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Gina's Story

At SAP, we believe that when you bring everything you are, you can become everything you want.

We are so customer-centric. The customer is always at the very center of what we do. Personal contact with customers is the key to what we do.

Gina McNamara
Chief Financial Officer, ANZ

Even by Australian standards, where long-distance car journeys are the norm, Gina McNamara’s commute for dance lessons was extraordinary in her high school years. Her parents would drive her regularly to the Gold Coast, a round trip of about 300 kilometers.

“My dream as a kid was simple,” says Gina. “I actually wanted to be a professional dancer. I did dancing from the time I was about three years old. I learnt ballet, jazz tap, hip-hop and even some Irish dancing. I grew up in Gatton, in country Queensland. I did a short stint in the US between the ages of 17 and 18, when I was still a minor. And then while I was at university I continued to do some professional work in Australia.

“My parents sacrificed so much for me. Especially with the dancing in particular, my mum was very big on the concept of ‘You can be whatever you want to be’. I had to make a difficult decision when I was at university. Although I loved dancing so much, I knew there was really only a very limited shelf life. However, I also loved business and at the time, I was studying finance and some law at Griffith University on the Gold Coast. So then I made the decision to intern in the business world. It was really a what-do-I-do-now moment and I chose the business world.

“I guess the thing that drew me to accounting was the fact that I was good at numbers as a kid. I was really just doing the internship to help me decide which way to go – accounting or law. And I chose accounting because of that ability to really understand how a business makes money and how you can help them along that path. I wasn’t as passionate about litigation or contracts as such, so it’s funny that I ended up here in SAP where contracts are such an integral part of what we do. So yes, some of my skill set from way back actually does comes into play here. I think the willingness to learn new things has also helped me over time.

“I was actually working for BusinessObjects, which was one of SAP’s first big acquisitions. During the integration process, I was working for Rebecca Norton, who was the APJ CFO for BusinessObjects. She asked me to help with the integration so I attended the very first integration meeting in Germany with all the finance folks from all over the world. That was a wonderful experience and in fact every year when I go to Germany for our CFO transformation meeting, I run into people who are still in the global finance organization and who were at that meeting.

“Because BusinessObjects was an analytics and business intelligence software company it was very new for SAP and it was very challenging. I still remember the can-do attitude of Louise Whyman, a long-term SAP colleague in Sydney who was running our customer contact center back then. She was fielding a lot of these calls. Louise and I got to know each other as we fixed the situation pretty fast so that we could make sure the customers were happy.

“That’s something wonderful about the great people at SAP. We are so customer-centric. The customer is always at the very center of what we do. Personal contact with customers is the key to what we do. We wouldn’t be here if our customers were not buying from SAP. It’s perfectly logical that Qualtrics is entirely based around customer experience. SAP has always been very good at buying the market leader when it comes to what our customers want. And then it’s all about the integration process and making sure that everything works in harmony.

“In my time here, I’ve seen SAP evolve during the journey to the cloud. Most importantly, I’ve seen a mindset change. In Australia and New Zealand, we’re very remote from Germany, which I like to call the mother ship. I’m very fortunate that in my career at SAP I’ve been able to have a lot of touch points with Germany and I think as a result I’ve probably been up to speed on changes within SAP quite fast and that’s been a career development that I’ve been very fortunate to have through the company.

“Before I was CFO, I was working in our commercial finance area on deals. We’d already purchased Sybase and we were going more into the cloud companies like SuccessFactors and Ariba, so I asked if I could do an employee exchange with the SuccessFactors team in the United States. We were selling it in APJ and ANZ but nobody really had a very clear understanding of it because we were so far away from Germany, and so far away from Silicon Valley and San Francisco.

“I shadowed a lady named Heather Petty who was a SuccessFactors deals desk person. Hers was a similar role to mine, but it was all cloud. It was only for two weeks in San Francisco and while she didn’t live there because she worked remotely, she came in to the SuccessFactors office and we worked on some really large accounts. It really opened my mind, and being able to work with Heather got me up to speed much faster.

“Obviously SAP has changed so much in the era of acquisitions. Everyone has got their head around it, and it surprised me how fast that happened. I wouldn’t say that we’re there yet, but we’re trying to become funky! The acquisitions have definitely made us look cool and certainly Qualtrics will continue with that trend. But that customer-centric emphasis and the flexibility in changing the way we do things has been a large reason for the huge success of APJ.”

 

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