Embracing Otherness – My Take on Diversity and Inclusion@SAP
My name is Henning Schmitz and I have been working with SAP for almost 17 years now, which makes me one of the colleagues with the longest SAP heritage at the SAP Innovation Center in Potsdam. On the one hand this means that I bring plenty of professional experience into the team. On the other hand, working with so many young and creative talents means that I am constantly dealing with technologies, approaches, and ideas that are new to me. While this is challenging at times it also allows me to learn many new things and see how some of these ideas become successful applications and products.
During my time at SAP I have worked in many teams together with colleagues from many countries including Australia, China, India, Israel, Germany, France, and the US. This taught me many things about culture and country specific mentalities, working and communication styles, and also how greatly people from all these countries can contribute to various projects. Different backgrounds bring in different perspectives and approaches, which can create results that would have been impossible with people of similar upbringings, cultural exposure, and ways of thinking. Hence, creating an atmosphere of openness and inclusiveness, in which employees are encouraged to come up with their own ideas and proposals, is a prerequisite to unleash people’s potential. At the Innovation Center employees from over 20 countries work together on projects every day. This diversity defines and fosters our agile and creative working environment.
Also, I am taking part in some of SAP’s activities in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. This engagement is important for SAP to create and remain an open and inclusive company, which attracts and leverages the benefits of a diverse workforce. SAP’s engagement includes participating in the annual “Sticks and Stones” job fair (http://www.the-rockstar.com/en.html),contributing to the Berlin senate’s activities to fight homophobia (http://www.buendnis.lsvd.de/index.php/das-buendnis.html), and the taking part in a project aiming at improving the working environment for transgendered people (http://www.berlin.de/lb/ads/gglw/tia/).
One very well perceived and widely recognized project was the filming of an SAP video for the “It gets better” project, which aims at giving hope to LGBT teenagers who suffer from homophobic bullying. The SAP movie project was launched after the tragic suicide of an SAP employee’s son, who was victim of anti-gay bullying. It was filmed in 12 locations with 41 employees including SAP leaders taking part in it. I am very proud that I can be part of these activities at SAP and help it stay the diverse company it is.