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Takeshi Kawanaka

Director at SAP Japan

Takeshi's story

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


At my previous company we referred to customers as clients, but here at SAP, the term is customer, which I feel is more personal. That was a big difference for me. Here at SAP, we go very wide and we also go very deep. This has been a very good experience for me.

Takeshi Kawanaka
Director at SAP Japan

A childhood visit to a library struck an immediate intellectual chord with Takeshi Kawanaka. “I grew up in Hiroshima prefecture,” he says, “and I must have been about nine or ten years old when I went to the library in the city. Some science magazines there caught my attention immediately. I was instantly captivated. I thought it was my career-defining moment and decided I was either going to be an electrical engineer or a mechanical engineer.”

He was so inspired by those magazines that he became driven to find out how things worked. He then explains, amid bursts of laughter, that his keenness actually got him into a lot of trouble with his father.

“After that I was always opening things up to find out how they worked and also to see if I could put them back together again. I would dismantle radios and I would take clocks apart. Did I get into trouble? Yes, of course! I always tried my best to put them back together again but I never quite managed to get it right. There always seemed to be a couple of pieces left over, unfortunately. Thinking back on it now, I never got into trouble for the dozens of pieces I put back correctly, you know, but just for the couple of pieces that remained on the table!

“As it turned out, I never did go into engineering. And even though I am very close to my family, it wasn’t too difficult for me to leave my home town. I was quite young, but I wanted to jump into the new world. After I graduated from university, I joined a professional services company and I worked there for 20 years before moving to SAP in 2013. Immediately, I noticed an interesting difference in terminology. At my previous company we referred to customers as clients, but here at SAP, the term is customer, which I feel is more personal. That was a big difference for me. Here at SAP, we go very wide and we also go very deep. This has been a very good experience for me.

“SAP represents many things to many people, but to me it represents power or energy, as well as intelligence, knowledge, integrity and experience. To make a customer happy, we need to make sure that everything fits together harmoniously.

“At SAP, we are totally geared towards customer satisfaction. That is the major goal and of course we have our own solutions. Some people might see that as a limitation, but we have a huge availability of products and a very wide range of solutions, so we can truly focus on the value proposition from any customer’s point of view.

“I guess it’s interesting that I’ve spent my entire working life at foreign companies and I’ve never actually worked for a Japanese company. A great deal of the satisfaction for SAP employees derives from the fact that there are so many different levels to our purpose. Our culture is changing and evolving every year. Right now we have a huge variety of programs – and while Back to Work and One Billion Lives are just two of the many components of the purpose that drives us, there weren’t that many aspects to our whole purpose umbrella about five or six years ago. That’s a great sign of how high it is on our agenda and how very important purpose is to us.

“Back when I joined SAP Japan, the really visible aspect of our CSR was strongly manifested in terms of what was being done in Fukushima. Also, some of the aspects that were added on to our CSR palette were really APJ initiatives before they were taken on globally. These are now even more tightly aligned with our daily jobs and responsibilities.

“I can honestly say that effective time management was not a part of my childhood, but on a side note, how many kids know anything about managing their time, and even if they do, why should they care about it! When I was a schoolboy, I was always late when it came to handing in my homework. Always. Instead of doing homework or school projects, I found it far more fun to watch American TV programs. My homework always got done, but let’s just say it wasn’t always submitted punctually. Strangely, all my projects at SAP are delivered on time and maybe that’s because I studied project management. Perhaps I should go back to my school and meet my teachers and say that, despite being tardy with my homework, I’ve actually turned out to be a really good role model.”


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