I recently spent a few minutes catching up with Hailey Temple – a 2015 Information Management & Technology grad (who also happens to be one of my many iSchool role models!). Hailey happily shares her experiences as a Global Design Thinking Associate at SAP’s U.S. headquarters in Philadelphia and offers advice to current iSchoolers.

Life at SAP and learning Design Thinking

As an approach, design thinking is a powerful way to help both identify the problems that are going on in a business and then help find solutions in a human-focused way. In her role, Hailey works with top strategic customers to help them define how digital transformation is impacting their business and then what they can do to be successful in the digital era.

From a day-to-day perspective, this involves extensive interviewing of end customers and employees who are most impacted by business processes.

“Design thinking is all based around empathy. By putting ourselves in our customers’ shoes, we learn how to solve problems through their eyes,” Hailey explains.

That’s her favorite part of the job, but the people she works with come at a close second. She excitedly told me how “people at SAP are go-getters and forward thinkers, and they’re always thinking about what’s next and what’s popular. I always feel like I’m at the forefront of what’s going on in tech.”

“Design thinking is all based around empathy. By putting ourselves in our customers’ shoes, we learn how to solve problems through their eyes.” – Hailey Temple ’15

iSchool Preparation

Hailey Temple addresses her class after receiving the Katie Bennett Undergraduate Leadership award in 2015.

Hailey Temple addresses her class after receiving the Katie Bennett Undergraduate Leadership award in 2015.

Hailey attributes much of her workplace success to the iSchool’s push of applying lecture concepts to real-world problems. By pulling from experiences she had both inside and outside iSchool classrooms, she’s able to tell her teammates things like “Yes, I’m familiar with this experience,” or “I know what challenges might lie ahead.” She recounts this as the most valuable thing she took away from her iSchool education – being presented with endless opportunities to truly dive into something to see how it works.

An example of this was serving as the student director of NEXIS (New Explorations in Information and Science), the student-based, membership driven research lab at the iSchool. When Hailey started, she didn’t consider herself a developer or an entrepreneur. However, her position gave her a sense of managing people who are interested in doing things like that, what their needs and requirements are, and how to support their growth and success. “I think that start-up mentality and agile environment really is something I’ve used here at SAP a lot. Because change for sure is the only constant here, ” she laughs.

Similar to other iSchoolers like Prasanna and myself, attending SBinSV was a pivotal point in Hailey’s projected career path. She first learned about design thinking at Stanford University’s d.school, formally known as the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (who also happens to be one of the founders of SAP).

“That’s not an SAP-funded school, Hasso Plattner personally invests his money in that school because he believes so much in design thinking,” the alumna explains. “The company is really one of the first adopters of design thinking. Once I learned about it, I thought ‘oh my gosh, I have to do this!’”

Learn What You Like and Don’t Like

As an undergrad, after diving head first into an internship at a big four consulting firm, Hailey realized that wasn’t the path she wanted to take after all.

“I know a lot of students go into consulting roles from the iSchool and some people really love it; they like the lifestyle, they like the different projects, they like the people. It just wasn’t a good fit for what I was looking for. My advice [when looking for jobs] is to make a list.”

Hailey’s “list” included sporadic and lengthy travel, working with people from different cultures, and a fast-paced setting. When she interviewed at SAP, the culture aligned perfectly with her interests. She encourages other students to do the same, and to understand that because the business world is so diverse, you can find something that fits what you’re looking for pretty easily if you do the right research and networking.

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Advice for Students

Jump on a project you’re not even sure you might like, because you never know where the skills you learn may help you in the future. The alumna referenced her TEDx talk, inspired by her work as a Remembrance Scholar, as being a huge help to her public speaking skills, since she now gives a lot of presentations at work. “Just go do things!” she exclaimed, while encouraging iSchoolers to get their hands dirty in as many things as possible.

But Hailey’s biggest advice? Fail.

“I do wish I was braver with failure, and I challenge iSchool students now to fail because it’s not a bad thing. If it happens, you learn something new and you grow. Most of all, you’re being active because you did something and you’re not being passive in your experience. Think, ‘well, what did I learn and how can I grow from it?’ Because that’s the place to do it. People tell us to fail a ton here in the professional world, but you’re like ‘I don’t want to screw up and lose my job,’” she joked. “But really, college is such a cool time to try things. It’s a safe space for you to fail.”