When I joined SAP in 2009, my goal was to become deeply involved in innovative initiatives to positively impact SAP’s brand and help position the company for another 35+ years of enterprise software market leadership. Over the past 6+ years, I have had the great fortune to achieve my goals by leading development and operations teams in the areas of cloud computing, business analytics, and consumer applications for different industries. That said, when I look back on my years at SAP, there is one experience that stands above all – my involvement with the Black Employee Network (BEN).
At the start of my career at SAP, my job involved working at many SAP sites in the US, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. On these travels, I did not come across many people of African descent like me. This saddened me, as I knew SAP aspired to have an increasingly diverse workforce. I decided to support SAP in expanding its diversity initiatives for the untapped talent of the African Diaspora. In 2012, a team of five of us (Danny Allen, Dion Graham, Stephanie Braime-Williams, Cindy Dodd, and me) introduced the Black Employee Network.
The goal of BEN and its over 140 members is to positively influence and impact the future of SAP by including employees of African descent in the process of recruiting, retention, mentorship, and upward mobility. Members in leadership positions also bring new talent into the business and support them as mentors as they navigate their careers. I strongly believe that SAP’s diversity strategy and execution is as important to its continued market leadership as it’s technology innovation. It has been proven that companies that embrace all aspects of diversity (such as race, gender, cultural, etc.) are significantly more likely to have new ideas implemented than companies that don’t. Not embracing diversity means ignoring a large section of the available talent pool.
In 2015, BEN launched an initiative with Historically Black Colleges and Universities to offer educational programs in the latest SAP technologies. This initiative, called Project Propel, will prepare students with skills that are in demand by SAP and its large ecosystem of customers and partners. The project was launched in partnership with SAP University Alliances, America’s SAP Users’ Group (ASUG), and Delaware State University.
There have already been new hires tied to Project Propel from Delaware State University, and we expect many more hires into SAP and its ecosystem through Project Propel over the coming months and years. The initiative has gained positive feedback and even caught the attention of the Congressional Black Caucus.
As an African American who grew up in an impoverished and gang-dominated South Central Los Angeles environment, I realize the importance of education and career opportunities. Both have positively impacted my career and life outcomes. I want to ensure that a large population of people, coming from circumstances similar to mine, is afforded opportunities in the digital economy. BEN is enabling SAP to make that impact.