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Sustainability & CSR

293 Posts

* Written by Aimee Feaver

Youth empowerment is at the crux of GENYOUth Foundation’s mission, specifically around health and wellness. By bringing together education, government and business, they are uplifting the student voice, and empowering America’s youth to achieve a healthier future.

In 2014, under the North America CSR initiative, SAP fostered a partnership with the organization to lend a technology voice to youth empowerment, and cultivate social entrepreneurship.

The potential of youth to create lasting, impactful change was brought into high relief last week when two key SAP executives convened with peers and influencers, along with GENYOUth leadership and outstanding students, for a meaningful dialogue.

On the heels of their report that documents GENYOUth’s commitment and learnings on the potential within youth-led change, Alexis Glick, the Foundation’s CEO, facilitated an estimated 25-person assembly of academic and government researchers on youth empowerment, student health and fitness, as well as corporate executives from a variety of industries, including SAP North America president, Jen Morgan, and Concur CEO, Steve Singh.

Held on Wednesday, May 13 in Silicon Valley, the objective of the executive roundtable was to have an honest and open discussion – from a variety of perspectives – about the role each can play in empowering youth.  From Glick’s perspective, “By elevating youth voice, we can, and will, embolden a generation of social entrepreneurs and change agents.”

While the roundtable discussions focused on how private and public sectors can impact pressing issues, such as the lack of nutritious food available to high-need students and childhood obesity, it was in the technology-orientated breakout session that the power of possibility reached grassroots levels. It included SAP’s corporate peers and customers like Adobe, NTT Data, and MyFitnessPal (recently acquired by Under Armour, also in attendance).

Kate Morgan, head of SAP North America’s CSR program, mentioned there was a central theme guiding the discussion: Scalability. “When creating social change, face-to-face interactions are powerful, but technology takes any cause to a whole other level. How can we apply that to youth empowerment?”

Good ideas can spread like wildfire with a little tech support. She went on to describe the two main session ideas.

  • Using technology to scale social change. Social media, gamification – how can we use technology to promote healthy habits, and civic engagement with youth?  How can we empower these students to take the tech they know how to use inherently, and apply it to a greater good?
  • Using big data. Companies around the world are harnessing big data to impact business. Youth around the world are creating vast amounts of it (we’re looking at you, Facebook). How can technology gather, unpack, and analyze the Everest-like collections of posts, likes, tweets et al to affect social change and support youth empowerment?


Alexis Glick (far left) and Jen Morgan are joined by two AdCap finalists at the recent GENYOUth executive roundtable.

For SAP, that meant sharing insights on AdCap, the signature program of the SAP/GENYOUth relationship. Central to the three-year, three million dollar partnership (now in its second year), the recently launched social entrepreneurship platform helps students across the country, thirteen and over, bring to life their ideas to improve health and wellness in their schools and communities.

Using the site’s project planner, a wealth of supporting information (for example, creating and managing a budget, or delivering a pitch), and leveraging access to mentors – including SAP employees – students turn their vision into an actual plan for potential investors. Every project completed within AdCap finds its way to a rotating panel of judges – also SAP employees – who can award micro grants to help get winning ideas off the ground.

Prior to SAP’s involvement, the AdCap application program was very one-dimensional, Kate explained, and offered little to no support to get ideas off the ground; students simply submitted an essay for judging. The newly launched platform transformed that process. “We took the SAP passion for Design Thinking, and hunger for innovation that’s in our DNA, and applied it to a platform that allows technology to fuel youth and social entrepreneurship.”

Of the AdCap partnership with SAP, Glick commented, “it’s taken us to places we had never imagined.”

To learn more about the SAP/GENYOUth partnership, visit the CSR North America Jam group, or watch this video from a 2014 pre-Superbowl edition of CNN’s New Day, featuring Jonathan Becher and Alexis Glick.)

With Month of Service on the horizon, be on the lookout for a number of exciting AdCap-based projects to participate in.

Tell it like it is: How do you think technology can be used to nurture social entrepreneurship, or create youth change agents?

co-written by: Alex Bogdan, Silicon Valley Marketing and Community Engagement


SAP continues to empower the youth, generate future leaders in technology, and create career pathways for students though the invested interest in STEM education. On Tuesday, May 19, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) announced a new college and career pathway with, SAP, Berkeley Community College (BCC), and the Career Ladders Project. This partnership will give Skyline High School students a chance earn Associates Degrees in business systems, information technology while still in high school. This landmark partnership marks the first “9-14” college and career pathway for students in the East Bay where students will not only build technical skills, and earn certifications; they will obtain workplace experience and receive mentorship from SAP employees.


Students spent the day attending game design classes and learning the ins and outs of what being a high school student at a community college is all about. At lunch they were able to mingle with SAP employees, ask questions, and learn about a day in the life working at SAP.  Students were (of course!) excited to hear about SAP and to learn about our work with the NBA, 49ers, and big data. While some of the students were unsure of their future in computer science or other technical degrees, after speaking to our employees, the students understood the importance of technical degrees and how this program could positively impact their future. Additionally, students learned about opportunities available to employees without a technical degree, as we shared personal experiences working at SAP in a variety of areas, ranging from legal to marketing and human resources.

Following the lunch students attended, a career panel which featured Lisa Brown, Head of IT Services Enterprise Mobility SAPsv, Mary Clarke-Miller, Adjunct Faculty Lead, Animation and Game design Berkeley City College, and Tom Miller, Lead Technical Director Sets: The Good Dinosaur, Pixar. The major threads of the, discussion focused on the benefits of a specialized program like this which offers technical training which wasn’t available to them. All three careers also emphasized how necessary it is for them to work on teams.


The high demand for employees in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math is steadily increasing, and this partnership is aimed at filling the gap between vacant jobs and students unable to receive early and proper education to enter this workforce. Tuesday was only the beginning of this partnership. SAP employees will have opportunities to mentor Skyline High students, be featured career speakers and even possibly have these students as interns. This partnership will give SAP the opportunity to connect with these young students early on in their education, and help to develop our technology leaders of the future


Media hits:  San Jose Mercury News


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It’s no longer a secret: Corporate ridesharing saves costs and improves a company’s carbon footprint. But it can do far more than that. Ridesharing also strengthens employee loyalty, enhances work-life balance and encourages networking. Find out how companies and employees benefit from corporate ridesharing solutions:


Employer Branding

Rail strikes, traffic jams, delayed trains: From time to time it can be quite a challenge for employees to get to work on time, particularly if a corporation has its headquarters far from the city center or in a rural area. The issue is even more pressing for generation X and Y, whose levels of car ownership are significantly lower than in previous generations.


