not afraid of what most people would expect: safety. I have traveled the world alone and am always hyper-vigilant of my surroundings. Things can happen; I know I’ll be alert and cautious. Plus it doesn’t hurt that I’m rather large and freakishly strong. : )

Fear #1: seeing the degree of poverty that afflicts so many in India. Very few of the people there have had the opportunities that I have had, and I feel guilty that so much of my life is based on luck of where I was born. We weren’t wealthy, but I never went hungry, and I had everything I needed and a good deal of what I wanted. How will I handle seeing folks who haven’t had that? Children begging in the street? Families living in tiny shanties without plumbing or electricity? I saw some of that in South Africa while we drove to the airport in Johannesburg. That was hard, and it lasted for all of 20 minutes as we traveled through. How will I cope / be affected when I am not in a car passing by but immersed for a month?

Fear #2: animals. Not that I’m afraid of animals – quite the opposite! I love all animals, to the point where I spent several years as a vegetarian. My family knows that one of the few things that can make me cry is when an animal is harmed or neglected. It has been a struggle for me visiting places where I’ve observed dogs and cats roaming the streets in search of food or kindness. Friends have warned me that there are many stray animals in India. This may be a silly fear to most people, yet I know it will impact me on an emotional level, and that is hard. I want to save them all and can’t.

Fear #3: flying. Another of my embarrassments – I am afraid of flying. Like all flying. Not a good trait for someone who flies 100,000 miles a year, you know? We didn’t fly at all when I was growing up; my first flight was when I was 21 years old, and I hated it. I became accustomed to air travel after many years, then had two traumatic experiences very close together that jump started some lovely panic attacks. This kind of leads to a double fear: flying, and having a panic attack on the plane. What if I lose it halfway over the Atlantic and can’t board the second or third legs of my flights? Really hoping for non-turbulent flights and patient seatmates.

Fear #4: the unknown. I’m a planner. For this journey, there isn’t much inside my control. I have no idea what my day-to-day will look like and that is really difficult. Outwardly I appear to go with the flow. Internally it drives me bananas. How well will I cope when I have no clue what to expect?

Well, now that I’ve considered my fears, I realize that #1-3 are really all part of #4. I have no ability to directly help people or animals. I have no control over the flights. I feel powerless and unsettled. That alone gives this control freak a chance to grow, right? I may end up walking around Chennai singing “Let it Go” from Frozen. Letting go of all I can’t control…

Stepping away from normal work life

I wonder how long it will take me to shed my “SAP consultant” skin and focus on this project that has nothing to do with software. I’ve been an SAP OCM & Training consultant since 1999, and prior to that, spent four years as a general OCM & Training consultant for other software programs. All in, it’s been 21 years since I’ve focused on anything but change as a result of software. This is definitely going to be a challenge.

Of course I’m also concerned about leaving the normal work life behind… My colleagues have been great about stepping up to make sure that my absence results in minimal impact. I’m so grateful for that. It also causes a tiny fear that everything will go so well without me, management could wonder if they need me.  Sad truth but this blog is supposed to be honest and reflective.

Being outside of my 21-year world (wow, my consulting career is old enough to drink!) will be a great way for me to grow my perspective not just about the world, but also my work. When I ask questions now and design programs for customers, I know what they are likely to ask or need. For the sabbatical, I’m starting totally fresh. No clue where this will go, no past ideas or examples up my sleeves… So I’m hoping that I will bring back to SAP some new ways of approaching change, because this is sure going to be a big change for me. I’ll be my own experiment. Frankenfeldman.

The blank page

In four days, I am leaving on a journey. Several friends suggested that I blog about it, which was an interesting yet frightening idea. I was an English major in college and tend to obsess about punctuation, wording, and spelling. A post could take me hours to craft. Eventually, I realized that if I could go so far outside my boundaries to attempt this journey, surely I could learn to abandon my OCD ways of writing. Be warned: this blog is a grammar-free zone!

I suspect that my sole readers will be my mother, my husband, and one or two friends, so they know why I picked Purposefully Lost for the blog title. I have no sense of direction. Several years ago, I got lost driving back from the grocery store. Wish I could pretend that the store was an hour away and the highway had shut down, but no. The grocery is 6 miles away and requires 2 turns once you leave our subdivision (where we had lived for 7 years at the time). It took 45 minutes to get home. Another time I got on the highway the wrong direction after work and ended up halfway through Kentucky before realizing I wasn’t in Ohio. Every time I visit a foreign country, my family cringes in fear. I have to do daily check-ins, not because they think something could happen to me, but because they want to know I’ve found the hotel each night. It’s pretty embarrassing.

On this journey, I am going to India as part of a corporate volunteer project for four weeks. I feel ridiculously blessed in my life, and have a strong desire to give back in some way, no matter how small. That means taking a major leap for this creature-comforts lady. I expect that it will be life altering, and I am not using that hyperbolically. To really get the most and give the most, I think I have to be willing to get lost in their culture, see things I’ve turned a blind eye to, and find my spot in making a difference. I can’t decide if I’m more excited or scared. Today, scared is winning…