Yes, a Business Can Have a Soul.
When SAP rolled out HANA ads that asked if business can have a soul, I was a little offended. Really, a business with a soul? Does SAP not know what a soul is? I’ve come to determine that not only do they know, they are a prime example of what that looks like. It isn’t about what is in the HANA ad, but what is in the company’s DNA. Allow me to explain.
A year ago, I was invited to apply for the SAP Social Sabbatical program. I’d never even heard of it, nor had anyone else I asked. After doing some research I knew this would be the chance of a lifetime. I spent hours trying to put into writing why I wanted to participate, and why I would be a good fit. This opportunity was so exciting for me, I was shaking with nerves during my phone interview. A few weeks went by, then a few more. The suspense was painful but when I received the news that I had been accepted, it was worth every moment of nervous anticipation.
In case you are wondering what a Social Sabbatical is, please allow me to explain. SAP selects high-performing individuals from around the world to spend a month volunteering with organizations in poverty stricken regions. SAP not only continues to pay our salaries while we are volunteering, they pay our airfare, our hotel, and a living stipend. They also put us through 6 training sessions and hire a career coach for us to apply what we have experienced once we return to SAP life. During this time, we do no SAP work. Our managers are told to leave us alone for the month so we can fully immerse ourselves in our projects and the culture. For the next four weeks, I have an opportunity to make a real difference in the world.
You must admire the brilliance of this. How often do we see in the news that charitable funding has led to corruption or misuse? Does it really help anyone other than officials who line their pockets? SAP gives plenty, don’t get me wrong, but how innovative to donate talent for a sustainable solution, one that keeps on giving? SAP could hand over a check for a few million and be done with it. Instead, they send revenue-generating consultants and leaders away from customer to use their skills and knowledge to help organizations make their regions better, to reduce poverty, to improve health care, to lower child labor, and to provide women with safe incomes. You know the adage about teaching a man to fish? SAP is teaching companies to succeed and grow and sustain, for no other reason than that it is the right thing to do.
I arrived yesterday in Chennai, India, to work with 10 other SAP’ers from all corners of the world. We are working with four organizations, helping them improve their business models, increase their visibility, and plan for long term success. It is exciting and scary and amazing and intimidating and every other adjective one could think of. I am here because I have been incredibly fortunate and want to aid those who haven’t had the same opportunities that I have. I have a soul. These people I will work with have a soul. And yes, SAP has a soul.
please feel free to follow my journey at www.purposefullylost.net