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Alena Bartunkova

Director of Global Product Support Programs

Alena's story

At SAP, we build breakthroughs, together.

I have been at SAP 10 years now and I am loyal to the company because of the culture. People spend most of their time at work and when you can work for a company where you feel supported, constantly developed and energized, that makes a difference.

Alena Bartunkova

Alena grew up in a small village in the Czech Republic and came from a very traditional background. This led to a determined and resilient approach to life and helped her become a very successful leader at SAP Concur. 

The role of women in my village was to stay at home. I was the first woman in my family to go to university and I had to work two jobs to pay for my living expenses as my parents could not afford to support me. That’s how I came to Concur. I worked part time in a marketing role whilst studying. 

When I finished my degree, I had a simple goal – to improve my English and French skills. I studied at the University of Economics in Prague and worked part time as a receptionist in a hotel. This really helped me develop my English skills. Once I finished my studies, I moved to France for three months to work as an au pair and improve my French. On my return I wanted a permanent role where I could utilize these skills. It was then that I began working as a User Support Desk representative supporting French and English-speaking customers. 

That first role at SAP Concur became a career path for me. I progressed to team lead, supervisor, manager, and senior manager leading call center teams globally. I am now the Director of Global Product Support Programs team focused on the strategy of  our SAP Concur Product Support channels and tools. As a Gemini I love multi-tasking and challenges and this role offers me that. I truly enjoy working on projects. One project I will always remember was part of the Fast Track development program. I was assigned to a group of people from different departments, countries and backgrounds and we were given a problem statement to propose a solution for. The problem statement was something everyone could relate to “we have too many tools and resources and people are overwhelmed by the information so how would you improve that situation?” but the important aspect was having to learn how to engage with different people, with different skill sets and learn quickly what people’s strengths are. The project ended with a business trip to Seattle, US, to present our solution to executives. It was an extraordinary opportunity to network throughout the company and get exposed to executive leadership. Listening, networking and being transparent proved to be key elements. This all leads to creating healthy relationships and trust. This is something I feel strongly about and when I became a people manager, I realized being a top performer does not mean focusing om my own success, but of that of the team.  

We have more than 20 different nationalities in the office and it’s a great mix of cultures – a truly multi-cultural environment. To achieve targets and be a successful leader I always need to understand my people, their goals and their motivations. I show them I care about them as a person and they start opening up and that builds a successful team environment. When people see you go beyond and try hard to help others, they will start mimicking it. If you work with their behaviors and coach them, the numbers will come. If you nurture talent, they will be successful. 

I have been at SAP 10 years now and I am loyal to the company because of the culture. People spend most of their time at work and when you can work for a company where you feel supported, constantly developed and energized, that makes a difference.  

Last year when pandemic started a lot of things happened in my life, so I moved back to the village I grew up in, a three-hour train ride away from Prague. I now have a home-working contract and as I now manage projects not people, and my role is global, I am not tied to an office location.  

When I was people manager myself, the best moments were to see my direct reports succeed and achieve their dreams. In my current role my biggest achievement to date was winning the Hasso Plattner Founders Award. This is the highest recognition you can achieve at SAP for innovation and I was honored to work with a team that built an Intelligent Case Routing solution leveraging AI and improving both customer and employee experience. By routing customer problems to the engineers using AI and machine learning we can free up engineers to work smarter and decrease the number of touchpoints the customer has to go through.

The project was a perfect example of a true collaboration across different departments from developers and product support to the people that speak to the customers about their pain points on a daily basis. We all came together as one. In the early days this meant additional hours and people working on the project in their own time. Only when we got leadership buy-in we could actually implement the idea and make it real. My role was to gain this buy-in and I am very proud of what the team achieved. 

It’s the people around me that keep me motivated. When you see that your work actually improves the day-to-day job of your colleagues and customer experience, such impact keeps you motivated. 

Outside of work I use my problem-solving skills on puzzles. I also play piano in a rock band. We play cover songs in Czech – so think ACDC songs but with Czech lyrics. My bandmates are all from the village I grew up in and when I was living in Prague this meant a 3-hour commute on a Friday night to play a gig on Saturday and travel back to Prague on Sunday. This is another reason why I am grateful for the flexibility SAP gives me to work from home.  

What advice would Alena give to someone considering joining SAP? Do not just consider it. Do it! SAP is an employer that fosters teamwork, diversity, inclusion and innovation and supports employees. Here you can have it all.  

Connect with Alena on LinkedIn

In 2020 one of the winners of the Hasso Plattner award, SAP’s highest award for innovation, was the Intelligent Case Routing Solution created within SAP Concur in Prague. The solution leveraged AI and machine learning to route customer problems directly to engineers, allowing engineers to work smarter and provides a streamlined and improved experience to customers.

This breakthrough was a team effort. A team made up of colleagues in both customer facing and engineering roles, providing different perspectives, making the solution so effective. Two such people are Alena and Justin.

Justin: “It’s been a completely organic process for us. We’ve worked on the project with a start-up mentality in the last place most outsiders would expect a start-up to happen. People forget that. People see SAP as this behemoth but within SAP there is an incredible amount of innovative work going on.”

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