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January 29, 2013

By Christopher Nerney

To feed its own need for technology talent and strengthen its image with students learning about the latest technologies in big data analytics, SAP is updating a long-standing program that shares software and instructional materials with universities around the world.

Like most technology giants, SAP is constantly in search of talent in a highly competitive labor market. The company’s University Alliances Program (UAP), launched 25 years ago, helps it identify, train and recruit talented young technology professionals by giving SAP software, course aids and instructional materials to member institutions for professors to teach students.

The UAP has become a major ongoing initiative, with more than 1,300 member institutions globally—including 220 in the U.S.—and with more than 250,000 students having access to SAP products through the program.

Now SAP is using its university ties to help meet the increasing demand for big data professionals. Ann Rosenberg, a longtime SAP executive who has mentored students and lectured at a number of universities in Denmark, became the new head of SAP’s Global University Alliances last November.

Rosenberg tells Data Informed that her immediate goal upon taking the job was “to get 1 million students exposed to HANA,” SAP’s business analytics platform that allows enterprises to process transactional and predictive data in real time.

That goal is part of a new focus for SAP’s Global University, Rosenberg says.

“We mainly were targeting faculty members and professors,” she says. “The new strategy is for us to go out and engage much more with the student community.”

One way to do this is—old trick coming up—to turn learning into a game.

“We’re running a number of contests in the U.S., India, Europe, in Shanghai, where a number of students are competing against each other on absolutely amazing analytics assignments,” Rosenberg says.

For example, students in Germany recently conducted a sentiment analysis of the U.S. presidential election using unstructured data harvested from Twitter and Facebook (turns out more people liked President Obama than GOP nominee Mitt Romney).

Earlier last year, SAP organized a U.S. competition in which students were tasked with building an analytics dashboard for one of the company’s non-profit clients, Junior Achievement. The nearly 200 participating students were exposed to SAP’s analytics tools, and the company gained exposure to gifted students.

“In 2013, we plan even more events and competitions with big data,” Rosenberg says.

While the competitions are “a lot of fun for students,” she says, they serve a larger purpose for the company. “By bringing young people into the community, we can boost what SAP wants to be today, driving innovation, big data and real-time processing,” she says.

Beyond that, Rosenberg wants to make SAP a top-tier tech company in the eyes of students.

“Few students know what SAP does,” she says. “We want them to think SAP is cool. We want them to think SAP is as great as Google, Facebook and Apple.”

A big ambition, but Rosenberg and SAP are counting on big data to help pave the way.

Read the article on Data Informed.

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