Career Journey with Jill Alden

Introduction

The global Partner Ecosystem Success interns were once again lucky enough to be joined for an informative Career Journey session by a Partner Ecosystem Success leader on the 30th of June 2022. This time our guest was Jill Alden, who is the global Human Resource business partner for Partner Ecosystem Success. Currently in her role, Jill supports a lot of the Partner Ecosystem Success executives with their HR strategy, workforce planning, organizational design of their teams. She was more than happy to take us on a journey down memory lane, alongside an abundance of career advice gems we will be taking with us down the road!

“I knew I wanted to have a career that was really important to me, to have a career that I could be proud of, and I could support myself with. I just didn’t know what that was…”

The Journey

Growing up on the East Coast of America, Jill attended the University of Southern California. Jill was very honest about not knowing exactly what path she wanted to take on a career stance. After majoring in Business Administration, Jill decided to go to Law School, as it was one of her favourite classes during her undergrad. After the three-year course and two years spent gaining experience in the law field, Jill made the decision to leave that career behind and embarked on a new journey.

This was when Jill began the Human Resource Development Masters at the Villanova University, after attending the open day there. A year and a half to two years later spent working during the day and taking part in the program at night, Jill had started looking for an internship. This is where she discovered SAP; “I’ve met people in my class, and they worked at this company called SAP. I’d never heard of it and everyone I met loved it”. Fast forward to 15 years later, and Jill is still thriving in SAP in a job that she loves.

“Don’t feel like you’re too far down a path to make that career pivot. I went through three years of law school, two years of a clerkship, and still going back, getting my master’s degree, coming to SAP is by far the best decision I’ve ever made in my life”

Follow your Passion

As the call continued, Jill expressed the importance of following and trusting your own instincts. When looking at the trajectory of Jill’s career journey, it’s clear to see that it’s not a linear path. Sometimes you must move diagonally, across or, in Jills case, backwards, to eventually end up where you want to be.

When Jill was finishing up, she left us with some advice that has stuck with her throughout her career. One of them being based on the importance of building long term goals. In her experience, setting the long-term goal and ‘filling in the middle’ has proved the most effective and also the most flexible. Once you “understand that things are constantly shifting” it allows room to explore different areas that will ultimately lead to your purpose.

 “Usually, career development is not a straight line, career progression is not a straight line. Talk about moving horizontally as well as moving vertically.

Anna Pereira (Global Channel Business Development Assistant), asked to elaborate on what exactly a long-term goal entails. According to Jill, basing it off a five-year plan pushes it out far enough that you don’t have to stick to a strict map, but is also close enough that, if your life shifts, you can readjust.

The second piece of advice that Jill has stuck by through her career is to seek out mentors. When you find an area that you’re interested in within work and your career, it isn’t a journey you have to embark on alone. If you’re looking for one mentor, or multiple, Jill explained that you should know what you’re looking for in that mentorship. Have a clear idea of what you want to work on and what you need guidance in. One of the strongest things you can do is acknowledging that you could use help and direction by people who are more experienced.

Q and A Session

Following Jill’s talk, she invited us to ask some questions and we obliged, starting with Olayemi Olofin (Project Management and Communications Intern), who asked for advice on rejection and how she has dealt with it. It’s something we’re all sure to experience throughout our careers, making it beneficial to hear first-hand how such a successful woman has overcome it. In her opinion, it is valuable to get feedback on why you were rejected. It is a key opportunity to develop yourself, knowing which areas require improvements or changes. This allows you to be in with a better chance at succeeding on the next try.

There are also times, where once rejected, you can look at the bigger picture and realize it maybe wasn’t the best fit in the first place. Sometimes it takes an outsider to see what you couldn’t, getting you to change your perspective. This is something that Jill went through. When she discovered she hadn’t been successful in securing a role she assumed she was perfect for, she allowed herself to step back and see that it wouldn’t have led to her achieving her long-term goal.

I think what I ended up experiencing was, it wasn’t the right role for me. So, it turns out it was really good that I didn’t get it because, it was part of my journey to end up supporting Carl.”

The last question she was asked was by another intern Lillie Gallagher (SAP PES iXp Intern within the People & Performance Team). She asked about pressing restart when deciding to return to education, after investing time and resources into her law career. Jill’s attitude towards such a pivot was nothing short of positive and admirable. In her eyes, she can “always see benefits to whatever you did before by bringing it into your next career”. For her, Law school was and will remain to be a great education, where she had the opportunity to learn so much and it gave her perspective. She is glad to have the law background so she can now have a deeper understanding of current affairs. She also found that in the early stages of her HR career there were lots of things where the law background helped her.

Conclusion

We’d like to thank Jill for joining us for this incredible session, which was filled with so much great information and useful advice that we can all look at and apply to how we approach our own careers. It’s clear that everyone was able to take something away from the call – here are some pieces of feedback directly from our interns following the session:

“I didn’t want this call to end! Jill has such a wealth of knowledge, and it was an incredible opportunity to hear it first-hand. It’s comforting to know that what you do now doesn’t have to be forever, that there is that space to grow and evolve. Thank you, Jill.”

“I thoroughly enjoyed the session with Jill, it was eye-opening. She talked about her change in career, from being a lawyer that actually does cases in court, to fulfilling her real passion, which is HR and at about 30, she was an intern. This resonates with me because you could say, I’m also an ‘old intern’. That gave me hope and better perspective about pursuing my passion, being prepared, and taking advantage of opportunities. If she could do it, then so can I” – Olayemi

“I found the call with Jill very insightful. It was very reassuring to see from her career journey that we are all not on a set path, but that we can change our direction as we move forward” – Sam

Thanks for taking the time to read our Career Journey blog! If you’d like to stay updated with the next instalment of the blog, make sure to follow either myself or our Global Career Journey tag, and we encourage you to leave your thoughts in the comments below!