However, ridesharing is a promising alternative – both for employees and companies. Not only do corporate carpools offer employees a more flexible commute, they also signal that the company takes their needs seriously. That strengthens existing employees’ identification with the company, but also boosts an employer's attractiveness among potential job candidates, particularly young talents.


Whatsmore, in comparison to subsidized travel schemes, the ridesharing app TwoGo is by far the cheaper option to get your employees from A to B.


Employee Benefits and Satisfaction

Corporate carpooling works like an indirect pay raise for your employees. As they travel together, they will save fuel and maintenance costs for their cars while at the same time still being eligible for commuter allowances. Consequently, they will have more money left at the end of the month. Compared to public transit, carpooling has yet another advantage: employees have a guaranteed seat. They will no longer have to stand in crowded train compartments, change vehicles or waste time waiting for their connecting train or shuttle service. And as a result, employees will be more relaxed when they get to work.


By the way, the same goes for their car-owning colleagues. If they occasionally let others drive, they will suffer less from commute-related stress because they won’t have to weave their way through rush-hour traffic or search for a parking space. Studies even suggest that employees who share a ride to work are more satisfied with their overall job situation and work-life balance than their colleagues who commute solo. This in turn has a positive influence on their job motivation and productivity.


Extended Working Hours

Carpooling makes employees better networkers. The reason is obvious: co-workers who commute together get to know each other better - beyond departmental borders. And when they start talking, it’s often about work. The informal atmosphere also provides a good opportunity for sharing ideas, exchanging work-related information or even advancing joint projects – all without additional costs for companies.


Interested in the TwoGo business solution? Feel free to contact:


Melanie Paul


What do you want to be when you grow up?


We've all heard this question waaaaaayyy too many times. Yet, we've always answered differently whenever someone asked.


A few days ago, a very kind woman named Susan Galer from SAP has asked me this common yet, very challenging question; "What do you want to do in the future?"  How was I supposed to know? I was only attending high school as a freshmen and I would rather be texting my amazing friends after school for the next 10 years of my life, right? Wrong. We all come to a point in life where we get hit with the same question we hear almost endlessly and soon we realize that our answer means everything.


And so I answered her; "I want to be a CEO." Those words struck me. As I was growing up, I've wanted to be a pop star, a dancer, a comedian, an artist, a musician, a vet, and now, I suddenly wanted to be a CEO? So, what was it that really struck me about this question? Was it the fact that I was surrounded by what seemed like hundreds of businesswomen and men in a giant professional environment, or was it the effects of growing up and being serious? It was both.


Talking to Susan Galer had really untangled a few strings knotted together. She sat down with us and pressed the button on the recorder and began asking us questions about ourselves, our school, and what it was like, and what ambitions we wanted to achieve. In all honesty, I never would have thought I'd be attending a high school such as BTECH. Who would have thought I'd go after business, or even technology? Than I started to wonder, what do I want?


Growing up has very little to do with your ambitions. Its just a certain matter of time till you realize what you really want to do. Talking about it will be the best thing for you if you want to separate your interests with your actual ambitions.




So, what did you learn?


I learned that in order for someone to discover what they really want to achieve in life, they must be willing to sit down, talk with others and think to themselves; "Okay, so what do I really want to do in life?" Of course, anybody can get a job.. SAP offers fantastic opportunities already, and having them as a partner for your school is definitely a bonus! But just talk to another professional such as Susan Galer and SAP and all of it's fantastic partners and listen to them on how they have decided what they wanted to do when they became older. Trust me, talking to Susan Galer was the most significant experience in my time at SAP's Sapphire NOW because her questions have really got me thinking about what I really wanted to achieve in the future and what it really was that I felt passionate about in achieving.

     Hearing sales, I automatically picture a balding and perspiring car salesman with a bright yellow ‘SALE’ sign. This prejudice stems from the sad reality that I encounter a barrage of telemarketers and door-to-door salesmen more than software designers offering the latest processing equipment. “What’s the difference?” would be a question I would’ve asked. Well, here’s why “sales” isn’t such a bad word.

    Picture walking into an interview. In fact, it's an interview for your current SAP position. You sit down, the interview blurs by, and you find out a week later that you got the job. Congratulations, you just sold yourself! You convinced the company that they need you, and that you’re an asset. In fact, each time you sell a product, you’re selling yourself first.

    Now, this software designer may have some incredible tech to offer. He may even be selling this fantastic software to the largest distributor of bananas worldwide. Knowing that this software will greatly advance their business, both the company and the designer will benefit from this sale. The designer is rewarded for the hard work put into the newest, cutting-edge software and the business is now able to improve their distribution so we can get our daily dose of potassium. Without sales, we would've never been blessed with the banana in the first place. Surprised? A massive disease broke out in Panama and spread across the world killing all the Gros Michel bananas, which were the most ubiquitous at the time. Now, had businesses not sold the Cavendish banana, we wouldn’t have that wonderful fruit sitting on our desks today.

    What if this software has the potential to analyze data aggregates from a strand of DNA and instantaneously find a corrupted, cancerous cell. The software designer needs to sell his tech to the hospitals, so that they can start saving lives.

    This is why sales is so integral. Without selling products, and without the competition of sales, there would be no need for innovation and, consequently, progress as a species. We are already constantly selling ourselves, but without the sale of products, the economy would collapse and we would be stuck living a primitive lifestyle. So although there are some unsavory aspects to sales, when that software designer is selling a product like SAP HANA, that will revolutionize businesses and has the potential to save lives, he’s more so on a humanitarian mission.

When I thought of software development or IT, I imagined a proverbial nerd in glasses, sitting in front of a computer screen punching in an endless stream of numbers. Such is not true with SAP. Yes, it is a technology company, but no, a technology degree is not necessarily required.

    The Chief Information Officer of Walmart Karenann Terrell said that she’s part of a technology company that happens to do retail. That’s because technology, the use and development of it, is imperative to every business.

    Technically speaking, since Chris Burton works for a software company, he is part of the tech industry. Now, Chris Burton doesn’t sit behind a computer screen coding all day long. He doesn’t even wear glasses. He flies around the world, building technology partnerships with organizations like the NFL. A job that would have never been considered a tech job 10 years ago is now integral to SAP.

    They say that in 10 years, every job will be a tech job. Now, am I suggesting that the family run farm in Wyoming will be a tech job? Yes. Not only is technology unavoidable, but it is essential to all businesses. Investing in a computer based management system will allow this farm to operate in a much more efficient manner. At the SAPPHIRE NOW conference this very technology was exhibited. “The Octogon,” as it was called, featured an interactive demonstration of SAP HANA and how it could help improve of businesses, including farming. It could be used to track the movements of a tractor as it harvested a crop, estimate the duration of the task, and suggest possible routes for the tractor to follow. When used, this unparalleled technology  would facilitate more sustainable rangeland management practices.

