Interview with Stefan Engelhardt: ‘If You Stay Curious and Ambitious, Your Job Never Gets Boring in this Industry’
Stefan Engelhardt has been working at SAP in the utilities industry for 20 years. He is appreciated by customers, partners and colleagues as a competent and trustworthy business partner, colleague and friend. In the interview, he reveals how he started his career, his passions in his free time, why SAP has become his ‘professional home’, how it feels to work for SAP and what makes him stay so long.
- Tell us about your career? Where and how did you start your career?
I studied Geo Sciences in Heidelberg and got 1991 the offer to complement my education with a Ph.D. research thesis about the influence of anthropogenic induced lost heat on the urban micro climate. This work was my entry ticket in both the IT world and the Utilities Industry: For the research project, I had to analyze large amounts of data from the local Utility in Heidelberg in a spatial context and to develop IT based statistical models to predict the impact of the heating energy consumption on the urban climate. We used in these days also the first Geographical Information Systems on the market and analyzed with spatial models as well the local potential of energy saving technologies for buildings and of renewable energies.
In 1995 I got then the opportunity to build up a new Energy Consulting Service offering at a mid-sized Utility in Germany (Technische Werke Ludwigshafen) and moved from the university into the industry.
- Tell me about yourself: What do you like to do in your free time?
My biggest passion is certainly traveling – I always enjoyed the opportunity to experience different cultures and lifestyles, ideally combined with interesting landscapes, scenic attractions and new acquaintances. I also like mountain biking, skiing (also my skill level is average at best;-), reading and photographing.
- What kind of relationship do you have with SAP?
I experienced SAP from the beginning of my career until today as exciting and inspiring place to work. In the early days, the IBUs have been run like start-up companies. Every employee had incredible opportunities to grow and to develop. The working atmosphere was very relaxed, but always target-oriented and highly ambitious. My first impression was: this is like working at the University, but with (almost;-) unlimited professional resources. In a nutshell: a fantastic place to be. And although SAP transformed in the meanwhile to a true global player with the respective “heavy” organizational infrastructures, this start-up spirit is still living. SAP has definitively become my “professional” home.
- How did you come to SAP?
In 1997 I heard from a friend who worked already since some years at SAP, that SAP started to develop industry-specific software and was looking for industry-experts from the utilities sector. And since I always wanted to work for an internationally focused company, I directly send an application to Klaus Heimann, who was at this time responsible for the Utilities Product management. I got invited, we had a good talk and 2 months later I could start my first job at SAP as Information Developer in the recently establish IBU Utilities. My first task was the development of a training curriculum for the brand-new Industry Solution Utilities (IS-U), which included as well the creation and conduction of two courses by myself. This was also my own “learning-by-doing” education: the system was only available as Beta-Version at this time and the documentation was – nicely spoken – incomplete. So you can imagine how excited we were in the first courses we had to conduct as responsible trainers …
- What have you learned during your 20 years at SAP?/ What have you experienced during your 20 years at SAP?
First of all I learned a lot about myself in the various roles I had in this time. While developing and conducting training courses was not too far away from my previous job as university lecturer, it was a complete new experience to support the development as Product Manager with the roll-in and specification of functional requirements at our clients. I also worked as Head of the Utilities Business Development Team with a focus on the roll-out of our solutions and as Head of the Utilities EMEA Field Service Team, which was involved in strategic customer implementations. When I was appointed as Global Head of the IBU Utilities in 2007, I could extend my managerial skills with the fantastic experience to lead a quite big global unit with an international team in different locations in Europe, Americas and APJ (in these days the IBU headcount was close to 70). And when I decided after 6 fascinating, but also exhausting years to step back as manager and to refocus myself on a more functional career, I learned how inspiring paradigm shifts can be for your personal development and your private life. As a manager, I learned how important your personal network is at a “people company” like SAP and that the direct way is not always the fastest one.
Finally, the SAP culture showed me how powerful and effective true team work is and that everybody forges his own professional destiny.
- Where do you think the industry is going and how can SAP help the utility industry for the next 20 years?
The Utilities industry of today has very little in common with the incumbent, asset-focused industry of the 90s which understood customers as simple “points of delivery”. SAP did already a lot in supporting the industry transformation to a much more customer focused service attitude with efficient, highly automatized business processes and a customer-centric data model. In the modern digital economy, where renewable energies and “prosuming” customers disrupt traditional energy production and delivery models, Utillties will have to re-invent themselves to enable sustainable growth and profitable business in the future. As market leader in the Utilities industry, SAP is in the unique position to enable this transformation of classic utilities into non-commodity multi-service providers by complementing our traditional on-premise portfolio with innovative cloud solutions. And by supporting all kind of on-premise and cloud hybrid scenarios, SAP can help our customers to move step-by-step into the digital world at their own speed and with a minimum risk.
And the Utilities team at SAP have now once again the chance to conquer a world market with our solutions – how often do you get such exciting an opportunity in your professional life time?
- What makes you stay in the Utilities Industry so long?
Literally two important things. First of all: the people. The Utilities team at SAP is a dream team with a lot of diverse talents and individual characters. The collaborative work on a joint vision, crested with the fantastic success we continue to have with our product in the market, did meld us together as one team and was also the foundation of quite a few personal friendships. And since you probably spend more time with your colleagues than with your family during the week, I always was grateful to work with colleagues that are also good friends. Secondly, the incredible ongoing transformation of the Utilities industry: the impact of deregulation paired with technological paradigm shifts is turning the Utilities business upside down since the mid of the 90s. Every year our customers (and consequently we as well) are confronted constantly with new business and IT challenges that require permanent co-innovation. So if you stay curious and ambitious, this job never gets boring.
- Use one word that best describe yourself? Optimistic
Thank you for great openness and your inspiring words! Congratulations on your 20th anniversary!