For many people around the world, the holiday season is the time of year when we take stock of the goodness in our lives and give thanks for it. While I believe we all have things in our lives to be grateful for – good friends, family and health among them – I also include the opportunity to work at SAP and create a better future towards the top of my list. I am thankful to help shape a company that operates with a distinct purpose, something that has become increasingly important to customers and employees alike. SAP’s purpose is simple, yet compelling: to improve people’s lives and help the world run better. It motivates me and our 80,000+ employees every day, especially when you personally witness our purpose in action.
For the past several years, I have had the honor and pleasure to serve as the honorary chairman of the Els for Autism Golf Challenge. At this year’s grand finale event, I had the incredible honor to present the annual Spectrum Award to SAP’s own Gloria Mendoza. This annual award is given to an individual who has been a catalyst for helping people with autism fulfill their potential to lead positive, productive and rewarding lives. Recipients define excellence in character, attitude and their contribution. Gloria does all of that, each and every day, at SAP. Her team commends her, submitting that she is “a star candidate and has an amazing work ethic, she shows true desire to excel in her role and to learn daily…In addition to her professionalism, she is an overall excellent person to have on the team and in our lives.” After spending time with Gloria during the gala weekend, I couldn’t agree more.
SAP embraces diversity and inclusiveness – and respect for the individual – in all that we do. Our foundational work – the Autism at Work program – creates employment opportunities for individuals on the autism spectrum. Initiated in 2012, and formalized in 2013, this program is a shining example of our purpose in action right within SAP’s four walls. Our program strives to use the unique skills and abilities that people with autism bring to the workplace. We currently have 108 employees, interns and contractors working in nine different countries – and a goal to have 1% of our workforce represented by people with autism. These individuals are employed as graphic designers, HR associates, and software engineers to name just a few roles. Gloria is a shining example of our Autism at Work program and I could not be prouder to be her colleague.
As an avid supporter of youth development around the world, it shocks to me to see the number of children diagnosed with autism or related disorders skyrocketing in recent decades. Like many of us who have friends and family members on the autism spectrum, Ernie and Liezl Els’ son was diagnosed with autism at an early age. They channeled the love they have for their son and others like him into creating the Els Center of Excellence to advance research and help families with children on the autism spectrum.
SAP’s Autism at Work program and the Els for Autism Foundation work hand-in-hand, and complement each other perfectly with their goals of giving those with autism the opportunity to contribute to the workforce by utilizing their often underutilized talents and skills. To date, more than 60 companies have met with us to learn about our Autism at Work program. Together, with our like-minded companies and good friends like the Els family, I believe we can all directly contribute to improving people’s lives – personally and professionally. And as we do, we can all be a part of a greater purpose that create something else to be thankful for in today’s world.