    Speaking of sustainability, isn’t that why we continue to innovate and create new technology- to keep our species afloat? Aren’t we trying to get closer to solving global issues, from keeping time more accurately to curing diseases? If every job is a tech job in 10 years, then we’ll all have the same job and be working towards the same goal: the progress of humanity.

The distance from the Earth to the Sun is 15 000 000 km. Having told you this, you may nod your head, reel back in awe, or gaffaw in astonishment but you, nor anyone, can truly comprehend such a distance. It is merely a disambiguated number with some shock value. This reaction is much like the one I had when told that there would be 20 000 people at the conference, or that the convention center had an area of 2 000 000 sq. ft. You can imagine, then, that when I finally reached SAPPHIRE, it took me quite a bit of time to process the magnitude of what was going on around me.

    Why was I at the convention, you may ask? I came as part of a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program at my school, Templeton Secondary in Vancouver, British Columbia, which is supported by SAP. I came, partly, to gain insight into the company and its employees. I also had the opportunity to interview SAP’s equivalent of hockey’s Team Canada, whose starting lineup included Cindy Fagen, Torie Clark, Joel Bernstein, Denise Broady, Chris Burton, Bob Elliott, and Brian Reaves. Now, when an SAP employee looks at this list, they see stats and positions instead of names. Having only discovered SAP this year, I knew very little about these amazing people before the interview, which basically meant that I had no intention to start asking about the scope of their job now. Rather, I focused on their lives- their accomplishments, their failures, and their greatest life lessons. After 7 inspiring interviews, I have amalgamated their knowledge and advice into a definitive “cheat sheet” for success.

  1. Communication will get you 90% of the way. This may not be a huge shocker, but as a teenager, I dread those oral presentations more than immunizations. Just about everyone mentioned that being able to communicate your ideas was an imperative skill to have. This makes total sense. You can’t possibly sell a genius product if you can’t explain why it’s so ingenious. Now the stakes are much higher when I hear “presentation” in class now. Not just my grade, my future depends on it!
  2. Work hard. Don’t scoff at me! This is a legitimate point on this list. Brian Reaves mentioned how “you have to earn the right to do something, and then keep earning the right to continue.” This seems incredibly true. Also, after hearing Denise Broady talk about how she arrived in USA as a Vietnamese refugee and worked 3 jobs to support her education, I realized that even though I work pretty hard- I can always work harder. Sadly, that means no excuses for that calculus homework.
  3. Experiences are everything. Cindy Fagen and toured Europe on three separate occasions, Torie Clark who went from her passion in horse riding to studying organic chemistry, and Bob Elliott sky-dives (that wasn’t discussed in the interview, it was on his Twitter account). Whether it’s an internship, a co-op, a vacation or just picking up the newspaper from time to time, having a comprehensive knowledge of any aspect of the world is beneficial and broadens perspective. Plus, your Instagram followers will burn with envy as they double tap your photos.
  4. Have a purpose. “How can I affect change?” and “How can I make a difference?” and “What problem am I trying to solve?” are just a few questions that you better be able to answer while working…  or checking SCN blog posts.
  5. Life is wacky. Few people I spoke to knew that they would end up at SAP. o don’t sweat the details. As long as you do the above 4, you’ll do fine!

    Well, there you have it! This cheat sheet must bring back fond high-school memories in science class. Sadly, I don’t have coordinates to any fountain of success. All I have is some incredibly inspirational stories and lessons to carry with me every time I’m handed a new homework assignment.

     My time at SAP’s SAPPHIRE conference has become a once in a life time experience, it was extraordinary. Entering the show floor I was shocked and surprised, but it was phenomenal. Especially the Octagon! In my head, I thought it wouldn't be that big, but seeing it with my own eyes was amazing! The Octagon had a demo program about SAP's software and how it can help track certain things like planes, ships and wheat fields. SAP's program helps by notifying you if the plane needs to take a detour because of a storm or the wheat field needs more water depending on the weather. It would help notify you beforehand. Even before I came to the convention I thought SAP was just a global software company. But after SAPPHIRE my knowledge of SAP expanded. Meeting with company partners of SAP and SAP customers like Vistex. When I met with Denise Broady and Adam Smiley iallowed me to realize that everyone had a different background and most of them didn't expect to be part of SAP.

While walking around I found out that SAP doesn't only help large businesses but smaller businesses as well. I learned that even companies that don't have to do with technology can still benefit from SAP's software. All of the information available through S/4HANA and stored in the Cloud has allowed us to actually think about how this software will help companies and even inspire students like me. People in the business world always find other people to work with because not everyone is an expert in a specific field of knowledge. One thing that I had learned from SAPPHIRE would be to do what you love most, do something you’re passionate about and can wake up every morning excited to do.

In the end, I met some friendly people and gained a lot of information.


Ladies and gentlemen, in this corner, we have SAP SAPPHIRE NOW, up against the one and only kid magnet...Disney World!


  1. SIZE
    Disney World is huge, but I’d say the SAP SAPPHIRE Conference Centre comes in a close second. It probably took 15 minutes to walk from one end of the conference centre to the other. Seriously! Okay, maybe 15 minutes including an ice cream stop…

    WINNER: Disney World


  1. FOOD
    Food! I have no idea what the food is like at Disney World, but I suspect that they look, some way or the other, like Disney characters. As appealing as that may sound, SAP SAPPHIRE NOW offers a sophisticated variety, with muffins, juice, coffee, and tea available in almost every corner. The refreshment and snack stations at the conference is like the ABC stores in Hawaii! The dining hall was amazing! No photograph that I took could depict just how vast the area was. What also makes the dining experience so much better was the servers that lined up, forming a pathway as you enter the hall. Despite having to repeatedly say “Enjoy your meal!” or “Welcome!” to a population of approximately 20 000 people- these ladies and gentlemen don’t just smile with their teeth, but also their eyes. They are the ones who make you feel truly welcomed to be at the conference, I think.


  1. GAIN
    Usually at the end of vacations, I reflect on the flight home what I’ve learned or gained from that experience, and every single time, I have loads of things to say. If someone were to ask me what I did during my trip, I would go on about how I ate field mice in Vietnam, or wrestled with a professional wrestler in Germany, but this trip was different.

For some, the conference lasted for three days. For me, the conference lasted for two days, because I arrived on the day the
conference began. It’s remarkable how many freebies I got within those two days, though.
Okay but on a serious note, I probably learned more within those two days about what I actually need to know in life than what I learn in three years in high school.


