We are thrilled that our very own Liam Ryan, SAP Labs Ireland managing director, won Great Place to Work’s ‘Ireland’s Most Trusted Leader 2017’ award, in partnership with DIT. This award has been sponsored by DIT for eight years and aims to acknowledge those individuals who have demonstrated the highest levels of leadership and integrity. It is an honor to introduce him to you and share more about his life at SAP.
Q: Tell us about yourself and your background.
Liam: I graduated with an electronic engineering degree in 1986. There was a recession in Ireland at the time, so I immigrated to Germany to work for another technology company located in Amberg. This experience really had a big impact on me as a 21-year-old. I got to know the German culture and, at the time, most people did not speak English, so I had to immerse myself into the community. Voice of America was the only English radio I could hear. I learned though that when you make an effort, other people will reciprocate. I learned to speak German like a parent would teach a child: I would say something wrong, and they would correct me. Surprisingly, it worked. So, other than the technical elements I learned, learning the culture helped me with SAP. I am an engineer at heart. This has greatly helped me understand our strategy here as well as help others to be able to reciprocate what I know.
Q: How did you end up at SAP Ireland, and what is your role?
Liam: I returned to Ireland and eventually joined SAP in 1999. My first role was manager for remote service delivery when the Dublin office had just 35 employees. I was asked to take over the Labs organization after about 1.5 years. Growing to a few hundred employees very quickly meant I had to focus more on development of the Labs. There are now over 1,900 employees in all areas: Digital Business Services, GCO, P&I, sales, development, business intelligence, graduate roles, and more.
Q: How would you describe your (award winning) leadership style?
Liam: My style is honestly consultative. When decisions have to be made, I will make decisions, but I always take into account the different views out there. It is all about the employees we have here. I know people say this, but our employees are the most important asset. Our leaders in the organization need to be developing themselves continuously, and focusing on their teams. We exclusively depend on our employees to satisfy our customers’ demands, so we need to make sure they understand where we are going and why. I will take every opportunity to do that: all-hands events, team meetings, going to lunch with colleagues; even walking the floors at the Dublin and Galway office. I love meeting people. It is amazing what you can find out about people when you see them in the coffee corners or passing each other in the corridors. I try to interact with people on a face-to-face basis rather than on the phone. I need to make sure that the lines of business–because they are quite different–are aware of the other activities we have going on. Synergies across lines of business is something that is built into our mindset now, and it makes people aware of the many career path options. That is something I actively try to push. Build bridges, not silos is a core element of our company culture. I believe bridges are built here in Ireland, and more than just building them, we maintain them so they do not fall down.
Q: It is clear to see you are passionate about work, but what do you enjoy outside the office?
Liam: My wife and I are blessed with 3 children. I love to play a round of golf and this gives me 5 hours of fresh air and some time to think about things other than work. Outside of that, you will find me supporting my kids and the activities they are involved in.
Involvement in the Community is also important to me. I am a chairman of Fast Track to IT (FIT), an industry-led, skills development initiative facilitating collaboration with government, education, and training providers and disadvantaged communities to enable greater access to employment for marginalized job seekers.
I enjoy taking part in Community based projects and fund raising activities organized by our Community Involvement Forums in Dublin and Galway. Last October, after 7 weeks of training, 28 employees danced in the biggest fundraising event we have had in SAP Ireland SAP (I am on stage with my colleague Aoife Coen). We raised over €45,000 for our chosen charity Aware after the event.
On behalf of SAP, we are tremendously proud of Liam and his effort in creating a culture of trust and investing in employees over the past two decades. Congratulations again to Ireland’s Most Trusted Leader 2017!