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Riki's Story

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

I have been encouraged to embrace my introvert personality, encouraged to leverage my technical acumen and encouraged to grow as a person in SAP.

Riki Dey

You could say a superhero introduced Riki Dey to the world of technology.

Not Superman. Not Batman. Not Captain America. Not Spider-Man. He didn’t change in phone booths. He didn’t have an alias. He didn’t have hidden superpowers.  

Truth be told, her superhero was a family member.

As she explains, few IT veterans in India in the 1990s had even heard of SAP at the time of its emergence in the region. But even though she was only in her early teens at the time, she was already aware of this exclusive club of what she reverently refers to as “software junkies”.

This was because of her aunt, who was then a part of the early SAP practice at a large IT company in India. What caught Riki’s attention was that her aunt travelled a lot, not just domestically but all over the world. Because the teenager considered herself a travel addict from an early age, she thought that SAP would be her one-way ticket to see the globe.

Oh, wait, you think her aunt was her superhero? No, please don’t jump to conclusions.

Her superhero was a banker. Sounds unlikely, right? Perhaps. But Riki’s logic is well reasoned.

The banker had spent almost four decades working for a bank of India and was one of those chosen to spearhead the bank’s transformation journey when it first embraced the world of information technology. Accordingly, the seasoned banker, well versed in decades of non-tech protocols, was doing an intensive course at the National Institute of Information Technology (NIIT).

Because he was doing this course in tandem with his normal job, he would leave home at 6am, attend NIIT classes, then go to the office. He would return home when the chorus of late-evening birdsong was at its peak and then go straight to his desktop computer, where he would remain until past midnight. Instead of caving in under the pressure of the extra workload and the long hours, he revelled in this new field of expertise.

Riki Dey’s superhero was her father. "He fell in love at first sight with the world of programming," she says. "My dad was the superhero of this new world that I was just beginning to explore. My mother, understandably, was not amused by the long working hours, but his interest in this new field of knowledge truly sparked mine as well."

Not many of my peers had figured out their career choices until they were in their late teens. But I, on the other hand, knew I wanted to be a software engineer from when I was about eight years old, when he first introduced me to computers. He opened the door to the world of programming, showed me its powers and he was my first and best teacher ever, when it came to building my foundation of algorithms.

When I took up computers in school at the age of nine, he studied with me and I daresay he studied much, much harder than I did. By the time I was 10, if anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up - and you are going to love this - my answer for a very long time used to be, ‘I’m going to replace Bill Gates some day!’ That was truly my ambition back then. Can you beat that?

While I was in college in 2005, my father met the co-founder and then-chairman of a large tech company, during a board meeting in Kolkata. They chatted and found out that I was doing an engineering degree in computer science at the time. Then he actually gave my Dad his visiting card and asked him to send in my resume when I was ready for a job. From that moment on, my dad’s dream had been for me to that company!

I joined the company in August 2006, fresh out of college after completing my degree and yes, my resume had been sent directly to the co-founder, who then sent it to the HR department! Around a year later, I was already looking for newer learning opportunities. I should mention here that I tend to tire very easily of monotony, hence the decision to look for a change so soon."

In November 2007, Riki had an interview with SAP, among other companies. At most of her interviews, she says, she was asked questions like “What is Java?” or “Write a piece of code in Java which does blah, blah, blah …” But things were different in her interview with SAP. Despite her relative inexperience, she was asked to design a database model for a particular scenario. The outcome was that she joined SAP in January 2008.

"What a decade this has been. I joined SAP Labs India in Bangalore as an ABAP developer. I was immediately mentored by my teammates-turned-friends. While my counterparts in other companies told me horror stories of scary managers and ghastly working hours, I told them tales of managers who were mentors and friends, managers who took us partying every Friday; I had tales of work-life balance, fun events, coffee corner sessions, celebrity visits and awesome team outings.

