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Humour@SAP: IX. Surfing, Sun and Schwarzenegger – SAP Labs Palo Alto

From all the SAP locations SAP Labs in Palo Alto has probably the most glamourous image. Located in the heart of the Silicon Valley, it is close to the nightlife of San Francisco and 30 minutes from the Californian beaches, ideal for water sports. In addition to that, it is only four hours from several marvellous ski ressorts around Lake Tahoe, where also Jet Ski rentals, hiking opportunities and many National Parks like Yosemite are open for campers and tourists during summer. Not to forget the gambling ressorts at the Nevada border and the wine tasting tours in Sonoma and Napa Valley. The San Francisco Opera and the SF Davies Hall with the SF Symphonic Orchestra bring culture to the bay, and the babylon of languages teaches you everything, except proper English.

Did I forget something? Oh yes, parbleu!
The Silicon Valley is also the very center of the computer world. Nearly everything, what you love about computers, was invented there. The mouse, the graphical user interface, the best search machines and this built-in Coffee-cup Device, abbreviated as CD-drive.

SAP Labs also contributed its fair share: it invented Java@SAP, the Internet Transaction Server (ITS) and just recently the animated bar chart. I don’t know who needs animated bar charts, but together with our partner Macromedia we are telling this story to the whole universe.

Because of this region with all the great thinkers, we invent a lot at SAP Labs. When we hire new people, they have to demonstrate that they can invent something. “I invented the rechargeable, singing paper-napkin.” – and BANG!, the applicant is hired. “Here is my draft of the smoke less computer mouse!”. BANG!, another one hired. “I invented a stylish Birkenstock sandal!” – and BA…. – hold on, wait a moment – that’s impossible. Nobody can make those sandals look cool. Get out of my office, you bloody liar…

How does the average day of an SAP employee in this location look like? Let’s start from the early morning, with the first rounds of quick wave-rides on the Pacific. Before sunrise you see the hordes of suntaned and well built SAP employees rodeo-ing the waves in the freezing waters on the beaches of Halfmoon Bay, Santa Cruz and Tom Cruise. That’s how we train in the strong winds and hot sun for the merciless climatic conditions of the business world.
Frozen by angry customer looks? Compares to mild tuscan evening for steeled SAPies. Grilled by a customer? Nothing in relation to the Californian sun. Blown away by requirements? That sounds like the flaps of a butterfly (before it created the storm on the other side of the world).

The cold waters of this aquatic region also attracts sharks, which we use to train our reflexes in the shark infested Silicon Valley, where our competitors are trying to sniff the traces of customers and paddle right in our way. But with our – BANG! – latest innovations in software-design (for example: the extremely beautifully designed UIs, the Understand your SAP marketing guy for dummies-approach, or the recently included documentation of How to survive a date with an SAP employee), we keep them at fin-length and tickle them with our sharp teeth. When you walk through the offices and cubicles, you will notice the surf boards, proudly mounted on the walls, with bite marks from white sharks, mad cows and Larry Ellison. Hasta la vista, Larry!

That brings me straight to the next specialty of this location: in California, we are not governed, but governated by Austrian-born Arnold Schwarzenegger, better known as Arnie, Termie or Hasta la vista, baby!. The Governator governates, the terminator terminates, and at SAP Labs we innovate.
Somebody has a new idea for SAP software? We innovate it:

Does it come in 342 languages?
Also in Arnie-English?
Can it be remotely debugged?
What about client capabilities?
And does the database come in purple?

Off it goes! Down to the laboratories of our competitors. At least it served one damaging purpose…

So much innovation makes hungry. Once we finished our thoughts from bettering the world, moved our admiring glances from the surfboards and Arnie posters in the sacred halls of SAP Labs, it turns out that lunch time has come. After a short check on the waiting line through the cantine-webcam, we rush to the Building D, which is uphill – Hasso Hill, as it is called by the old SAP folks, indicating Hasso Plattners wish of residing with SAP on the hills – and overlook the competition.
The three choices of free menu every day, like Passage to India, Mexican Fiesta and Tofu orgy, lead us straight to the only place that can save us: the grill. Big fat hamburger and fries, and down they go. Why so fast? Because already the next idea stroke us. Yes, we were right: it came to our mind that today is ice-cream day – what a sweet idea. Stony Strawberry, Venezuelan vanilla and sour socks are the flavors today.

The afternoon is quiet, the innovation from the morning is packed, labeled and tied thoroughly in the drawer so that nobody ever forces us to implement it, not even Shai Agassi. Finally, after so many hours of hard work, we find time for a coffee-break in the court-yard – were there not today’s employee mixer with the mexican brass combo and the tacos and quesadillas. And the chance to train my spanish: Muchachas!, Cerveza!, Hasta la vista, baby!.

Not long and the convertible awaits us for the ride home, with the next innovation waiting for us: what’s the best way to learn Austrian-English, so that I can finally understand the governator? – bing, bing, bing…

More anecdotes can be found in the Humour@SAP weblog series.

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