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Same Same, But Different – Why Diversity Helps to Improve Software Development

Some years ago, I had the opportunity to talk to one of Germany’s top security experts. He told me that he is able to tell a developer’s origin from the bugs that he or she would find inside a program. I did not believe him until I started working with different developers from all around the world.

As a developer at the SAP Innovation Center in Potsdam, I am regularly confronted with complex technological challenges, which can be solved in numerous ways. Finding the right solution depends on my educational background and professional experience. Yet, my skills and knowledge are defined and guided by the cultural, ethical and social values I was taught while growing up. They all determine how I look at obstacles and how I approach them. I am deeply convinced that it is exactly that type of diversity – diversity in skills and knowledge as well as the diversity in our underlying ethical and cultural fundaments – that enables us also in software development to look at complex problems from different perspectives and ultimately come up with better solutions.

My name is Rami Akkad, my mother is Canadian with a Syrian heritage and my father is from Jordan. When they married, they moved to Berlin where I was born and spent most of my life. When people ask me where I come from I am not able to give a short and satisfying answer. Rather, I start telling people that I am an ‘Earthling’ because that is something that universally defines us as human beings and that everyone can relate to.

With roughly a 100 employees from more than 20 nations the SAP Innovation Center is – just like SAP as a whole – highly diverse. One of the projects I work on is the HPI Future SOC Lab. The HPI Future SOC Lab is a cooperation between the Hasso Plattner Institute for Software Systems Engineering (HPI) and four industrial partners including SAP. At the HPI Future SOC Lab, we provide researchers with free access to a complete infrastructure of state of the art hard- and software, including SAP HANA and servers with up to 64 cores. One, which they could otherwise not afford.

In my day-to-day work, I am in constant exchange with people from different countries and educational backgrounds. It is normal for me to start the day with a phone call to researchers located in India and to end it with a virtual meeting with colleagues from Mexico or the US. During those discussions, I am amazed at how people of different cultures, upbringings and ethics, can seamlessly and efficiently solve a concrete problem. More than that, I have first-hand experienced that especially the teams with manifold skills and cultural backgrounds tend to find better and new solutions. Thus, it is very important for me to always make sure that my project teams have a maximum-diverse setup.

Not for nothing, Design Thinking as taught at the d.schools in Stanford or Potsdam explicitly claims multidisciplinarity/diversity to be one of the main pillars of user-driven product development. I couldn’t agree more.

Cultural and religious differences exist everywhere with software development luckily being no exception. Those differences are important. They should be respected and fostered as they yield better outcomes.

Happy 2nd German Diversity Day, everybody!


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