Life at SAP in the Nordics – interview with Iben Tarp
One of the great things about working in a global organization is having the opportunity to speak to colleagues around the world about their Life at SAP. I recently had the opportunity to speak to a group of women from all careers levels in the Nordics region about their careers, and what drives them. One of those women was Iben Tarp, who went from SAP user to SAP employee.
“I grew up in a suburb north of Copenhagen in a very traditional family with mom, dad and 3 younger siblings. After high school I went to the University of Copenhagen and graduated with a Masters in Theology. I am now based a little closer to Copenhagen with my husband and three children under the age of 12.
I learned about SAP during my time as a student via my job as a service desk agent for a Nordic oil and gas company. They were rolling out SAP R/3 and I was asked to become a super-user. I was very excited about the whole process of mapping business process to a standard ERP system whilst learning what a difference it made in our daily work in terms of efficiency and optimization. It fascinated me that a piece of software could made such a difference to how you run your business, and to what extent it optimizes and improves engagement with customers.
After University I was keen on getting involved in the software/ERP industry. I had some difficulty justifying my educational background to the ERP business but I finally got employed at IBM in their SAP Service organization working as an SAP consultant. I soon realized that I wanted to get closer to the actual core product. I applied to SAP because their strategies and visions for the portfolio and platform were so ambitious and exiting that I had to be part of it and get closer to the people responsible for the different products.”
Fast forward 14 years and Iben is now a Sales Executive with SAP Customer Experience in Denmark with the responsibility of enabling companies to engage their customers by bringing sales, service, commerce and social together.
Outside of work, Iben strives to ensure she has a good work-life balance.
“I think you need to take a proactive approach to “demand” your portion of work-life balance. If you do not prioritize your own time you could easily work and travel 24/7. I am conscious about planning my time and sometimes I turn down work activities/events. Of course, I never compromise business critical events, actions or closing. I do work 80 hours a week during closing, an RFP process or because a customer has a critical issue. But I do also opt out work related activities proactively because I need to spent time with my family, I need time for running, to work out and I need time with my friends. It’s a prioritization I do myself – it’s not something my manager interferes with or micro manages me to do. It’s my job- it’s my responsibility – and I like that approach.”
Iben credits the SAP culture for making this possible:
“I love the combination of a performance culture in sales and the team sprit you experience. I think we have a great knowledge-sharing culture. I am highly motivated an inspired in an atmosphere that buzzes with ‘urgency’ and ‘a must win attitude’.
I also really appreciate the fact that I have never, in my 14 years with SAP, been micro-managed. No one tells me where or when to do my job; no one questions what I did yesterday or why I left at 14:00; as long as I deliver on my budget and on my promise. My family life (especially the logistics of bringing up kids) would never be doable if I was to sit in an office 8-hours a day.”
It hasn’t all be simple for Iben though:
“I remember when I started at SAP at the age of 27 I was often meet by customers’ perceptions that I was a very unexperienced, junior. Based on my young appearance they thought I was just out of high school. Also, in parallel with being a consultant I also conducted SAP standard courses. The participant fees for these courses were tremendously expensive and then I stepped in looking like an 18-year-old! Participants confronted my directly about my age and background and I really took it in negatively and I felt that I was always in on the offensive.
My manager at that time was key. He backed me up and said that of course I was junior, but I was perfectly capable of doing my job. “Ignore them” he said “it’s their issue. Concentrate on delivering a world-class training”. This positive support from my manager meant I learned how to grow in my role and how not to devaluate my own professionalism because people that do not know me had a biased view of me.”
Iben’s positive attitude and self-management has been key to her development at SAP.
“Personally, I am not the type who has a detailed plan for the next 12-months and an outlined plan 5-years ahead. I do what I feel like and when I get bored I find new challenges. I do not care about titles or promotions. SAP has allowed me to seek new challenges whenever I got stuck or felt “trapped” in a role. Through moving from consultancy, to service sales and finally to software sales I have realized that I have found my sweet spot at SAP.”
So what has kept Iben at SAP after 14 years? Is it just the career development and internal mobility?
“For me, the reason I am still sat SAP after all this time is because we are more than just a software company. We innovate with purpose, and since 2015 have been supporting the 17 global UN goals. On a personal level, in addition to my sales role, I have taken the responsibility of leading our Customer Experience Diversity and Inclusion Council to change the way we engage both internally and with our customers – which in turn helps to make the world run better.”
If Iben’s words have inspired you to explore a career at SAP you can see all our vacancies here.