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„Follow your dreams, but be practical about it“

Work and development at SAP

Melanie Pölking 03.09.2015
SAP-Mitarbeiter und SAP-Logo
Run with the best.

“Don’t be afraid to volunteer or get involved in big projects. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes”, says Barbara Jamelli-Sefchik. The Global Head of Career Development is responsible for designing programs to support SAP employees. Here is what she says about career, development and young talents:

Last year, SAP introduced the claim ‘Everybody is a Talent’. Why?

In the past we put a lot of emphasis on high-potentials. We aim to hire high-performers. Everybody is performing at a high level here, however, and we want to give back to them as well. We aim to provide comprehensive support for career development as a result. When employees are happy, they perform better which in turn helps them as well as the company. It’s a win-win-situation for everybody.

How did you start your own career at SAP?

I have been at SAP for over nine years. I started out as a trainer with a Masters degree in Instructional Technology. I am a bit of a nerd and I say this with much love and respect for my colleagues who also self-identify as “nerds” (you know who you are!). I have been in a couple of different lines of business and have had the opportunity to see different parts of the business. It is not very common for Americans to stay at one company. But honestly: I would be happy to stay here forever, because SAP really is a solid company.

What options do career starters have to develop their career path?

We encourage people to ask themselves these questions: “What makes you happy? What do you value?” Maybe you take a job in the same career level but in a different line of business, just to get some difference experiences and a different career. There are many development options within the company. And the people who want to be here a very long time and who are successful, do just that: They bounce around!

Are there mentoring, coaching or shadowing options?

Through our Learning Center of Excellence and Execution, we offer programs that match you up with a Mentor, an externally-certified (and rigorously trained) Coach, and job shadowing opportunities.  You can find out more in the portal at  quicklinks “go/mentoring, go/shadowing/ or go/coaching.”  Your Line of Business of interest may also offer their own programs similar to these.

I’d like to highlight one program that we offer as an example of the ways we want to help our employees of all experience levels grow: the SAP Graduate Academy. It has a fairly rigorous selection process. Selected students get a year’s work of true hands-on learning. A part of the program takes place at the Graduate Academy location at Silicon Valley. And about half the time is spent in the field with a Senior Member of either the Sales or Presales team. The students shadow them and gradually take over responsibility. They graduate from the program and become full SAP Sales or Presales employees.

How does SAP support new employees?

We do have a global onboarding program that prepares both the new employee and the hiring manager, including the provisioning of office space, a computer, mobile phone etc.  More importantly, there is training on global SAP topics: our strategy, culture, and the How We Run Behaviors.

With regard to manager support: all managers are trained to embrace the leadership principle “Develop Amazing Talent.”

Moreover, SAP has its online community that was created with our own SAP software: Jam. It is almost like Facebook. You can connect with everyone from SAP. So all our employees, not just the early talents, can connect.

Why is it so important to support young people in your opinion?

We want to make a conscious effort to make them feel well prepared, before they go out and do what really ends up being a pretty intense – and important – job. After all, we help the world run better!  Development does a lot of special things for young people. Even with our classic onboarding program, we take people under our wing and give them the space to grow. We encourage all our employees: work with your leadership, and take acceptable risks so you can stretch yourself and your career.

What is the one thing early talents need most when they start their new job?

I tell people to be fearless. Sometimes new graduates are a little bit hesitant. They are worried about having their own voice. We want our early talents to speak up, we want to hear their opinions. Just because they have not been here a long time does not mean that they do not know what they are talking about. They absolutely do know what they are talking about – and there is no better way to learn from each other. Don’t be afraid to volunteer or get involved in big projects. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I make mistakes and I have been around a long time.

Thank you very much for this interview!