We often hear about the innovation that SAP enables our customers and partners to capture through our technology. What you may not hear is the innovation that SAP is pushing internally around corporate benefits, social responsibility, and employment opportunities. I was fortunate enough to participate in one of these internal innovations called SAP IMPACT.
Energized, grateful, confident, and prepared….are just a few of the adjectives that come to mind when reflecting on my past year in the SAP IMPACT program. I was a member of the 2nd cohort of SAP’s MBA rotational leadership development program and what an opportunity it has been. As part of this program, I have worked in three distinct departments across the company and across the globe. This experience has shaped me in four main ways; cross functional experience, personal network, self-awareness, and global experience.
Cross Functional Experience
The IMPACT program allows you to write the narrative of your career. Think about how powerful that is. In the IMPACT program you are empowered to choose three twelve week long job rotations across every region and functional area of SAP. I took this opportunity to explore jobs and roles that I would have never thought of taking if not for a program like this. Upon completing the IMPACT program I can now say I have experience working in Corporate Development, Sales Strategy in APJ, and Operations at SAP Ariba. Not only do you get to work in diverse rotations, but the IMPACT program allows you to drive real results. My work has contributed to redefining our acquisition strategy, increasing the velocity of sales of our flagship ERP solution S4, and reducing the delivery time of our SAP Ariba solution. These roles have impacted SAP and our customers!
Furthermore, the ability to work in a diverse set of roles has allowed me to create a Swiss Army Knife type career experience. My professional experience now spans across strategy, business development, sales, and M&A. As someone who aspires to be a cross functional leader, this broad knowledge will prove to be invaluable when I need to connect with teams across the organization.
In 12 short months I have been able to build a network within SAP that would take years typically. I have worked with people across different areas of the business and across the globe. By the end of the program I felt like I was three degrees away from everyone within the company and that’s key when getting things done in an organization that is over 60,000 strong. I plan on utilizing this network in my future roles at SAP.
Additionally, you are able to create a bond with your fellow cohort that goes beyond comparison. The deep relationships with your cohort creates an instant sense of community. I have worked with this team in the US, Germany, Singapore, and Sri Lanka. Collaborating with an incredibly talented group of individuals in so many different work environments was a career highlight. I consider these individuals close friends and I look forward to keeping in touch no matter where our paths take us.
If you think two years of graduate school provided you with an opportunity to self-reflect on your skills, strengths, and weaknesses then IMPACT supercharges that experience. In a sense IMPACT was the career version of a yoga retreat. By challenging yourself to work in three short term high impact roles you really get to explore and challenge business acumens that you were never able to do before. Additionally, I was able to observe some of SAP’s top leaders and had the opportunity to even present in front of some of them! That provides a pretty fast feedback loop.
My experience in IMPACT exposed me to unlock new personal strengths, such as communication and empathy. It also provided me with an opportunity to access areas for improvement. Furthermore, the program provides learning sprint weeks where you work with your cohort on corporate strategy problems and are able to receive professional development on areas such as executive presence.
My career yoga retreat actually led me to pursue a job that I never would have considered before, Strategic Business Development. The new role blends innovation, strategy, and customer communication to help our strategic customers envision what their business will look like in the digitized economy. I can’t wait to add this additional experience to my career journey and continue to add tools to my “Swiss army knife.”
Today more than ever we live, work, and play in a global environment where everything we do and consume was created by our global ecosystem of businesses and people. To lead a company today you need to be able to empathize with the global marketplace we all face and the IMPACT program has provided me with the hands-on context to do so. As part of the program, I have presented to customers in Thailand, Indonesia, and Singapore. I have also created a sales strategy for India, Japan, and Australia. The experience allowed me to understand how a single product’s application can vary greatly just based on what region you are selling it to.
Lastly, one of the most unique experiences was participating in SAP’s social sabbatical in Sri Lanka. The social sabbatical is a SAP social responsibility program that allows SAP employees to work for a non-profit in developing countries. In Sri Lanka I was able to work with a social venture fund on their strategic vision and business coaching service. The social sabbatical provided an opportunity to utilize my skills of innovation, gain a deep cultural experience, and a newfound appreciation for the drive of entrepreneurship and social responsibility.
It is no stretch of the imagination to say that the IMPACT experience has positively shaped me as a businessman and person. I have exited the program feeling a sense of nimbleness; that I can comfortably handle a multitude of business challenges due to my diverse experiences. As I set out on my permanent role I aspire to positively impact SAP, its customers, and my community as much as I have been impacted through the program.