Upon returning to school, a lot of students asked me about my experience. Do you remember having a crush on someone back in high school? There’s always that one friend that asks you why you like the person that you do, but you have no idea how to explain it. You just do. Asking me how my experience was at SAP SAPPHIRE NOW is just like that. There’s so much more going on beyond learning about SAP HANA, marketing, interactions with people, expansions of small businesses, analysis of data, business analytics, etc, that words become useless in these interactions I have with my friends and family.

Usually, when I can’t think of a word that explains just how I feel, I make hand motions or sounds to truly express myself. For this experience, the best sound I can make to reflect how I felt about this trip would have to be: DAH!! I think this word explains for itself. In comparison to Disney World, SAP SAPPHIRE NOW kicks Disney World right out of the park! (Oooh, the puns!) With Disney World, you gain a temporary state of euphoria, and as memorable as the trip may be, nothing sticks better in your memory than knowledge. True knowledge is something unforgettable. I’m not talking about the knowledge that you think you had in high school about chemistry or physics. I’m talking about knowledge gained from actual experiences, interest, and curiosity.




Blog post by: Linh Diep

Linh Diep

Business and I

Posted by Linh Diep May 13, 2015


Business. Before coming to the SAP SAPPHIRE NOW conference, I didn’t support businesses at all. (Interestingly enough, I live in a world run by businesses and corporations.) I support my local businesses at home though, because I feel as though the interactions that my local business owners and I had were genuine, and when I was purchasing something from my local grocery store, I didn’t feel as though they were trying to sell me something. I felt as though they were helping me get just what I needed. I suppose I thought this way because of my misconception about businesses back when I was in elementary school.


Ads can be misleading, if you only let it mislead you. As humans, we like to do things on our own accord- or at least I do. I like to think that the path I’m taking, is a result from my own decision, which isn’t completely true, but that feeling of independence feels good. With ads, I feel as though businesses are pushing me to buy their product, so I resist.


This only stems from my bad experiences with ads as a kid. I remember watching Spongebob Squarepants with my sister on a Saturday morning when a commercial for the new candy called “Juicy Drop Pop” came on. I wanted it so badly! The ad showed a teenage boy squirting the liquid candy onto his tongue, and what I thought was some wild chemical reaction at the time, the candy made the boy scream “WOO HA HA HOO!”. Being so naive and desperate, my sister and I begged our mom to go to the grocery store, so we could buy ourselves that same candy. My weak little fingers couldn’t handle the resisting plastic packaging around the candy, so my sister tried her candy first. She dropped the liquid candy onto her tongue and screamed “WOO HA HA HOO!”. I was so excited, and when I finally opened the packaging and tried the candy for myself, I can’t begin to explain that sheer disappointment I felt. The commercial lied- so did my sister- but the commercial was made by adults! I remember wondering if what they did was legal or not.


SAP SAPPHIRE NOW tugged at the little grudge I had against advertisements, and showed me that businesses can also be good. Here’s a quick summary of what I learned.

1) Businesses are like spider webs, and they’re all interconnected. It’s also this interconnectedness that allows for each and every one of their developments.


2) Businesses and corporations don’t specialize in one thing- they can also be the jack of all trades rather than a master of one.


3) Data is so important, but what you do with that data, and how quickly you process it is even more important.   


4) It doesn’t matter if you discovered or created something as the cure to terminal illnesses such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). If you aren’t able to articulate what you want to say in a simple enough way for people to quickly grasp what you’re saying, your discovery will not progress. If you are trying to sell an idea, but are not personable, your discovery will not progress. Delivery is key, and mastering this very element is essential to marketing.


Blog post by: Linh Diep


Ann Weiss

Containers as Classrooms

Posted by Ann Weiss Apr 24, 2015

Migrant workers have been the main contributor to Beijing's explosive growth over the past decade. People leave their rural homes to join the labor market in China’s capital. Most take low-paying jobs and have little access to resources like medical care and schooling. And many children of migrant workers also move to Beijing with their parents.

Ju Fei is one such child. He is a 10-year old student at the Little Swan Migrant’s school in the Changping District. Ju Fei is small for his age. He has a tentative smile, a contagious laugh and a strong need to keep moving with his soccer ball. Children like Ju Fei, whose parents are from the countryside, don't have a permanent residency permit (hukou) for Beijing and are only permitted to live there as temporary workers - even if their parents have lived there for years. Without a Beijing hukou, it is almost impossible for children to attend the educationally superior public schools. Therefore, Ju Fei goes to one of the schools for migrant children funded by private donors like SAP.

Containers as classrooms instead of bricks and mortar


Ju Fei and his classmates learn the basics in reading, writing, math and English. Their rudimentary classroom stands in stark contrast to the chrome and glass buildings of tech giants like Google, Lenovo, Intel and Microsoft that have research centers clustered in China’s so-called ‘silicon valley’ just minutes away. Ju Fei’s classroom is a container. Land for development is in high demand. The metropolis is growing fast. So these schools can be shut down by authorities at any time to make room for development. Container classrooms can be moved; bricks and mortar cannot.

Education for the 21st century in China is online

Just south of the Little Swan Migrant’s School, China’s elite Universities are training the 'best and the brightest'. The Peking University, Tsinghua University and Renmin are located merely 20 kilometers away and yet - they are light years away from the Little Swan School. Chances are slim that Ju Fei and his classmates will go to any one of these Universities.

At these Universities, and the NGOs they partner with, economists are thinking about the future of China and how to deal with educational and economic disparity. And they are coming up with innovative answers. One such innovator is economist, Dr. Min Tang. He is driving a vision to bring high-quality education to all classrooms in the country through the internet. Imagine: one large screen that provides the best training possible to an entire classroom. Rural students typically don’t have individual computers. The quality of teachers at rural and migrant schools is often low. So with this solution, the local teacher can show high-quality instructional internet videos to the entire class and then guide students through offline exercises.


Chinese entrepreneurs need to be nurtured

China is placing a lot of hope and money in internet learning. NGOs, like YouChange, are at the forefront of developing online learning models that work. Now, more than 60% of high school graduates attend a University (up from 20% in the 1980s).* Many worry however that the Chinese economy will not provide the majority of them with well-paying and highly-skilled jobs. Therefore, the future belongs to entrepreneurs, according to Dr. Min Tang and the YouChange team leading the Startup Cafe. People who have a business idea and who know how to launch and manage a profitable business will be the ones to propel the Chinese economy forward. How are they going to learn those entrepreneurial skills? Through online learning, of course. The Startup Cafe’s Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is designed to help Chinese students understand how to start a business so they can create those
highly-skilled jobs.

