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How SAP is Changing the World: Insight from Chris Rhame

The world is changing, and along with it the young generation of graduates are eager to be brought into the fold of the workforce. However, individuals like myself, educated from head to toe with diplomas, degrees and debt to show for it are faced with a problem.

On many job applications and postings under qualifications there is a redundant request “Applicant must have 5-7 years experience in the field”. Many graduates look at this and persevere by submitting their names for consideration anyways. A few may get lucky but for many they’re faced with the conundrum of requiring experience to get experience.

For my own personal journey, I have encountered the neverending road block of the experience monster far too often. I graduated from journalism and searched high and low, applied for almost a year before I had to take a job less geared towards my diploma and start paying debt. I currently work at Michaels, the craft store at a branch in Whitby, Ontario, Canada. While the job has opened doors to skills I didn’t know I possessed such as: Customer service, quick thinking, improvisation and confidence. It hasn’t reined in any passion or ambition to climb the company’s career ladder. Not to be mistaken for bitterness, my lament on my current job situation generates a motivation in myself to seize on opportunity as it comes.What I have learned from Michaels is that I enjoy working with people, it’s the personal connections that compel me to stay and keep the search for a long term career going. However, how do you know until you take a risk?

At Sapphire Now, all the components I value in a workplace were put on display for me and my head was spinning, almost unable to believe a workplace like this could exist, especially in a career path I always imagined as business first, people second. I would be lying if I didn’t have this stereotype lingering in the back of my mind.

I have learned it’s not about the perspective from the outside that matters with SAP, rather the perspective they incorporate to ensure optimum client, customer and employee satisfaction. Putting this all into a perspective myself and my fellow Millenium reporter Pauline could appreciate was Chris Rhame.

We were honoured with the opportunity to interview Chris and his charm and intelligence was only equaled by his kind nature. Speaking with Chris, was like finding a teacher or professor you greatly admired or spending time with a favourite cousin or big brother. Both while providing light-hearted atmospheres also granted those who listened to him key wisdom to success and enjoyment in life and a career.

What is most important from his story was the notion of Change, when this topic stuck in Chris’s mind he recalled the words of his father  “In my mind I can do anything you can do”

Adaptation to the ever-evolving workplace is paramount to success not only to those whose presence in it are well established but also those who have only learned how deep and cold or hot the water might be as they prepare to dive into the job pool.

This has been my personal worry for a long time as I edged closer and closer to completion of my degree and for Chris to start in such a personal way and address fears I have before I even had a chance to admit it, made for a great impact on me.

Over the next forty minutes I gathered my own data (which I’m certain cloud had anyways). I learned SAP had been blessed with Chris’s employment for fifteen years, and taken on a variety of roles: Basis consultant, sales, management, delivery; the list goes on.

Chris regaled us with an abridged biography of his time with SAP and he told us how during  sapphire 2010, it was suggested he go to Asia (As many exciting developments were taking place). He found they were looking for someone to run a start up for cusom development and he and his family spent 3 years in singapore. Chris told us he  wanted to keep this experience of change going so he decided in december to come to canada (having seen ice road truckers, he had an idea it would be cold…) they had landed during the polar vortex and intense ice storm of 2013.

Now Chris manages a portfolio called ‘services’ and how this works is the clients buy the software and Chris’s department installs it. Across the portfolio there’s a large involvement from many different areas.

Chris also spoke of Change management, which help customers anticipate changes that need to happen in their organization and what needs to happen going forward. It’s truly refreshing to know that in every aspect of the job, for Chris and the entire SAP community is all about the human factor. “You’re literally changing peoples jobs, which can be emotional and personal.”

This can be the hardest part of the SAP process, SAP carries out the whole process right down to delivering he product with the salesman. Chris told us to “think of it as a big loop and SAP is right at the core, and that’s what services does our job is to deliver a positive outcome for our clients. Whether it’s a small or large component, as a software vendor we’re responsible for the whole thing and the customer experience. The human component of it is most important”.

A large theme to Sapphire Now was the young professionals that were focused on. The first day of Sapphire was filled with inspirational stories of young innovators and as we sat there listening to them from the very people that generated these stories I wondered to myself, We see where they started and where they got to, but what does SAP offer to our generation to kick-start these innovations?

Chris certainly cleared up that question before I had the nerve to ask. “There’s a lot going on for young professionals” he began and from there we learned about the Mobility Design Centre in Waterloo. This design centre is utilized to develop apps which are innovated by students. Chris elaborated about SAP’s methodology called “design thinking”. SAP brings clients in and the students get to exercise their creativity.

SAP’s approach in many areas is a very fresh one and where students entering the workforce are concerned the process is organic. For example, the design centre is filled with students utilizing white boards and sticky notes to get ideas down as they begin to develop thoughts and innovations. Chris calls young peoples’ perspectives “ideations” and he feels they aren’t jaded by what hasn’t worked in the past to put it eloquently Chris said “they’re able to see the art of the possible.”

SAP gives the opportunity to learn while you experience rather than requiring experience in order to have the opportunity. One of the apps heightens the shopping experience and makes it more efficient. As you shop the app checks off your list and also makes suggestions as you paruse the aisles.The students while having no retail training base their suggestions on being users and consumers. 

This is a company which recognizes and values the gifts of individuals of all skill and intellects, and manner of expertise. A prime focus for myself and my colleague as millenium reporters was to investigate interests such as opportunities for those with special needs or what I like to call different abilities. Part of this initiative to be an equal opportunity employer, SAP embraces the talents that autistic individuals bring to the challenges of software programs by developing a think tank. These kinds of centre’s are set up across the globe and as Chris puts it “it is across the globe that we are, leveraging these gifts.”

“perspectives are so important” these were again words of wisdom from Chris as our chat began to wind down and we learned a little bit more about his world. His family is his passion as he put it so it makes sense when his business values often are defined by that passion.  Chris talked about the value of youth perspectives on a personal level such as his children’s uninhibited nature to engage with other kids of different cultures while he Rhame family lived in Asia.

Access to opportunity across the globe is more and more attainable with new technological progress and Chris admits “the world is shrinking”. More importantly the capacity to engage with other cultures and countries is greater perhaps mores so in the hearts and minds of the generation making a steady pace behind mine. The Rhame children are a testament to that.

SAP did make great emphasis on the importance of simplicity. That is what Sapphire Now means to highlight, innovations on the basis of making life simpler more efficient but this is only obtained so long as those innovators are passionate about the experience not only for themselves but for the customers they’re serving. The same can be said about finding a job “whether you’re out looking for a job, look for a culture you’re passionate about, something you’re confident in”

I would tend to agree with Chris that confidence is a big factor in it but it is certainly a great help to encounter a company like SAP to make it easy to believe in. As Chris mentioned towards the end of our conversation, ” people want to hear confidence from employers and want to see that you believe in what you’re saying, its all about credibility and if you believe in its quite easy.”

For this Millenium reporter, the belief is definitely there and SAP has made if more than easy. Experiencing Sapphire Now and the personal touch that Chris Rhame brought to the event for myself and others makes the journey of a career hunt less daunting and certainly amplifies the ambition. I am looking forward to seeing more from SAP and perhaps one day work with them in one capacity or another.

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