In the time that I was with SAP Labs India from January 2008 to February 2011, I only had to stay back late at work (and the word ‘late’ is relative, meaning anything beyond 5pm-8pm in this case) exactly on two days. That’s what you call amazing work-life balance. And this is not because there was no work pressure or pressure to deliver on time. We were always developing products on the latest technologies, in the latest delivery models and on very tight timelines. We were learning new things every day. I woke up every day with a spring in my step, looking forward to having fun at work.

That’s just what SAP’s work culture is all about. It reinforces the fact that SAP really values its employees and cares about our lives. This is reflected again and again with the HR policies and benefits which SAP offers and the frequency with which these policies are reviewed and revised, keeping up with the latest asks from their workforce."

One aspect that resonates strongly with Riki is that even a decade ago, SAP actively championed diversity at work. "I don’t just mean gender diversity or diversity in terms of LGBT. We also had and still have colleagues on the autism spectrum who are an active and integral part of many teams at SAP. This not only gives them a shot at a normal career path but also helps the rest of the people around them grow as human beings."

SAP’s focus on personal growth and family priorities subsequently came into sharper focus for Riki in 2011. At that time, she needed to move from Bangalore to Gurgaon around the time of her wedding and as she points out, SAP’s internal transfer policies made it “a breeze”. She joined SAP CD in Gurgaon in March 2011 and when she took a sudden sabbatical for three months just after her wedding, to focus on personal needs, her decision was not questioned by her managers. More importantly, she says, nor was it in any way reflected on her appraisal form that year.

In October 2012, she resigned from SAP with the intention of exploring newer opportunities outside the IT industry. She wanted to do an MBA and try her hand at something beyond software development. During her discussions with HR at the exit procedure, she was surprised to be offered a long sabbatical so that she could experiment with an alternative career. When she was told that her position would be held in case she decided to come back, her response was: “Wow! Who does that?” Nonetheless, because she wasn’t sure that she would want to come back - and because she didn’t want to feel any obligation to do so – she went ahead and resigned anyway.

It turned out to be an eye-opening experience. Just six months after leaving SAP, having tried non-IT work, and even while doing her MBA in Delhi, she knew she missed SAP.

"My grey cells didn’t feel stimulated enough. I was beginning to lose the spring in my step in the mornings. I didn’t feel ‘secure’. The freedom to create, the freedom to learn and the freedom to live a balanced life while being employed at SAP is not something that anyone else can offer very easily. Having spent just a few months outside SAP, I could feel myself slipping into an intellectual coma. I just knew that I had to go back.

Come April 2013, I was back with SAP SDC (then GD) as a contract employee and in September 2013 I was once again a regular employee of SAP – now as a business process consultant with SAP SDC. I cannot even begin to express how relieved I was to be back in the arms of SAP once more.

The last five years with SDC have been life-changing for me. I am again blessed with an amazing manager who is also my mentor.

I have been encouraged to embrace my introvert personality, encouraged to leverage my technical acumen and encouraged to grow as a person in SAP. This company has some amazing non-project and non-technical opportunities which help us know and understand ourselves. The SAP Social Sabbatical program that I participated in last year was an eye-opener. It really did make me appreciate the nuances of everything that we live through in our day-to-day lives, both within and outside the perimeters of work.

Trust me when I say SAP invests in its people. The support system that SAP provides is mind-blowing. There was this time, a few years ago, when I was going through a rough patch and needed to see a counsellor. SAP encouraged me to see one, arranged for one and even paid for the sessions too. SAP stands by you. SAP appreciates what we do for the company and it reciprocates. My family at SAP know me for the person that I am and not only for the revenue that I help generate. They care about my personal ambitions, my career and allied matters in conjunction with the organizational needs. At every step of the way, it feels like SAP cares and this in turn makes me care for SAP.

In the last couple of years, I have been offered some very good opportunities outside SAP too. But every time, I have decided to stay here because SAP makes me feel like I belong.” There is also the unspoken hope that one day she too can become a superhero to someone as well."

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