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From a young age, Ann Miller-Rauch has constantly found herself treading between two worlds. A first generation American born to a German mother and Portuguese-American father, her early years were split between attending school in New England, just outside Boston, and spending summers with her grandparents who lived close to the inner German border that separated East and West Germany. In the U.S., her fellow schoolmates would taunt ‘the German girl’ on the playground. Across the Atlantic, she would be known as ‘the American girl’.
Unknown to young Ann then, this lifelong balancing act of dual identities would eventually lead her to a successful career built on bridging different cultures, a valuable perspective in her role as Head of Global HR Communications at SAP today. “As I started to grow into my career, without even planning it, it became my forte to help Germans understand Americans and the other way around. It’s become broader in the meantime – helping Europeans understand Americans and vice versa,” she says.
Her path in technology started early during high school where she helped type her father’s MBA thesis on a Commodore 64 and in her spare time played the video game Frogger. She pursued degrees in anthropology at Boston University, an MA in archaeology at the University of Tuebingen, Germany, culminating in an MBA from ESB Business School in Reutlingen, Germany. Fresh out of business school in 1999, she joined the Fraunhofer Institute, an applied sciences research institute, where she marketed the early iterations of technology so familiar today: the first avatars, online shopping and virtual reality. Her experience led her to join a major German software company where she found herself pivoting into HR, a career path she had never considered before. But when she analyzed where her passions lay, people and technology, it all made sense.
“In my previous role in Global Talent Management, I had to find a solution to track career development and performance management for almost 6,000 employees. My affinity for technology led to the implementation of SAP SuccessFactors. On reflection, while I was researching anthropology and archaeology, I was always looking for solutions and tools to help people and processes. I created my own databank to track-analyze animal bone artifacts, I introduced email and internet to my archaeology faculty to network with other scientists. It’s also one of the reasons why I came to SAP. Making a difference has always been my personal motivation – if I was excavating in Troy, analyzing ice age artifacts in Europe or today innovating and improving the way we communicate to our audiences in HR about the incredible leading-edge solutions we have here at SAP.”
At SAP, Ann is Head of Global HR Communications, an emerging field that she believes is essential to ensure all HR audiences internally and externally get the information they need when they need it. “At SAP we have so many incredible and inspiring HR programs but employees, managers and potential talent are also inundated with information, so how do we ensure that what we’re doing connects, lands and is fun? HR Communications supports the SAP HR teams in communicating the ‘why’ of their programs and to come up with a solution that will help them land. We bring it all together and we are making HR ‘Punk’. It’s about disrupting and revolutionizing HR.”
Like many leaders, Ann juggles the demands of work, family and life, striving to attain happiness and harmony between her different commitments. Over the years, her approach towards the concept of ‘work-life balance’ has shifted. “I once believed that there were two separate states of happiness – the professional and the private. Not anymore. If you don’t like your job, how can you be happy at home? I’m a strong believer in life balance but not in work-life balance. I love what I do at work. I love my husband, my daughter and friends, and I don’t split the worlds anymore. And at SAP, you are encouraged to bring your whole self.”
Ann’s love for people is apparent, and as a leader, she is driven to help people around her make a difference. “What motivates me is working with other people and finding an innovative solution. And it often happens in that magical moment. It’s when someone says something, and someone else riffs off that and suddenly, boom, you come up with a cool approach. That’s how I think you make a difference – by doing it together, not alone.”
At SAP, Ann recognizes a company culture that aligns with her values. Recalling her childhood summers in Germany, watching two sides divided by a wall, she says, “SAP is an organization that brings people and topics together, builds bridges, takes down walls and focuses on making a difference. It’s a culture of integrity and power. Power, in that, if we need something to make things happen, we go out and get it. It’s about togetherness and working as a team. And most remarkably, I’ve never been treated more fairly in my career than how I am at SAP. And as an organization, we are helping to create more fairness in the world.”