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May 5 / Viji Iyer

Find your sustainable edge and hear from SAS thought leaders

Photo by country_boy_shane

I first wrote this blog post for the Women’s Initiatives Network (WIN) group while contracting at SAS. They have been gracious yet again, in letting me repost it here.

One unique trait of us as humans is our resilience and creativity in the face of adversity. Our ability to think creatively towards a solution is challenged the most during extraordinary times. This ability comes from our instinctual survival techniques right from our Stone Age that has taught us to not just to survive but thrive over the centuries.

Different factors such as the environment, economy and society have gone through several cycles of change raising with it our stakes to discover, improvise and reinvent ourselves with the times. Changing times have given rise to changing needs – giving birth to new opportunities for growth and development, on a personal level as well as a sociological level.

Today, we live in a technology-driven society that dictates how we interact, communicate and do business with each other. We have all become creatures of modern comfort in a gadget-friendly world allowing us to fulfill our different needs and aimed at making our lives easier. However, on a fundamental level our primary needs have always been centered on survival and sustenance.

That got me thinking about what skills are needed to thrive and sustain in today’s modern workforce? I reached out to a few of the thought leaders while at SAS to seek their advice and opinion. I was looking forward to hearing what they had to say coming from different backgrounds, sensibilities and with over 140 years of collective experience! What I learnt in return was both surprising and delightful. Sharing their collective revelations below:

Adele Sweetwood – Vice President, Americas Marketing - The one skill would be communication – all forms, verbal, written, presentation… With the right communication, you will enable all aspects of growth and leadership. If you were to ask me about the one ‘trait’, I would say, authenticity. People respond positively when you are genuine.

Diana Levey – Marketing Director, JMP - You need to be flexible. Whether you’re at home or in the office, things seldom go as planned. So being able to change on a dime without getting flustered or having your nose out of joint is about as important a trait or skill as I know of.

Jenn Mann – Vice President, Human Resources - Regardless of your industry, it is important to not only be competent in your area, but to have the right attitude. Talent is not enough! Attitudes have the power to lift up or tear down a team. The right attitude also could refer to a “positive attitude”. What I mean by the right attitude is:

  • Willingness to admit mistakes
  • Seeing strengths in others and nurturing those strengths
  • Not taking yourself too seriously
  • Living life with some humility
  • Having a “can do” attitude

Paul Kent – Vice President, Platform Research and Development - Be useful! You have to combine your technical skills with your sensory ones. Identify an area this is being underserved and apply yourself to it. (Cheerfully is always a good modifier). Your peers and hopefully your boss too, will recognize you for this. The harder question is how does one learn/practice/polish their “useful bone”…that’s usually called work-experience!

Radhika Kulkarni – Vice President, Advanced Analytics - Communication is a very important skill in all careers. Listen to all the input and be open to all the feedback given to you. Learn to articulate your message in a language that is understood by your audience. This is especially important when you work in a cross-functional team with diverse skills where everyone contributes one piece of a larger picture.

Scott VanValkenburgh – Senior Director, Alliances - Empathy. It may sound a bit strange, but empathy towards your own life, its limits and possibilities and empathy towards others. This helps bring perspective, balance and understanding in both your personal and professional relationships. Today, the need and positive effect of human interaction and connection is at an all-time high, and unless you have empathy, one’s career and life will fall short of its full potential.

Suzanne Gordon – Chief Information Officer and Vice President of IT - If you are a ‘manager’ I would say, it’s building an atmosphere of trust where collaboration can happen easily and swiftly. You need to listen to the people that work for you, you need to encourage them to work out issues amongst themselves and not run to you with problems. You need to support and trust them and hire good people! If you are an ‘individual contributor’ I would say its persistence, not giving up if you have a good idea.

Suzanne sums it best for us by sharing this quote, “Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.” – William Feather

Did their advice resonate with you? Can you think of any other skill you believe is vital to thrive and sustain in today’s economy? Let’s hear it.

Photo by country_boy_shane

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