Article originally authored by Aimee Feaver.
With SAP’s focus on diversity in the workplace, we hear about programs designed to put women into leadership positions, millennials into field enablement roles, or that challenge top talents with a fellowship opportunity. At SAP, you can map out your career path, or at least follow the breadcrumbs to where you want to be professionally.
In this series, North America News is talking to veteran talents (not to be confused with anyone recruited through SAP’s Veterans to Work Program) to find out why SAP has become home to them for more than 20 years.
It was a 1991 chance meeting at a software event in South Africa that led Ken Siebritz to SAP, and kicked off his return to the work he enjoyed doing. He has made SAP his employer of choice for the last twenty-four years and counting, and only once – and very briefly – considered leaving.
What is your current role?
I am part of the Customer Innovation & Services team that facilitates Early Adopter Care programs within Market Introduction. We work closely with customers throughout their process of acquiring and installing new SAP products and recently released versions. In some cases, I am on the outside of the project looking in, monitoring it; in others, I am much more involved.
What brought you here?
In 1991, I had been running a small software company in Johannesburg, South Africa. At a software fair, my hardware sales rep who had recently become an SAP reseller, said, “I’ve got this new software and I need someone with a financial background who can actually work in that company. Would you like to join us?” [NA News note: Ken, who hails from Johannesburg is an accountant and holds an MBA.] By that point, I wanted to return to work I was comfortable doing, which was consulting. I interviewed, got the job as a finance and costing consultant working on R/2. A training opportunity on R/3 came up, and within a year or so, SAP’s South Africa operations was established.
How many different roles have you had?
Three years into my role as an SAP consultant, I vacationed in U.S. and dropped into the Atlanta, Georgia office to catch up on work email. The consulting manager asked if I would share with him the kind of work we were doing in South Africa. Before my return flight home, he approached me about transferring to the U.S. Lots of things had to be considered, such as uprooting my family, and adjusting a new country and culture. We accepted the challenge and moved to Atlanta in February 1994, and I continued my career as a consultant. From there, I shifted to consulting management, and then project management, running numerous programs for customers in the U.S. Ten years ago, I joined the Market Introduction team, still with an element of project management.
Only once, and briefly. I am exceptionally happy here. It is a great company to work for, and I have only good things to say. SAP has given my family and me a great chance at life. I have met many great folks, some of whom have become lifetime friends in the process. [NA News note: Ken has two children, son Paul (27), and daughter Kaylene (24).]
There have been plenty of changes to technology, strategy…is there anything you’d like to see us return to?
I think we have to move progressively forward – and we are. Our life and world are changing rapidly and we need to stay ahead and competitive.
What was the culture at SAP like when you joined?
It was a smaller company, and you personally knew most of the folks you interacted with at the office, even if they were somewhere else in the world. There was nothing slow about the pace; we were active all the time. In that regard, not much has changed.
What advice would you give someone whose first day at SAP is today?
Your future is wide open. Everything is awaiting you. Take every opportunity and run with it, try to make a difference.
Speaking of making a difference, tell us how you give back to your community.
I have been involved with a local organization for some time now: Sea Turtle Patrol of Gulf and East Bay Florida. Every Saturday for about six months a year, I drive a Land Rover on the local beach doing any number of things to help protect the species: Looking for new nests, marking them off, and protecting them (from predators) with mesh; monitor existing ones; watching for newly hatched turtles crawling to water, and so on. It is particularly gratifying when my fiancée Rose and I can assemble near a nest with some of the 12 other volunteers to watch these babies make their way to the sea. A conservationist at heart, doing this kind of volunteering allows me to tap into that passion.
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