At SAP, we believe that when you bring everything you are, you can become everything you want.
I live and work in Walldorf, Germany, something I never imagined was possible as a child. I come from a small village in southern India, and was born into a family of nine children. Growing up with seven elder sisters and a younger brother, in a family with limited resources, it taught me to appreciate the little things in life. What you may consider insignificant now could make a significant impact on your future. That lesson continues to influence my current philosophy on life and career. And when I look back on my journey so far, I am grateful for every experience.
In 1996, I joined Kiefer & Veittinger (K&V) Information Systems, a Mannheim-based sales force automation company, as HR Manager in its small R&D center in Bangalore, India. I was its very first HR employee. In 1998, SAP acquired K&V in what was the start of SAP’s CRM business, and my SAP journey. The acquisition led to the opening of SAP Labs in Bangalore and, you could say, I was the first HR employee of SAP India. Today, SAP India has over 10,000 employees and has completed some very eventful 20 years.
After spending seven years helping SAP Labs India grow to 750 employees, I felt it was time to do something different. In 2003, I got the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a Board Assistant, a role seen as a career accelerator, and moved to Germany to support the CHRO. It was a chance to learn how HR runs in a global company. It also revealed to me how much SAP values its talent, and the lengths it will go to retain and offer opportunities to its best and brightest. When I was nominated for a Regional Leadership Development Program in INSEAD (a graduate business school, “Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires” or European Institute of Business Administration) in 2004, I went through a series of emotions and self-reflections. I realized how far I’d come: from a small village, studying in schools with half-finished roofs, to the swanky classrooms of INSEAD. To SAP, it may have been an investment in one of its many valued employees, but it was a giant leap in my life. I valued every minute of my time there and I am indebted to SAP for the experience.
In 2005, I left SAP to explore new opportunities, including stints at big players in tech and consulting. After 18 months at my first role, I got frustrated and quit. Later, I realized it had nothing to do with my employer. I had been searching for SAP inside a different culture, and could not find it. That was the impact SAP had on me. After three years with my second employer, I found myself back at SAP as Country HR Leader in 2010. If you included my first role with SAP, I have spent over 16 years with this great company – that’s 70% of my career.
Today, I lead talent management for SAP globally. One of the highlights of my career was disrupting our performance management program by eliminating annual reviews and performance ratings. In its place, we established a new culture of continuous feedback between managers and team members. It illustrated how SAP is not afraid to question the status quo to establish meaningful career programs for its employees. The biggest challenge for me was getting our 88,000+ employees and stakeholders behind this radical change together. What a learning it was!
Throughout my time in SAP, one thing that remains constant is how the company takes care of its people. I have always had a free hand to innovate and create the best products and experiences for our workforce. I have never been micro-managed, and enjoy high trust from my leaders. The empathy and care for my well-being is incomparable to anywhere else.
Every day of my 16+ years at SAP has been interesting. No two days are the same, and I see how my work impacts others. An example of how we made our purpose to ‘make the world run better and improve people’s lives’ real is the ‘Care for Life’ fund in India. More than 99% of our Indian colleagues voluntarily contribute €2 per month for this privately-held trust, which has employees as trust board members. The fund helps employees and their families deal with unexpected financial needs because of health issues. One-of-its-kind in India, ‘Care for Life’ pays €1500 per month for 10 years to a deceased employee’s family. This was only possible because SAP gave us space to create what’s most meaningful for our employees.
Every company has its strengths and weaknesses. No one is perfect. Yet, SAP stands out for doing what’s best for its employees. Whether its learning and career development, or showing empathy and care, the company does what is right to enable our success.
I truly believe you can bring everything you are to become everything you want.