Career paths rarely follow a straight trajectory, typically encountering bumps, turns and detours along the way – Caitie Sullivan’s career path is a prime example.  

A San Francisco native, Caitie did not initially set out to be a program manager for a competitive early development program, the SAP Silicon Valley Next Talent (SVNT) rotational program when she grew up. Far from that – she started her studies in physical therapy but ended up completing grad school in Industrial Organizational Psychology, with 7 internships and plenty of experimentation along the way. A common thread throughout the whole experience was a yearning for building community, passion for technology and a desire to help others. 

Today, she is a well-respected leader and mentor to over 30 SVNT program participants in the Bay Area, which will soon more than double with the growth of the program. We sat down with Caitie in Palo Alto, California to learn about her journey into leadership and the key lessons that she’s learned along the way.

How would you describe your leadership philosophy?

Transparency and authenticity“I believe in telling people the truth and providing actionable feedback to help program participants succeed,” says Caitie.

What would you say are the key ingredients for developing strong working relationships?
  • Delivering on promises 
  • Responsiveness to your team (Caitie has a track record of responding to emails within 10 minutes) 
  • Setting clear expectations from day one 
  • Being vulnerable with your team, which allows them to feel more comfortable with me 
  • Bonus: serving constructive feedback sandwiches to your team, when needed. These consist of three ingredients: what they’re doing well on, element of improvement, the impact on their future if they improve
Most important lesson(s) you’ve learned in leadership? 

Never blind sight your manager. Being in a management position herself, Caitie stresses the importance of open communication between employees and managerswhich ensures that managers are always kept in the loop on any pressing or urgent matters.

Top advice for managers? 
  • Set expectations on day one. Take the time to level set with your employees on your management style, communication preferences, habits, ticks etc. at the beginning of your working relationship. Give everyone on the team a chance to also share how they work best. This will help mitigate many frustrations that will inevitably come up while working together if this was never discussed.
  • Don’t be afraid to tell the truth. It’s might not always be easy but will be greatly appreciated by everyone that you work with in the long run; especially younger talents. 
  • When recruiting, look for coachability. If you want to build things that matter, hire people who matter. If you’re faced with a decision between fancy degre/title or scrappy but coachable talents, always go for the latter. Prestigious schools and degrees don’t help when you’re having a challenging time working with someone every day because of their attitude, adaptability or resourcefulness.
  • Use Dabra for your 1:1s. Dabra Team: ‘ditto’ 🙂
Experience using Dabra by SAP

Caitie describes the beginning of her current role as being put in a ‘sink or swim’ situation. Suddenly having to manage 30 people with zero data on them. Upon discovering DabraCaitie explains that she now had one convenient tool for managing all these people: a place to collaborate in 1:1 meetings, assign action items, see how each employees likes to receive feedback, their motivation, and predictive reactions to new ideas/projects- all leading to building solid working relationships with each one of them.

Collaborating through Dabra, she’s able to address topics that program participants want to talk to her about ahead of time, reducing the need for a 1:1 on some weeks. She believes that integrating this tool into her day-to-day has allowed her to become a better manager, streamlining her communication with employees and helping her be a responsive leader. 

Build trust with the people you work with through productive, focused 1:1 meetings with Dabra by SAP. Try it out today.