At SAP, we believe that when you bring everything you are, you can become everything you want.
When I was 18, I picked up American football and fell in love with it. This was an unusual choice for a German boy growing up in a European football-crazed nation such as Germany, but I have always followed my own path. After qualifying for the regional junior all-star team in the German Football League (GFL), I advanced quickly to the now-defunct NFL Europe league, and consecutively moved to the U.S. to pursue a professional sporting career in the National Football League (NFL).
For five years I trained with different NFL squads, including the Baltimore Ravens and the Seattle Seahawks. I played offensive tackle, a position I like to describe as ‘moving people from point A to point B, against their will’. In a professional sport, you are always reminded that your career can be over at any moment. I have seen careers start and end within the span of a week. The pressure to perform is extremely high.
Competitive sport shapes your personality. You are trained to never give up. You must be excellent at what you do, even at times when it feels like excellence is not enough. The key to winning consistently is this: you must do the ordinary things better than everybody else. If you master the basics, you are already one step ahead of the game.
When a severe injury forced me to retire from the NFL, I moved back to Speyer, Germany. I was crushed about leaving the league, but I had to focus on moving forward. I worked in sales for a period and was good at it, but being an HR professional was the goal I set my sights on.
In 2016, I applied for SAP’s early talent program in HR, a 12-month global training program, which allows you to rotate through the different pillars of human resources. It offers a holistic view of the organization and takes you to international locations. Although I had no professional experience in HR, I believe the company recognized my work ethic and the unique traits that I could bring to the organization as a former sportsman. I got the chance to work at SAP Ireland where I helped set up the LGBT employee network and supported our application for the Great Place to Work award. As an HR professional at SAP, you play a strategic role and shape company culture; your work leaves an enormous impact on your colleague’s lives and experiences.
In my current role in the HR Project Management Office (PMO), I approach my work with the mindset that if you throw an idea to me that is unstructured, I will create a positive process that will achieve a great outcome. It is a very diverse job, and I wear many hats. I have done employer branding, organized employee events and have been part of a variety of HR transformation projects. No two days are the same.
What I have learned about teamwork, whether in sport or business, is that you must accept that people in your team will go through different phases in their lives. Each of us grow and thrive at a different pace. We tread unique paths. It follows that everyone will not be able to deliver 100 percent, all the time. That’s just the way it is. The most important thing is that you support each other, and make things happen together.
Success is not the goal but the journey. I was given a book, The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon, by my head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. It talks about shaping a team and shaping yourself. Its biggest lesson that I live by is: “You are the driver of your bus. You are responsible for the actions you take to make yourself successful.”
Life has taught me that even if the outcome is not what you initially wanted, if you work as hard as you can, good things will happen. At SAP, you will develop yourself and your career, in ways that you never thought possible. There are no limits in what you can achieve here.