Let’s ‘fast forward’ to the China of the future and the vision of the leaders at YouChange: children like Ju Fei will be receiving a high-quality education regardless of where they live – with the help of the internet. As a result, they will have better opportunities for higher education and – just maybe – they will launch a business that improves their neighborhood or changes the world.

As a participant in the SAP Social Sabbatical Program in Beijing, it was a privilege for me to have the chance to learn about educational and entrepreneurship opportunities in China while contributing to the work of the Startup Cafe at YouChange, China Social Entrepreneur Foundation.



*Source: The New York Times “The China Boom”. Nov. 5, 2010.

Hi everyone,


So, finally I have finalized the blog entry to talk about my experience with EduBridge in Mumbai, India, during the month of April 2015 as part of SAP Social Sabbatical.


Who is EduBridge? EduBridge is an organization that focuses on building employable skills in rural and semi-urban youth in India through quality training, and providing them with jobs and a livelihood upon training completion. Additionally, Edubridge trains college age youth to build employable skills and also provides corporate training to junior and mid-level staff at organizations and corporations all over the country.


EduBridge is an organization started by a group of Indian Institute of Management (IIM) alumni and professors in October 2009 and it is headquartered in Mumbai, India. It aims at furthering the government’s objective of developing employable skills among the youth and connecting them with job opportunities within Corporate India by connecting corporates with talent from semi-urban and rural areas and vice versa.


With this, it has partnered with and has been approved by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), an entity setup under the Ministry of Finance, Government of India. NSDC is a public-private partnership tasked with funding and directing private skilling programs.


I will write more about EduBridge and their work later.


Corporate Social Responsibility at SAP and the Social Sabbatical program


But let's start from the beginning. What is the SAP Social Sabbatical? This program was launched in 2012, and it is "a unique short term assignment for SAP Top Talents who work in international, cross functional teams to solve business challenges for the entrepreneurial and education sector in emerging markets, while strengthening their leadership competencies, cross industry sector know-how and intercultural sensitivity". And I am using the " " because I am basically quoting the information from Alexandra van der Ploeg, from the Corporate Social Responsibility team at SAP, and in charge of the program management.


The vision of SAP is "Help the world run better and improve people's lives" and the Corporate Social Responsibility programs at SAP have the focus on equipping the world’s youth with skills to tackle society’s problems and thrive in the 21st century workforce. More specifically, with these two key areas:


- Building the capacity of innovative social enterprises that put young people on the path to successful (IT) careers

- Building a skilled workforce for the IT sector with training and workforce development programs


Back to the SAP Social Sabbatical, since this is getting very generic. Why did I end up in Mumbai? Well, there were many different locations worldwide for the SAP Social Sabbatical in 2014 / 2015. But given my many years working with customers, partners and colleagues from India, I thought it was time to get to know this country from a different perspective. So I was really lucky to be selected to be here!


Meet the SAP Social Sabbatical 2015 team in Mumbai with some additional SAP CSR and Pyxera Global colleagues in our first dinner together the night before the kick-off event!


SoSa team kick off dinner.JPG


Why EduBridge?


Well, now we also need a bit more of background on the selection of the different projects.



Corporate Pro Bono programs and Global Engagement


In every location, SAP generally chooses 4 different projects for the engagement. This selection is performed by three main players: (1) the global team of SAP CSR, to ensure the adherence to the program priorities and strategic goals, (2) the local SAP CSR team, who know the situation in the country at best and (3) Pyxera Global, organization that is now celebrating 25 years of global engagement all over the world and SAP is partnering with within their "pro bono" program.


Members of the different teams assessed several companies and organizations in Mumbai, and four projects were selected. EduBridge was one of them.


Before moving forward, I would like to leave you with some interesting links that you might find interesting if you would like to go deeper in some of these topics:

- The growing popularity of pro bono, on how employees, non-profits and the enterprises benefit from this type of program.

- Article in the New Global Citizen from Deirdre White, CEO of PYXERA Global, in which I learnt about the wrong that can be done under the idea of "Development" and how important it is to have the focus on "Purposeful Global Engagement".

- Another interesting article on how Skill-Based Volunteering can works as an exceptional executive development program.

- Last but not least, a fantastic TED Talk from Ernesto Sirolli called "Want to help someone? Shut up and listen"... where you can learn how in the 70s, one of the best results of international development was (unplanned!) feeding of hippos, but not much more and the reasons why.


While reading some of these articles I could not help but remember some the words of Rafael Correa, the President of Ecuador, in an interview with the Spanish journalist Jordi Evole in his program "Salvados" in December 2014 regarding the support that Ecuador receives from multinational corporations and how (for example) painting schools might not be the best use of the volunteers time and resources, since you can find enough workers in Ecuador that could do this.



Why did I join for the SAP Social Sabbatical?


Now that we have gone this far about the SAP CSR, Social Sabbatical, Global Engagement... it is time to share: why did I want to join? Because I imagine you might be thinking "it sounds great, but I am not sure if I would away from home for a month for this type of engagement...".


Well, here is my reason: I am a guy who believes that the P&L should not be the only motivation for a company to exist, neither should one get up every morning to go to work thinking only of their salary and bonus. In my opinion, it is everyone's responsibility (companies of all sizes, governments of all levels, volunteers.... in general, people!) to help make the world become a better place.


So, along with my professional career, I have always been working in the areas of Diversity and CSR in different forms. Here are some examples:


- Working in the area of LGBT Diversity (for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual and Transgender) since 2004! Some recent examples to highlight were "It Gets Better" global initiative from SAP in 2012, working with several German NGOs and my participation in an event hosted by the IE Business School in Madrid in 2014, joinlty with the US Ambassador to Spain.

- Being a volunteer manager for the Human Rights Conference of the World Outgames 2009 in Copenhagen.

- Being a mentor of a social start-up in Berlin as part of the Social Impact Lab program, sponsored by SAP, in 2013.

- Participating in the delivery of the "Increase your employability with SAP" program with the partner "Fundación Tomillo" in Madrid in 2014, to help unemployed people (big issue in the Spanish economy) rejoin the workforce with updated SAP skills, complementing their education and/or work experience.


I guess the combination of this type of experience, together with my international work experience in the area of consulting in different companies and countries (see my LinkedIn profile if interested), is what got the colleagues in Corporate Social Responsibility to accept my application.


As part of my cover letter introducing myself to the potential projects I wrote: "If you were to ask me about my preferred assignment, I would say working with an organization that focusses on integration of social minorities with activities related to education and training, communications and / or business planning and management."


