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Saturday, 8pm, a restaurant somewhere in Bangalore. A buzz of excitement is in the air. To my right Brijesh, Sarah and Riika are trying to figure out what the key ingredients are to the moon cakes that Dingling brought from China. From the left, I pick up bits and pieces of Spanish and opposite me, Helle and Stanley are engaged in a discussion about the military service in Denmark and Israel.  Sitting at the restaurant table and listening to these conversations I cannot help but feel amazed at the intense bond I see already formed by this group of 12 SAP employees who are meeting today for the first time. Their bond is forged by a common purpose and a common goal: they will spend the next 4 weeks working for non-profit organizations in Bangalore and apply their personal and combined skills and expertise to make a difference and help them run better! As I let their voices wash over me I realize that this is truly it, we have reached a key milestone on this life changing experience they share with a total of 48 top talents at SAP – the kick-off of the SAP Social Sabbatical 2013.

It all began about 4 months ago when they applied for one of the social sabbatical assignments in China, Brazil, South Africa and India, all of which are launching within the next week. The reality of having been selected from a pool of over 300 applicants didn’t have much time to sink in, when they already embarked on the next phase of their journey. Over a period of 2 months, the social sabbatical participants attended virtual pre-work sessions, where they learned more about the countries they were going to, the cultural do’s and don’ts, the organizations they were going to work for and what their deliverables were going to be. Thrown into the mix were team building exercises to move the country teams as quickly as possible from forming to performing and sessions such as “social media 101”  to equip them with the necessary skills so they could share their personal experience with a wider audience. In a nutshell, they were being prepared to hit the ground running!

The team I am sharing a meal with tonight in Bangalore is prepared and eager to get started.  Tomorrow they will meet their client organizations for the first time in person and I know that many of them are thinking: “can I really help them with the skills and expertise that I have?” “Do we have enough time to deliver tangible results for them?” “This is a life changing experience for me, but can I truly make a difference for them?”

Yet after having witnessed this passionate group of SAP employees with vastly different backgrounds come together as one team with one purpose, I know they are committed to proving to their client organizations that SAP’s vision of helping the world run better and improving people’s lives is more than a vision and together they will turn it into reality!

In 2 days I will have to leave the team to return to Germany, but I will be eagerly following the journey of the different Social Sabbatical teams over the next few weeks and am looking forward to reading about their personal experiences in this community.

Alexandra van der Ploeg

Program Lead SAP Social Sabbatical

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