My Story as an Immigrant: From Italy to Germany

Many of us have an immigrant story. It is one where we were pushed to adapt to a new culture, learn a new language, and, as a result, grow in unexpected ways. For some time now, I’ve been reminiscing about my move to Germany from Italy many years ago. Over the next few months, I want to share those thoughts with you. After all, the skills I’ve learned are applicable to the business we do every day here at SAP. But maybe, and even more importantly, my goal is to encourage others to share their immigrant story. Please use #MyImmigrantStory and tag me so we can share what we’ve learned. Now, let me tell you where my story begins.

An Exchange Program Changed Everything

On January 15th, back in 1989, I arrived in Germany with a plan: stay one year as a university exchange student, learn the language, the culture, and then, return home. Funny enough destiny had different plans for me! Migrating to other countries, especially 31 years ago, was more like moving to another planet. Back then there was no internet. If you wanted to know about where you were going you read books or the newspaper. You might watch a film but, in most cases, it was not even the most recent one. You were an explorer who was venturing into the unknown, a foreign land. With just me, myself, and I, I moved. No family, no friends, no familiar food, and no espresso.

Adaptability Is Key

What was the lesson I learned by just taking that first step of moving abroad? I found out how important it is to be adaptable to your new environment. This lesson connects to the changes we are going through every day that passes during this pandemic. But more specifically in business, there have been so many discussions about digital transformation. In HR, we are infusing technology to everything we do from recruiting, to onboarding, to improving the employee experience and engagement. But believe it or not we are doing even more. We are learning new skills. We are adapting. Because after all, the digital transformation is people-centric. And people with skills like adaptability, curiosity, and flexibility make digital transformation possible.    

Use Your Moral Compass

The second part of that lesson, put in more modern terms, is having an internal GPS that never loses signal. When you go abroad, you’re not looking at what others are doing anymore! You become more conscious of what you are willing to accept and what you prefer to reject in accordance with your inner you. Confronted with differences, I had to unlearn and relearn and make sometimes difficult choices of whom to identify with and whom to respect as I walk my way. And throughout it all, my moral compass kept reminding me to appreciate. Gratitude is the gas that keeps all of us running. It makes a huge difference. And the way we show our appreciation says so much about who we are. In business, a culture of appreciation, like the one we have grown here at SAP, means that we care about every moment. That is a key ingredient for our innovation.  

Back to The Present

Fast-forward to the present and here I am in Germany. After 31 years, in which I only took a short break in the US. As an immigrant in Germany I can say that I am well integrated. I’ve adapted. I also know that although I am different from everyone else, I am not afraid because I have my moral compass, I have everything I need. I share this because even if you feel different from everyone else, there is no reason to be afraid because you already have everything you will ever need. You.

There is much more to come about my immigrant story. Tell me your thoughts below.