Name: Brenda Stank
Hometown: Center City Philadelphia (that is where I live now; I was born and lived until college in Cheshire Connecticut)
Position: Director of Operation
Length of time you have been with you company: 11 year
Briefly describe your journey, noting both personal milestones and obstacles you may have faced along the way. MBA from Northeastern and started my career at Unisys in finance and operations for over 20 years (15 years in manager role) then moved from technology organization to a company called International SOS that provides medical and security assistance to global travelers. While at International SOS I ran their medical consulting practice in North America for 5 years before moving to SAP. SAP I started in Operations moved to Finance both roles as an individual contributor – eventually moving into a leadership/manager position 4 years ago at SAP.
How did you hear about LDC and why did you sign up to take part in it? - SAP team in Newtown square said there was an opportunity and asked if I was interested. I am always interested in leadership training.
What inspires you? How does that inspiration play into your professional life – I get my inspiration from new challenges that may be difficult but have a path to achieving success. This plays into my professional life as it relates to the people that I work with every day on my team. They bring to me challenges and we problem solve togethers identifying root cause issues and then putting together short term and long term remedies.
Briefly, describe a transformative moment that helped to shift your approach to your career. I had worked at a company (not saying which one) for a few years and had accomplished many things that I was recognized for. The head of the organization was very complimentary of my work. There was an reorg and a new manager was brought in between me and the head of the organization. The new manager marginalized what I did and told me that he had a better way. I disagreed and went above his head to the head of the organization to complain and seek support to be able to continue on the path that I felt was best. This backfired and I was eventually removed from the role and offered a much less responsible position. The transformative moment for me was that you must understand the organizational hierarchy and assess the power that even an incompetent manager has. The manager was eventually fired from this company but only after I had already left.
What leaders, thinkers or doers do you admire most? Why? Leaders who will listen and surround themselves with people who don’t necessarily agree with them. Strongest leaders I have met will admit that they are not the “smartest person in the room” and they are not intimidated by others smarter than them. They seek out smart, diverse thinkers to build a stronger team and better outcomes.
What has been the most valuable professional advice and/or lesson you’ve received. Long ago, in my early years I had to work with a very very difficult person whom I could not get to cooperate and work with me. This person under minded me at every turn. I went to my manager and said that I refused to work with this person any more and that she would need to get someone else to work with the problem employee (who did not report to my manager). My manager told me that in business, if you want to succeed, you don’t get to opt out of challenging relationships. She told me that I needed to figure a way to build a productive relationship with him, find common ground where we both agree. I did not like what I heard but understood I had no choice but to follow her advice. Eventually, I was able to improve the relationship with the problem employee and myself. We never became best friends but our working relationship did improve. To this day, I give that same advice to others who experience the same challenges. Figure out a way to build some kind of relationship with people critical to your success.