As part of my duties as the Media Relations Manager for SAP Canada, I get to spend a lot of time with our Executives. What I do during that time varies, but it’s a lot of interview preparation, background documents, message creation and strategy talk.
I also get the opportunity for a ‘first-hand’ look at what’s going on at SAP Canada – this is good, as I need this type of information when I talk to the media.
Our CSR team recently had our Managing Director, Mark Aboud, attend a Junior Achievement event at a school here in Toronto. It’s always interesting to see how executives will do with the kids. I went in wondering if it would turn out like this.
Fortunately, it worked out fine, I asked Mark to share some of his thoughts, and he put together a great column about the value of these types of programs. (with the help of his talented Media Relations Manager, of course)
Supporting the Generation of Technology Leaders
In the business world we often find ourselves caught up in the quarter to quarter cadence of our work life. We become so focused on the fiscal calendar, that we can lose sight of the calendars that govern our lives outside of work.
Most companies, including SAP Canada, devote some portion of their time to corporate social responsibility; it’s our obligation as members of the community and is what renews our social license to operate. This past year for example, over 70% of SAP Canada employees got involved in SAP hosted volunteer events, all of which happened on company time.
The Need For Highly Skilled People
Beyond the facts and figures, it is the impact that we can have on the lives of young people that really makes a difference. Those of us employed in the technology sector in Canada find ourselves at a crossroads where we can choose to help, or watch Canada slip. The Information Technology Association of Canada notes in every region of the country, employers can’t find enough qualified business-ICT professionals. It is estimated that we will need some 65,000 more by 2015. Highly specialized ICT-skilled technologists are critical to innovation and productivity in every industry as we reinvent the economy for the post-recession 21st century.
There are too many empty seats in Computer Science programs at Universities across Canada. Enrolment in STEM programs – Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Math has been on the decline for the past decade. A particularly worrisome statistic is the lack of interest from young girls. We have to do better dispelling the pocket-protector image of tech in young girls’ minds.
Where Volunteering Fits In
This is where programs like Junior Achievement have an enormous benefit. As a long-time partner of Junior Achievement, SAP Canada employees regularly go into the classroom to teach the “Economics for Success,” a program designed to ‘show’ rather than tell the students the advantages to staying in school. Spending the day with a group of grade eight students, I learned a few things myself. Far from being disengaged, the kids were eager, especially when it came to understanding the realities of the ‘real-world’ and hearing my career and life experiences.
In explaining what we do here at SAP (which can be hard to do with adults at times) I realized that the class was comprehending, and astutely interested in how to prepare for life after school. The concept of the cloud made perfect sense to them. Accessibility of ‘apps’ was something they were almost taking for granted – and mobility, be it a BlackBerry or iPhone was definitely something they understood (and were anxious to budget for during a mock financing session.)
As the corporate sector changes, and mergers continue, we are going to need to build the next generation of Nortel’s or RIM’s to ensure that Canada maintains its place on the world stage as a technology leader. Where are these companies going to come from? We are going to need creative, bright, young people who can lead Canada in new directions.
Programs like Junior Achievement allow us in the business world to encourage, guide and inspire the next generation and our future leaders. Many of us started in the business when tech was mostly for techies. Now that technology is for everyone, I challenged the students to use technology to excel at whatever they choose to do. Let’s see what they come up with. I am encouraged, and delightfully threatened, by their response.
– Mark Aboud, Managing Director, SAP Canada