When the Shadow Shines

Having graduated with a Business Management degree, I had limited knowledge about Human Resources (HR) and was only armed with my passion to change how this field is perceived by traditional organizations – a back-office support to revenue-generating functions. When I first heard about SAP’s Global HR Early Talent Program, I knew then that this was the strategic route towards realizing my vision for the future of Human Resources.

SAP HR Early Talents rotate to three different HR teams in a span of one year with the expectation to learn the hosting team’s daily activities and contribute to the team either through projects or process improvements. In the most basic sense, the program is a three-part job shadowing experience designed to help the participants develop a comprehensive knowledge of HR within SAP.

After gaining a general knowledge of the SAP HR organization in my first rotation with the HRdirect APJ team, I joined the Local HR Services – Country Team for APJ wherein I specifically requested to focus on my home location – the Philippines. One of the unique things about Local HR Services in SAP is how there is only one (max. of two) dedicated Local HR Consultant for each country. With the intent to streamline processes, either at the regional or global level, the Local HR Services – Country Team was particularly structured to have each consultant focus on country-specific processes. However, due to some unexpected circumstances, the Local HR Consultant for the Philippines had to go on indefinite medical leave/limited remote work just three weeks into my rotation; as such, I was prompted to step up and act as the interim Local HR Consultant for my location handling on-the-ground work for over 700 employees.

Although I could talk endlessly about my experience during the two-month stint as the Interim Local HR Consultant for SAP Philippines, I would rather focus on the five key insights I gained on the value and impact of job shadowing opportunities.  

Lesson #1: On Becoming Your Own Teacher

As I start with every rotation, I had the expectation that I will be shadowing an experienced team member (or “shadowee” for a lack of a better term). Because of this, I was prepared to simply observe, take in the information presented, and deliver on the tasks that were assigned to me. With my “shadowee” unexpectedly taking time off, I needed to find my own way to learn what I had to in order to get the job done and avoid the total disruption of the Local HR operations – from searching the web for the requirements to comply with government regulations, reading on local labor codes, and even asking colleagues from other teams who may have previously held similar roles at some point.

Although job shadowing in itself is a form of training, there is definitely no harm in going the extra mile to find other avenues to learn. Who knows? You might also end up teaching the team a new thing or two.

Lesson #2: On Adaptability

The business-as-usual activities of Local HR Philippines cannot be put on hold just because I needed to take time to learn about the processes. Regardless of the internal situation, employees will go on living as usual: a sick employee will inquire about their medical insurance coverage, a new mother will need help enrolling their newborn as their dependent, or a foreign new hire will need assistance with their work permit application. In the case of Local HR Services, these cases get even more complicated since most (if not all) of the processes are highly dependent on external parties’ guidelines and timelines. Each case that comes in is not always resolved by simply giving the employee a reference guide or connecting them to a third-party vendor; sometimes, you need to go as far as helping employees understand the complete picture and the involvement of the different stakeholders in the resolution of their concern. Within a short amount of time, I learned more than just the technicalities of the role; more importantly, I learned the value and discipline of patience, empathy and of putting the customers first.

No matter how short you have been with a team, do not underestimate your ability to contribute to their overall success. It is only when you dive in head first and put your hands to work will you know what you are truly capable of.

Lesson #3: On Accountability

Prior to my second rotation, one of the positive things I perceived about being a job shadow was the leeway to make mistakes and everyone’s expectations of a period of adjustment for my learning curve. However, acting as the Interim Local HR Consultant, I inevitably and immediately had to take on an employee-facing hat as I responded to employees’ concerns. This means that no excuse will be deemed acceptable if I fail to provide the appropriate resolution. As much as I wanted to use the “Early Talent” card, I needed to keep in mind that I am accountable for the work that I put out and the consequences that may come with it.

Never use your minimal experience as an excuse to put in mediocre work. If you wish to excel in the work that you are doing, give a 100% of what you are capable of starting from Day 1.  

Lesson #4: On Being a Team Player

Knowing that I will be leaving the team in a few months, I could have easily asked to shadow with another country’s Local HR Consultant and let Local HR Philippines’ operations go downhill from there. However, seeing the impact of this unexpected turn of events on my rotation manager, team coordinator, and even the employees waiting for anyone to address their concern, I understood that I needed to take on the challenge and see the team’s pain as my own. Not to say that the team would not have survived the ordeal without me in the picture, but I am confident that I contributed in my own way in order to make the situation more bearable for the entire team.

When you are taken in as a job shadow, your hosting team won’t always foresee what situations may arise during your stay. If something out of the ordinary comes up, make sure you are able to carry both your own and some of your team’s weight. 

Lesson # 5: On Being Recognized

For the most part, job shadowing opportunities are marketed as a way for job shadows to gain knowledge and insights about the receiving team but rarely as an opportunity for the job shadow to provide his/her valuable contribution as well. Throughout my experience, I learned that there is room to do both. As a new (albeit temporary) member of the team, I was constantly encouraged by my rotation manager (Berna Prastuti) and team coordinator (Apo Aguila) to voice out my opinion and provide feedback where I see needed. They emphasized the unique perspective that I can contribute as a fresh set of eyes looking into their team’s possibly outdated processes. At the end of my rotation, they made sure that I was given appropriate recognition for the work that I have done and that I was not seen as a mere bystander observing from the sidelines.

If you are a “shadowee”, do not let your shadow believe that they are only there to learn from you. Give your shadow enough responsibility that will allow them to showcase their potential and make sure to give credit where it’s due.

Although my experience is probably far from the ideal job shadowing opportunity, this unexpected challenge taught me a lot about myself and the extent of my capabilities especially during stressful situations. More than advancing my own personal and professional development, I also found fulfillment in the fact that I had a valuable contribution to the team regardless of being a mere “Early Talent”.

It is a scientific fact that shadows are created when an object blocks light from traveling through it. At some point, you will be one or the other – the object blocking the light source creating a shadow or the shadow hiding behind someone waiting for the opportunity to shine. On one hand, if you are like me, a new joiner in a team still learning the ropes of a new role, do not be afraid to create opportunities to demonstrate your skills and strengths; on the other hand, if you find that you may be that object blocking someone’s light source, encourage that shadow to step up, trust that they can live up to the challenge, and enjoy the added perspective and the value of the shadow that shines.

#HREarlyTalent #LifeatSAP #HRPunks #jobshadowing #HRETGameOn