Colleague Focus: Catching Up With Katherine Zhao, Back Office Support Consultant, CoE NA
What is your background prior to your career at SAP?
I work in the Back Office for the SCM component. I transferred to the U.S. in 2011. I have two Bachelor’s degrees; one in International Logistics Management and the other one in International Transportation. Previously I was working for other multi-national companies for their supply chain management. I’m integrating my on the job business knowledge with my SAP technical knowledge and that helps me a lot in both ways.
What aspect of your work do you consider to be the most rewarding?
In the Back Office you are facing critical issues every day. Production goes down, go-lives are endangered, and this makes customers under high pressure. The work is very critical and time sensitive. When you receive the issue you only have several hours to solve it, and this is very challenging. The most rewarding aspect is when you step in and the customer has suffered from and issue for a long time, and you change the whole thing and the issue is solved. Then everybody is happy about the result.
What is a typical day in the Back Office like for you and your colleagues?
The Back Office is a 24×7 organization globally to support customers for critical issues. Along with the Back Office in North America, we also have a Back Office in APJ and EMEA, so the support is seamless. We are dealing with customers not only in the U.S., but globally. They have different cultures and ways of thinking so we need to work with them in the most pressured situations with production down and go-live endangered. They are mostly Max Attention and safeguarding customers. When customers are paying more, they are expecting more. If we see a critical issue come up, we jump in as soon as we receive the case. We need to clarify the issues and details in a very short amount of time. Then, we need to use our technical expertise to solve the issue or to push the issue to a solution. At the same time, we need to communicate with the customer in a strategic way and in technical detail. So, my work is not only technical. It can be challenging communicating with political talk to the customer.
To work in CoE, do you have to come in with people skills or do you develop that here?
I developed my communication skills a lot at SAP, including while in my previous role in Shanghai, CoE. I was team lead, War room lead, TQM, as well as the team lead for many customer services. In my Backoffice duty, I will act as Backoffice lead. My experience working with customers globally at SAP developed my technical knowledge and communication skills.
What motivates you to be successful?
I would like to see people happy and customers satisfied. If you do a job well, the customer will be happy, and your manager will be happy and I am satisfied at the same time.
One thing I’ve noticed is that making a customer successful and adding value to their company is extremely important to individuals in CoE. Do you think this is an innate trait, or something that CoE instills?
This is a very important personality trait to have. When you get interviewed they are looking for people who would like to serve customers, who want to provide support in a prompt way, and have enthusiasm about helping others. Previously I was a purchaser in the logistics side and I was also treating my suppliers like my external customers. I did a personality test with HR and I learned I am more customer service oriented. This is the type of personality I believe CoE is looking for.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Working in the back office, one thing I’m proud of is being able to solve very critical and complicated cases. When I step in, I may have no prior experience with the particular area, but I am able to pick up the knowledge very quickly to bring a solution to the issue. Another thing I’m proud of is being able to lead a situation to a successful solution. For example, when I was in China I was leading a customer to sign a MaxAttention deal together with Holger, my manager. At that time he was the EA for this customer. This particular customer did not want to sign any type of deal with SAP, but after we were there for six months, the customer then decided they wanted to sign a MaxAttention contract. The ability to step in and break the ice for these types of deals to take place really makes me feel proud.
Would you ever be interested in pursuing a leadership role, and how do you think current leaders in CoE can support career growth for their employees?
In your daily job you are leading a lot of solutions already. I don’t have HR experience for leading a team but I have rich experience leading a technical team. I don’t think CoE lacks opportunities to develop leadership skills. My managers would definitely support it if I put it forward. Currently, I’m quite happy to help customers with technical issues while further developing my technical skills.
What is something you are currently working on that you are excited about?
Right now I am in the HANA Deployment room as a 3 month rotational experience. That is our new product and I’m taking on a lot of customers and taking care of them. This is a product that is really promising and has a lot of potential for the future of our company. I’m glad to be a part of the project. We receive more requests for HANA and so we need to support the HANA customers more, and in a knowledgeable way.
What do you see for the future for CoE?
As compared with areas like development that have been around for forty years, CoE is a newer organization that has been around for less than twenty years. It is really challenging right now. The customers have more detailed requests and they are bringing more challenging topics to the table for support. In the future, CoE definitely has the potential to develop higher profit margins because the customer is making much more and more complex requests. We can build up our team to meet these demands and we can expand our organization in the future.
What are some of your hobbies outside of work?
I really enjoy reading and swimming, but right now I need to spend a lot of time taking care of my son who is nine months old. My husband is in CoE as well. I met him while at CoE Shanghai and he was transferred here. He is also a High Potential in the organization. That is another achievement in my life that I can have both my job and family in SAP. Previously because you are travelling so much, you can’t really settle down in one place. And finally, you find the right person is just sitting in your office. When you off duty , still 50% of the time you are talking about job. That might drive someone crazy if they didn’t work with you. My husband and I are exchanging topics, talking about technical details and customersandit’s interesting to both of us.
What do you think about the work/life balance in CoE?
I think it’s pretty balanced, I mean I can see my husband every day, except for when he is travelling. Previously when I was travelling a lot like up to 70% in CoE China. It is a little bit challenging if you travel a lot when you have family, but I believe to face the customer is important for both of us, and we support each other in our careers.. As long as we know the nature of each other’s jobs so well, we are in agreement with how to balance our onsite work.
-Natalie Wimberg, AGS, CoE, NA