And EduBridge could not have been a better match!



India, the economy and the job market


As a major country and one of the largest world economies, there is a lot being written about India and its economy. After doing some reading previous and during my engagement, I found really interesting the chapter "Connecting India's youth to jobs" of the book "The making of India" by Akhilesh Tilotia.


Here are some key messages that I am taking, mainly from this book:


  • India's current labour market is not knowledge intensive, dominated by traditional skills like farming and manual labour.
  • Indian agriculture employees approximately half of its 484 million strong workforce (as of end of financial year 2012) but produces only a sixth or less of India's GDP.
    • On this topic, I found also very interesting this article in The Times of India, "Why it doesn't pay to be a small farmer", from which I learned that 75% of the Indian farmers own on average less than 1 ha and work in a loss producing business model. This indicates that the immediate future of this sector is highly dependent on government investment.
  • Only 18% of India's workforce has a regular salary and even less is part of the organized workforce. Unorganized workforce accounts for 90% of the total, but produces only 35% of the output. This means that the average Indian organized worker produces 17 times the value-add compared to an unorganized one. And to make things worse: due to the lowest return on the financial savings of the unorganized workers, these are condemned to a life-long working situation.
  • Over the next 10 years, until 2025, 250 million people will be eligible to join the workforce: Providing to these young people decent income-generating opportunities will produce massive boom in India's GDP. Failing to do so will mean (at the very least) a significant delay in pulling millions above the poverty line and condemning many more to a poorer life.
  • A study conducted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development shows that 97% of Indians finish the primary school, but only 66% go to secondary school (Class VI - X) and then even less, 31%, go to higher secondary school (Class XI - XII).
  • A study commissioned by the NSCD (National Skill Development Corporation) to evaluate the employment development in several industries until 2022, points out that the majority of the jobs will come from the following sectors:
    • building, construction and real estate (48.7 million)
    • transportation, logistics, warehouse and packaging (41.1 millions)
    • auto and auto components (35 million)
  • It is important to highlight that most of the employment opportunities will be in lower-level skills (Skill level 1: meaning skills that can be acquired with short/modular and focused intervention -63%- or Skill level 2: skills that require technical training and supervision skills -18%-).
  • Current excess of Engineers and MBAs: India in 2016 will graduate more engineers annually (1.5 million) than China (1.1 million) and the US (0.1 million) together. And the MBA cohort will increase to 0.4 million from 0.1 million in the same period of time. Actually, according to statistics, India needs around 1 million graduates a year and is producing 2.5 million.
  • However, employers seem to still be unable to find graduates with the right skills. An interesting article on this topic is "Time for course corrections" in India Today, highlighting (among other topics) that, depending on the degree, employability can range from 10 to 26 %, while India's industry is unable to fill up as much as 36% of the entry level positions!
  • Over the last decade, India's labour productivity has been rising in the range of 4-5 % per annum, which is half of the growth in China. And this is not due to low working hours but mainly due to lack of access to technology and education.
  • For the author, the key takeaways / learnings of these observations are: Creation of more jobs in the organized sector is required in industries that can employ the upcoming youth and there is a need for the creation of matching centers that will prepare the youth for these jobs. This is the basis for the concept of Vocational Training.



Vocational Training in India

Simply put, Vocation Training is training that emphasizes skills and knowledge required for a particular job function or a trade.


Continuing with the learnings from the book  "The Making of India" by Akhilesh Tilotia, poor employability creates a difficult problem for the various stakeholders in the employment market:


  • From one side, a candidate that is not well-trained but has spent some money on formal education will normally be reluctant to invest further without clear job prospects.
  • On the other side, employers are unwilling to pick up untrained students and not very likely to invest in their training due to the uncertainty on whether the trained youth will stay in the company.


This highlights the need for training institutions with these having a shift in their focus from education to employability.

A quick look at the vocation training market tells us that the Skill Levels 1 and 2 (defined in the previous section) represent 84% of the potential students but would contribute only with 24% of the top-line of the potential of the total education business. This is the reason why so many private players were attracted by the pareto of the higher skill-levels and now India has the exceed in MBA supply mentioned above.


What does this mean for the companies willing to enter the lower skill-levels market? Efficiency in their processes is key in order to be able to have profitable business delivering training for such a volume of students. But also the government needs to invest if they want to have the necessary, qualified Indian workforce they need (as per the reasons above).


I hope that this now clarifies the need for the NSDC and the importance of their investments in equity funding. In its 2014 annual report, NSDC helped train 1 million in the financial year ending in March 2014, through training institutions accredited by them, like EduBridge.

(Further information about NSDC and the vocational training can also be found in this pdf report, "Skill Development in India - Frequently Asked Questions")



And now, finally... EduBridge and their amazing work

You have read a brief description of EduBridge and their business at the beginning of this blog entry. It was founded by their current CEO, Girish Singhania, in 2009 and since 2012, he has Utsav Kheria, as COO helping him run the business. Both of them are IIM Bangalore alumni.


To be honest, while reading the "Connecting India's youth to jobs" chapter of "The making of India" and the recommendations of the focus areas and key success factors for companies working in the vocational training field in India, I could not stop thinking of what a role model / success story EduBridge is.


EduBrige works on achieving the employment of youth in the Services industries. To be more specific in the Banking / Financial Services, in Retail Services and in the IT Services in the area of Business Process Outsourcing. Looking at the research from the NSDC and Kotak Institutional Equities these represents an estimate of 16.4 million jobs for skill levels 1 and 2 to be created in the next 15 years. Definitely a large market opportunity for EduBridge to work on!


When looking at employers in these industries, according to Akhilesh Tilotia, the main lack of skills they see is in the "Soft skills" area: communications, English language... etc.


Therfeore, the main product of EduBridge is TeamBridge in which students can take the full training of the GCIP (Government Certified Industry Professional) program and learn about Communication at work with Conversational English, The Art of Selling, Computers & Typing skills, Essential Analytical skills, Personality Development and Professional Development and then go deeper into the specialization of the sectors or Retail, Sales and Marketing, Banking and Finance and IT BPO processionals! If necessary, the students can also take the STC (Short Term Courses) to focus mainly in one particular area of the soft skills (e.g. Communication at work with Conversational English).


In the first week of our assignment at EduBridge we were lucky enough to have full access to their Executive team working out of the Head Office in Mumbai and also have a field trip to two of their centers: in Pune and Satara. Thanks to that we could get a better view of how these programs are delivered. I think I will remember how the English teacher was focusing on the topic of "Greetings" in English. And helping students understand the difference between a casual interaction with friends, family, schoolmates, teachers... and greeting and talking to a customer in a retail store!




