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Sapphire 2023 Day 2 Closing Keynote – Serena Williams

As we conclude SAP Sapphire 2023, we reflect upon the incredible finale that left us inspired and motivated. Julia White, SAP’s Chief Marketing and Solutions Officer, entered the stage to engage in a captivating interview with Serena Williams, an icon who has conquered the tennis world with an astonishing 23 grand slam victories across her remarkable 27-year career. Beyond her athletic prowess, Serena has emerged as a beacon of success in the business realm, solidifying herself as a role model for countless individuals, particularly girls, women, mothers, and minorities worldwide. Her story continues to ignite passion and inspire people every single day.

The conversation with Serena revolved around her tennis triumphs and the mindset that propelled her to such remarkable heights, which she has successfully carried over into the business sphere. From her early childhood, Serena always held the ultimate goal in her mind—to become the best in the world—and she never doubted her ability to achieve it. Her journey required sacrifices, such as missing out on typical childhood experiences like graduation, as she dedicated herself to rigorous training in pursuit of her aspirations. Serena’s unwavering motivation sets her apart and allowed her to fulfil her goal.

Having a goal is merely the beginning; the true test lies in taking action and actively working toward its realization. Let us pause for a moment and ask ourselves: Are we doing everything within our power to take those crucial steps forward, bringing us closer to our goals? A recurring theme in Serena’s interview was her ability to analyze her performance, whether on the tennis court or in the business arena. Serena teaches us the importance of consistently seeking ways to elevate our game, being self-critical yet kind. She reminds us that acknowledging our accomplishments along the way can work wonders too.

Serena also shed light on the disparities faced by working mothers, emphasizing that their experiences differ significantly from those of working fathers. If Serena had not desired to expand her family, she would undoubtedly still be competing professionally in tennis. However, she faced a difficult decision due to her gender. While progress has been made in narrowing the gender pay gap and reducing workplace inequalities, Serena highlighted that mothers may need to navigate their careers differently. Although retiring from tennis was undoubtedly challenging for Serena, she refused to let it hinder her impact elsewhere. She charted a new course, discovering fresh goals and finding another focus.

Serena has never been one to blend in. Her on-court demeanor, appearance, and distinctive style set her apart from the majority of her competitors, ultimately forging her into an iconic figure. This mindset carries over into her business ventures. Serena seeks out individuals who dare to stand out, those with exceptional talent and innovative thinking, rather than simply conforming to the status quo. This approach keeps progress in motion, pushing boundaries and fostering forward momentum. Serena, who now actively participates in venture capital, became deeply committed to rectifying the significant disparity in funding opportunities for women. Her mission is to invest without barriers, bringing more people of color and women to the forefront of business and society. She provides them with invaluable mentorship and training, ensuring they secure their rightful seat at the table.

Serena spoke of the champion’s mindset – a mindset that transcends being a world-class athlete and extends into the world of business. It entails countless initiatives, arduous work day in and day out, and an unwavering commitment to showing up consistently, especially for those in leadership positions. Such dedication requires us to make sacrifices, fully aware that the results will manifest in the long run. Serena embodies this spirit, knowing precisely what it takes to motivate oneself and excel. A strong work ethic, a hands-on approach, and a thirst for continual learning are the key ingredients for success, regardless of the field.

Recognizing the significance of mistakes is vital. In the business realm, errors can be glaring, and the stakes can be high. However, there is wisdom in learning from the mistakes of others. Surround yourself with people who can offer valuable insights and perspectives. Embrace the notion that mistakes, although daunting, are crucial for growth. Embrace a mindset that constantly seeks areas of improvement, acknowledging both our successes and failures. And never forget to give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back for your achievements along the way!

In our rapidly evolving world, technology shapes the landscape, influencing every aspect of our lives. It is imperative that we strive to provide equal opportunities for people of color and women to claim their rightful place at the table where decisions are made. The future is being shaped by technology, and it is essential to ensure that a diverse range of individuals contributes to its development. Initiatives like Brilliant Black Minds are pivotal in this pursuit. We must invest in coaching and mentorship, empowering individuals to hone their skills and capitalize on emerging opportunities. By practicing our weaknesses, we expand our horizons and unlock new pathways for growth.

The SAP Sapphire 2023 Day 2 Closing Keynote ended by Serena reminding us that the journey of growth is a lifelong pursuit—a continuous journey rather than a final destination, as Aerosmith once sang! Embrace this mindset and commit yourself to never-ending improvement. Work diligently, drawing motivation from healthy competition. Remember that there will always be someone, somewhere, ready to challenge you. Embracing this reality keeps us from growing complacent and propels us toward greater achievements. Together we can embrace fresh perspectives, infused with energy and collective determination. With this mindset, there is no limit to what we can achieve, both individually and as organizations that are determined to future-proof themselves.

Read more about how to bridge the SAP skills gap to bring more women into the IT sector with equal opportunities and prospects here.

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