It is a true landmark in my life as I complete 10 years in SAP. As cliched as it may sound, it has been a nice, long, memorable experience.
I came into SAP with the knowledge that it was the world's number 1 ERP company and that it was one of the leading companies in Germany. Part of that knowledge was based on my prior experience as an Industry Analyst where I wrote market reports on the Indian software industry and the performance of leading lights such as SAP. It was only after joining this technology major did I realize how little I knew about this entity from the outside.
My first foray into this gigantic German corporation was in the Competitive and Market Intelligence (CMI) team in India, within the overall Corporate Strategy group. That role gave me the first taste of what it means to be a Global Lead and to take ownership in every aspect of work that mattered to a global stakeholder group. In as much as it was about solid content and delivering quality performance, it was equally about understanding the dynamics of working in a global corporation. Performing on the job, understanding the company culture, picking up the organization dynamics, and learning to operate globally were all part of the job description in the initial years. Those lessons hold me in good stead to this day, and continue to evolve.
To put things in a business context, the SAP group revenues were €10B globally in FY 2007, with about 43,000 employees worldwide. The group is now €23.4B in revenues, with over 85,000 employees. The stock price on the day I joined was €38 and has reached €106 today. I guess that’s what it means to more than double the business! And it has changed complexion completely, as I explain further.
Over the last 10 years, there has been a massive transformation in the technology sector, of which SAP has been a major catalyst. Be it the move from traditional on-premise to the cloud, or the more recent shift to digital and intelligent solutions, the market has expanded into areas that did not exist a decade ago. And to adapt, learn, grow and develop a series of career opportunities in such as fast-paced environment is a rare privilege.
In the last 10 years, I have been bestowed with opportunities that I thought were unthinkable earlier. This diversity in roles, the nature of the projects, the rich interaction with extremely senior executives in the technology industry, have offered me vast, enriching opportunities with new learning and growth. Not to mention a horizon that I did not have earlier. I quite simply did not know so much about the technology market a decade ago. And in a large measure, it is the quality of the people that reside here who have helped shape that knowledge capital over the years and continue to do so. More on that, in just a bit!
This was the place where I learnt the true meaning of the term ‘truly global’. I travelled to countries that I had only seen on the world map before. There were opportunities to work on projects with global leaders that you could otherwise never access, or who would never know of your existence. Other interesting experiences included changing portfolios and opportunities to learn new things every few years. Even within regular projects, one had a learning curve on various topics and new angles of analysis that have been intriguing and enriching at the same time.
More importantly, it has been nothing short of dazzling for me to interact and work with the some of the greatest talent in the world. Never in my life did I think that I would get to work with people from Germany, Singapore, China, Australia, Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia, UK, France, Netherlands, Russia, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and many other countries. The sheer diversity in talent and the rich knowledge capital that resides with them, the interesting personalities, the amazing coffee corner and networking conversations, and the differences in cultures and backgrounds of people, have all made it tremendously worthwhile. These experiences have convinced me that in general, people wish well and hope for a better world.
There have been some unique personal experiences too. Once when the SAP General Manager of a global business met me for the first time at a Miami offsite and asked me if I was vegetarian (aboard a team boat cruise that had ~100 other people around vying for his time). I was spellbound! Or, another instance in Germany where another General Manager translated a German menu at a restaurant into English for me amidst 10 top executives. Or when that group's Chief of Staff took care of my transport in Germany personally in an Audi sports convertible (@180-200 kmph on the autobahn!). And during that same trip, I was given the rare opportunity to present on stage, my vision on what that business can do by 2020 – I was standing in front of leaders at a leadership offsite with seniors who had 30 years’ experience, at least! I was left speechless. Or, when a colleague dropped me back safely at the SAP guest house after a team dinner, when I didn’t have local transport at that hour (again in an Audi car @200 kmph, which was slower than the colleague’s regular speed of 240-260 kmph!). And many other such memories!
Sure, there have been challenges along the way. Many of them, in fact. Be it adapting to newer lands, or sitting through hard technology sessions with limited technical background, or to understanding roles, responsibilities and expectations of multi-cultural managers and adapting to their styles, etc. Such challenges are only to be expected in a 10-year journey, in any case. But, challenges have demonstrated that one can always bounce back. After all, there are no shortcuts in becoming and staying as the number 1 enterprise software company in the world.
SAP has been an identity, a culture, an endless ocean of learning opportunities, and a remarkably international group that has shaped my personality in many ways. I have learnt many things about myself – positive and negative. I learnt to experiment, to try, to learn from failures, to adapt, to learn about the world and its different cultures, to understand that one need not know it all and that there are many others who are far better in areas that I may not know anything about.
More than anything else, this German giant has genuinely taught me to try and be the best version of myself. Or, can possibly be. That goes far beyond anything that I will ever learn about any technology.
Thanks for the last decade, SAP! You have given me something to treasure forever. Look forward to greater times ahead!