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Katja Lukkarinen

HR Data Management, Quality & Experiences Lead

Katja's story

At SAP, we build breakthroughs, together.

Not knowing much about the industry, the software, nor the country I worked in, what impressed me from the very beginning was that at SAP you are encouraged to speak up and express your view. To “tell it like it is” later became one of our core principles, but this was already the spirit back then.

Katja Lukkarinen

After finishing a Master’s in International Business in Australia in early 2000, I ended up living in Germany, near the SAP headquarters. With practically no German language skills, I looked for international jobs and came across an HR Controller position at SAP. This was far from my dream job, but with SAP being an international company with about 24 000 employees and growing fast it felt like a good place to start. So, I applied and joined Corporate Controlling a few weeks later. Little did I know what a long-lasting impact this would have on my professional and my private life!

The early years were filled with learning about systems, analytics, and spreadsheets. Not knowing much about the industry, the software, nor the country I worked in, what impressed me from the very beginning was that at SAP you are encouraged to speak up and express your view. To “tell it like it is” later became one of our core principles, but this was already the spirit back then.

Close collaboration between Finance and HR has always been a game-changer to reach common goals. We created the first global HR data maintenance guidelines and the global job architecture, laying the foundation for many more global HR and finance processes to come.

My position was moved to Global HR Operations and with my analytics experience, I supported employee surveys, location strategy plans and helped to build a business case for the creation of a HR Service Center in Prague. During this time, we took enormous leaps in establishing a global set-up for HR: the organization, systems, processes, and data governance. Personally, I learnt precious lessons about resilience, embracing change and coping with unpredictable future. The speed of change was sometimes overwhelming.

A few years down the road I got an opportunity to relocate to Switzerland as Regional HR Controller which involved forecasting, budgeting, and process optimization. A couple of years later, I managed compensation topics for SAP Switzerland. Working on end-to-end processes with both HR and Finance was a real eye-opener: calculating compensation budgets along with the revenue expectations; determining target achievement; payroll collaboration; and then finally seeing these results hit the financial statements. There is no better way to learn a subject than to look at it from multiple perspectives.

After nearly 10 years with SAP I decided it was time to move to the customer and partner side and learn from an “outside” perspective. With my SAP background, I first ended up managing the global compensation system for an international corporation in Switzerland and for a short period in China. Software still had a significant focus for me, but the emphasis was more on the policy and how to enforce it throughout the process and the system. Afterwards, I relocated to Germany with my family for two years, making a shortsidestep to a consultancy – which was of course, an SAP certified one.

An opportunity to work as an independent consultant presented itself as we had privately decided to settle down in Austria and my previous Swiss employer asked for some support as a freelancer. In the meantime, SAP HR was moving into the cloud and as the project in Switzerland ended, I continued as a freelancer working from home. On my return I was greeted by several colleagues from the early days. We had a few grey hairs, and many had started families, but everyone had the same sense of “let’s do it!”. It felt like coming home in so many ways.

At the end of that project, the Head of the Global HR Data Management surprised me with an offer to join SAP as a full-time employee again. The decision was relatively easy: I knew I would work with a wonderfully competent colleagues all over the world in a company, which provides endless opportunities for growth.

Today I am part of the Global HR Service Delivery organization and based in Austria. Having been a contributor to the business case calculation for the Shared Service Center, this felt like the circle closing.

I now co-manage the global hiring process and lead a team of experts in data and service quality. We continuously seek and implement improvements for our customers and HR colleagues alike. In HR Data Management we work in various projects, to balance out the operational work. We promote leadership on all employee levels and encourage behaviors that promote self-driven work organization.

Two decades since my first day with SAP, now with over 100 000 employees worldwide, I am still learning. The “tell it like it is” culture at SAP continues to be strong. Knowing that our company values are in alignment with my personal ones, I look back at my career with gratitude and look forward to exciting times ahead.

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