So, their main product is training the youth at their own EduBridge training centers all over India: who pays for this? Well, it can be both the state governments, with the dedicated programs to help employ the youth (as explained earlier in the blog entry) or the student himself or herself. I found quite amazing how the presentation to attract students explains to them the business case for this investment: comparison of the course of the training with the salary they can expect to get in an entry level position (and therefore, the return-on-investment) and also the salary development with the career progression.


In a report prepared by Firefly Millward Brown Delhi for the NSDC in June 2013 (not found online), it was found out that the skilling target the NSDC had set was not being met yet, basically due to two main reasons:

  • Low enrollments of students in skilling institutes
  • Employers hesitant to recruit such students


This is how EduBridge tackles both issues:


The student enrollment is led by Parth Thakar, VP of Sales and Marketing and quite active in social media through his Twitter account. He manages a sales workforce for EduBridge that involves a very diverse way of reaching to the potential students, not only directly through sales reps, but also through interaction through the student's network, especially in the schools and colleges. After all, in India the student's family, the school teachers, friends and the social circle play a very important role in their daily life with a large influence in their choices and decisions.


One additional comment regarding schools and colleges: EduBridge is also very successful at training students at their schools / colleges, since many of these institutions are smart enough to know that there are a certain number of skills that their students need to get a job and they are not getting through the current textbook education. This is the EmployBridge program.


In order for employers to trust the students that are introduced to them by EduBridge, Anand Natarajan is the VP - Head of Corporate Relations. His team of placement officers understands the set of skills are required by entry level jobs that companies like Reliance Retail or P&G, aswell as local employers, and presents to them the students that, having gone through the EduBridge training programs, match those skills. Placement officers accompany students along the whole process until all of those interested in placement find a job!


This part of the training value chain is key of the whole process: it is about guaranteeing jobs to the students that have invested their time and money into training and keeping the corporate customers satisfied with the quality of the professionals they get for their entry level positions.


This is working so well that actually some corporations are taking a step further and request training from EduBridge to train some of their junior employees in key skill areas. This is what EduBridge calls their SkillsBridge program, also led by Anand.


Anand's team is the one that has the responsibility of understanding the latest needs from the corporate customers in terms of necessary skills to ensure the most successful deployment of students as new employees in their organizations.

And who transforms this input into actual, updated, high-value training content? The organization of Lovina Anthony, VP of Training that makes sure that GCIP content stays relevant and can build content for dedicated training projects with corporate customers, schools and colleges and government institutions.


And due to the scope of my work with the organization, I cannot finish this blog without mentioning Prakarsh Jain, the CFO.




If everything is working so well... why did EduBridge need the SAP Social Sabbatical program?



This was actually the question that I had in my mind in the first days of the assignment... but even when you have highly intelligent people and you are performing very well, companies need to remain innovative and efficient. Continuous improvement is a "business mantra". Not only the external changes need to be taken into consideration, also the internal development of organizations is important.


EduBridge, being so successful, is growing a lot and their previous processes could have struggled when looking at the scalability of their way of working.


For obvious reasons I cannot share in this blog post the details of our collaboration with them, since the three SAP colleagues got into their core business with them, but during these four weeks our main focus areas have been: Organization & Leadership, Communications and Business Planning & Performance Management.


My main areas of work with them were related to Business Planning and Business Performance Management and it involved understanding their business processes and current usage of IT applications, delivering suggestions for process improvement and business KPIs, preparing the communications to their training centers, enabling the Operations team, etc.


Speaking today with one of the EduBridge executives while asking for his feedback, his comment was: "From time to time, every organization should get external consulting to look at your business, understand what your situation is and give you recommendations for improvement".


I am completely sure EduBridge would have been able to overcome issues coming their way, but talking to all the people in their organization and seeing how grateful they are for the contributions from the SAP Social Sabbatical team, I must say, I am also very happy with the outcome myself!



EB SAP SoSa Final Slide.JPG



My own experience: what did I get from the SAP Social Sabbatical program with EduBridge

So many things that it is difficult to know where to start! Trying to summarize the key messages that I take:


  • A company can have a focus on achieving a good P&L result and still have mainly a social focus. This is something that Girish and his team have taught by seeing the level of passion they put into helping improve the situation of the youth in rural and semi-urban India while still running a business!
  • It is amazing what can be achieved in the area of youth employment if governments choose the right focus: Coming from a country like Spain where the unemployment rate, especially in the youth, is unfortunately in historically high levels, it has been a pleasure for me to work together with a company that has as main business solving this problem.
    • But not only with EduBridge: on April 17, Pyxera Global organized for the participants of the SAP Social Sabbatical a Service day in cooperation with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. The TISS, together with the Indian Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sport and the Office of Advisors to the Prime Minister on Skill Development, run the NUSSD (National University Students' Skill Development) program. As part of this program, cooperation with corporations is key. That is the reason why SAP employees were asked to come and spend the morning with undergraduates of the Sree Narayan Guru and Acharya Marathe Colleges helping them how to prepare, behave during and follow up after a job interview.
  • Visionaries are always more progressive in terms of acceptance of diversity in the ways of life: I mentioned earlier in the blog the type of work that I do in the area LGBT Diversity. Coming to India, a country where homosexuality is not only not socially accepted but it is even illegal, I was concerned about how my sexual orientation could affect my work relation with the EduBridge executive team. For this reason it took me a bit longer than usual to come out, but once the conversations had moved into the personal area for all of us, I did so. I must say none of them had a bad reaction towards this, and were even interested in my perspective about the situation for the gay community in Mumbai, since I was lucky enough to get to know some cool gay guys (that I hope to keep as friends for the years to come!). I guess that if you are very smart men and women like EduBridge's executive team, having a privileged education, and decide to change your careers in large, successful corporations to help unemployed youth get jobs, you understand what inclusion means in all life aspects.


I hope you have found this reading interesting! If you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave them here... or reach out to me through other social media channels!


Miguel (@macpaz10)

Ferose V R

The Temple For Autism

Posted by Ferose V R Apr 3, 2015

In any religion, you go to a temple or shrine to search for answers, to pray for peace and joy, and to share your innermost feelings. I never thought my association with Temple Grandin would literally take the form of a pilgrimage taken to find answers. Allow me to explain.

