The SAP IMPACT Leadership Rotation Program – A One Year Retrospective
I just crossed the one-year mark since I’ve completed SAP’s IMPACT program and felt it would be an opportune time to reflect. The program has provided a uniquely strong foundation for my SAP career and I continue to look back at my first-year experiences fondly. I’m also wrapping up an intensively complex project where my role would not have been possible had I not leaned on the learnings from that first IMPACT year. In this blog, I aim to give my readers an overview of my experience during my first two years at SAP and why I credit many of my professional successes and career milestones to the opportunities made available through SAP IMPACT.
First things first, Why SAP?
In December 2014, I received an offer to join SAP full-time. I first heard of SAP earlier that summer while interning in the Corporate Development team at SAS Institute and was interested in SAP’s pioneering in-memory database HANA. I researched further and learned that SAP was undergoing an acquisition-led cloud transformation by placing billion-dollar sized bets on best-in-class properties such as SuccessFactors (HR), Ariba (Procurement/Supply Chain), and Concur (Travel & Expense). I believed in that end-to-end business strategy and spent that fall started reaching out to Duke alums who were then participating in IMPACT’s pilot year. There wasn’t too much info on IMPACT available at the time but the Duke folks spoke highly of their experiences so far and I connected well with the SAP folks I met during my on-site interview. With the checkboxes marked on my end for technology, strategy, and cultural fit, I was convinced to make the leap of faith and I happily accepted the offer.
My First Year In
That first IMPACT year could be described as a third-year of business school. This potential alone should encourage prospective candidates to apply. Imagine the deeper dive electives, intensive travel, and camaraderie between classmates. My three rotations took me from SAP’s Platform as a Service, to Corporate Strategy at Walldorf headquarters, concluding at Product at Concur. Each of my projects required me to dive into a new, unrelated topic. I traveled to (and lived in) Germany multiple times and criss-crossed the continental U.S. too many times to count. I did this all while sharing the experience with nine other crazy cohort members. Sharing professional experiences got us close but dinners in Munich, waiting for the 7:07a WDF train at Heidelberg Hbf, and general adventures in numerous unnamed North American cities sure didn’t hurt.
My First Year Out – aka My Second Year Experience
My second year saw me settle down with the GTM team at SAP Cloud Platform, where I worked with technology partnering. I was quickly involved with a project that required a broad skillset spanning stakeholder alignment, relationship management, technical expertise, and commercialization. This project was the first of its kind for SAP Cloud Platform so there was no existing blueprint or process to follow. In September 2017, after nine months, we launched this new partnership onstage at TechEd during our CTO’s keynote address. I will never forget the feeling as I sat there watching the announcement, completely humbled to have been able to play such an active role in such a strategic initiative. So how did I go from barely knowing SAP in 2014 to working up close on such an important project? I attribute much of that success to my time in IMPACT.
Three Success Drivers
- Exponential Network – Finishing three rotations in three different business units/functions will do wonders for your network. Multiply that by 10x (the number in each cohort) and you quickly see how powerful this becomes when you need more information on a topic/product. The effect grows even stronger when you layer in the multiple cohorts throughout the years. SAP is a large company but I feel like I have a good sense of how things are like in different parts of the organization, even with only two years under my belt. This helps when I’m working to get things through the company or vice versa, quickly ask around and determine what may not work.
- Better Understanding of How to Execute SAP’s Overall Strategy – It’s one thing to hear the end-to-end strategy conveyed and then another to see it actually lived out and executed by the individual business units and teams. The constant adjustment from 35,000 feet to 8,000 feet across multiple business units was immensely valuable and importantly, this context gave me an appreciation for what it means to translate strategy into results. I’ve already been able to think and outline plans more critically this year when ideas are formulated. This helps my leadership development skills in at least two ways. One is that I’ll more effective in triaging and absolving blockers for my future team. The second is that I will be more compassionate to the challenges future team members may will encounter as they run their own workstreams throughout SAP.
- Involvement in Business Critical Projects – I often follow-up on the groups I’ve worked in and I’ve come to realize that there wasn’t a single project I’ve worked on that did not turn out to be strategically important. Now, this is not to say that my own findings were the specific key drivers or actual critical paths in these initiatives. Instead, my point is that the topic was important and real enough to stakeholders for them to want to gather the perspective of a recent MBA. It’s a nice feeling to read about something in the industry press or one of our product’s release notes that was directly related to a project I was working on six to twelve months ago. This is not something I was aware of while in the midst of the IMPACT year and an observation and conclusion I could only make after being a year out.
None of three success drivers I mentioned are unique to the program. Previous and current generations of our business leaders obviously have these experiences. Future generations of leaders are entering the company outside of IMPACT and will also gain these perspective. Rather, what’s unique about IMPACT is that we were fortunate enough to get all this within such a concentrated time period. For those on the fence of applying to or considering accepting an IMPACT offer, I strongly recommend it. And in case I wasn’t convincing enough, there are now so many more program alums who can provide their take. Reach out and talk to them. The experiences here are my own but I’m confident you will hear similar themes when you chat. IMPACT is a tremendous program and I’m so thankful to be able to continue building my career on such an exceptional foundation. Here’s to a great two years and an even better third!