After my son was diagnosed with Autism, I travelled across the world meeting doctors, therapists, researchers and leaders in the field of Autism. While I had heard about Temple Grandin and had seen her TED Talk, it wasn’t until I watched her HBO movie that my eyes were truly opened, and I was convinced I wanted to meet her in person. After setting up a lunch appointment (thanks to Thorkil Sonne – founder of Specialisterne), I took a 36-hour journey from Bangalore to Colorado – for a 2-hour lunch meeting. This time I spent with Temple, in a simple restaurant talking for 2-hours, was the best education I could have ever received in the field of Autism. In this moment, I actually managed to get a peek into "The Autistic Brain." This was two years ago, and I have kept in touch with her since. I keep her updated with the SAP Autism at Work project, and she provides me with an abundance of invaluable guidance. I often quote her in my speeches, and there is one in particular that stands out to me. "The world needs all kinds of minds," says Temple. This is the message I want to convey in my work at SAP. In business, we need all kinds of minds in order to innovate and create the change the world needs. That is where my passion lies, in trying to create opportunities and openness at SAP, to welcome diversity, and most importantly, find a place where employees on the spectrum can succeed – just as Temple has done in her career.


Now, I am thrilled to have an opportunity to share the temple of knowledge and thought leadership that Temple Grandin provides. On Monday April 6, I am overjoyed to be hosting Temple Grandin at SAP Silicon Valley. I encourage all employees to take this fantastic opportunity, listen to her inspiring story, and learn from her as I have done and continue to do. I look forward to seeing you all in attendance!


img (2).jpg

It’s an all-time record: More than 475 000 traffic jams clogged German roads in the last year according to statistics by the German automobile club ADAC. This does not only affect drivers’ individual well-being and the environment, but also national economies. Experts are therefore seeking for alternative concepts to improve the flow of traffic, and they are currently setting high hopes on connected and driverless cars. But a quick and simple solution is already at hand: carpooling.


A typical German driver spends a total of 38 hours a year sitting idle in traffic. The commute to work alone accounts for most of the delays. The reason for that is simple: Two thirds of commuters travel to work by car – and they usually do so alone. In fact, the average number of passengers is only 1.1 per vehicle, according to a study published by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure in 2009.


To make matters worse, the number of commuters is continuing to grow. Today, 60 percent of employees travel across municipal borders to their workplace – that is, 17 million people in Germany. Between 2004 and 2012 alone, the number of commuters rose by 11 percent. That said, it is no surprise that the country's infrastructure is lagging behind.


2 Passengers per Car: Problem Solved

In the long run, traffic-jammed German cities like Stuttgart are planning to improve infrastructure by investing in additional bike paths and public transportation. But such comprehensive changes are cumbersome and might take decades before being finally put into practice.


Yet, everyone can do their share already to prevent traffic congestions from building up in the first place. The solution is simple and low-cost: carpooling. If vehicles only averaged 2 passengers per car instead of the current 1.1, traffic jams would be a thing of the past, according to experts.


In fact, the ridesharing app TwoGo was born from a similar idea. In 2010, Jens and David, the developers of TwoGo, wanted to bring together colleagues with similar routes to and from work. Instead of wasting time on congested roads their colleagues should have the opportunity to actively reduce their travel time – simply by teaming up.


Keeping the traffic moving cuts down on pollution, makes people happy and saves money

A relaxed and jam-free journey to work is not only good for the environment. It’s also beneficial to our health: for the shorter the commute to work is, the more relaxed and content drivers are on average. And it’s good for the economy and our wallets too.


In the 22 biggest German cities alone, congestions cost taxpayers an additional 7.5 billion Euros every year, due to extra fuel costs, the working hours lost in traffic and other indirect costs – those are costs which are caused by delayed truck transports, for instance, and are passed on to consumers via increased grocery prices. These overall costs amount to 509 Euro per annum and household.


Stay Flexible, Use TwoGo

So congestion-free roads have numerous advantages. Why do so many commuter still prefer traveling on their own then? Flexibility, researchers say. Most commuters want to be able to change their plans on short notice, in the event that they have to work late or an unexpected meeting comes up.


This is why TwoGo makes ridesharing as fast and flexible as possible. Users who prefer planning their rides spontaneously or use the service only occasionally, can arrange single rides as needed, for example a day in advance. Those who would rather plan ahead can also arrange weekly rides. In case there’s an unexpected change of plans, users are of course always free to look for an alternative ride or fall back on their own car for a day. Just notify your fellow passengers ahead of time by giving them a call or contact them directly via app.


By the way: In addition to the free app – which is available to everyone – companies can also license an optimized version for their employees. This is for example a simple way for them to reduce the carbon footprint of their car fleet and to actively involve their employees in corporate sustainability efforts.


Keeping it real...

Posted by Shane O'DONNELL Mar 30, 2015

I've always wanted to go to India. I'm not sure why exactly, but I've always been drawn to it. For decades, in my mind's eye, I've imagined India as a land of brilliant colors and ornate dress; deep, tropical forests; and wildly diverse, contemplative people. I've imagined it, too, as a place filled with wondrous plants and animals, where the scents of a rich culinary tradition fill the streets and market places, while hypnotic, purling music provides a mesmerizing background soundtrack.


When I was younger, I read a lot. You know: classics like The Jungle Book, and Around the World in 80 Days. I can't be sure, but I think the stories of far-away, long-ago lands that we absorb as children stay with us throughout life. If you've always had an unexplained yearning to see a particular place, or to learn more about a specific time or era, I'm willing to bet that the seed was planted during the telling of a bedtime story when you were young. Most probably the lights would have been low; your bed would have been warm and safe. You would have listened to the dulcet tones of your mother, or your father, or perhaps a grandparent, as they told you time-honored tales that transported you to another world. This is the stuff of childhood for many of us. And it's magical.


I'm 32 years old now, and I've finally made it to India. I didn't make it here on my own. I've been sent here, to Mumbai, by SAP, a company that has changed my life since I joined it in 2012. It's provided me with a great job, fantastic opportunities to learn and grow, and even a new country for me to move to (the UAE). Because of this move, I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to meet my wife. SAP has also given me - either directly or (more often) indirectly - opportunities to travel to places like Saudi Arabia, Oman, Polynesia, the Philippines and Germany. But something tells me that of all the places I've ever been to, Mumbai will be different. I'm here with 11 colleagues, not to attend a training course or to participate in a customer engagement activity, but to work on the ground for 30 days with some remarkable grass roots organizations. My challenge will be to help effect positive change in the lives of some of the poorest families in India. The key beneficiaries will be their children - children whose childhoods could not be more different from the one I enjoyed when I was their age. I was dreaming of an India that they would probably not recognize.    


I'll be blogging about my experiences for the next four weeks, providing more details in the days ahead. For now I'll just sign off by confirming that when SAP says it wants to make the world run better and help improve people's lives, it's not just an empty corporate slogan. It's really true. Search the web for "SAP Social Sabbatical" to see what I mean.


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