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Irene Chen

Development Manager, Products & Innovation

At SAP, ‘innovation’ means challenging the status quo, looking at solutions from different perspectives, and working collaboratively to create a better reality.

Irene Chen

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

I was born in Shanghai, China, and my life and career has revolved around this beautiful city ever since. A Shanghainese girl through and through, I was thrilled when I was accepted into Tongji University in 1998 to pursue my bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Technology. After graduation, I continued with my master’s at the same institution.

Then, I could count only a handful of women in my classes. It was my father who encouraged me to go into computer sciences. He saw an industry that was rapidly growing and offered promising career prospects. Looking back, I don’t think either of us could have predicted the extent that technology would change how we live, work and play. That makes what I do very exciting. There is never a dull day.

When I joined SAP in 2005, SAP Labs, the company’s development arm, had only been established in Shanghai for two years. The team was relatively modest in size with about 300 employees working on enterprise management products and addressing local customers' development requests. Today, SAP Labs China employs more than 3,500 people and continues to grow as SAP’s product portfolio expands.

As a pragmatic young person looking for a stable career, SAP ticked many boxes, an open company culture, good benefits and a great office location. 13 years later, it’s the team’s passion for innovation that has led me to stay. The word ‘innovation’ can have different definitions depending on who you ask. At SAP, it means challenging the status quo, looking at solutions from different perspectives, and working collaboratively to create a better reality.

As a technologist, you will face several crossroads over the span of your career. For example, at one point I had to decide between staying in development or moving into a product owner role. The decision weighed heavily on my mind and I turned to my mentor in SAP’s mentoring program, a resource that is available to every SAP employee. She guided my decision with a simple question: “Imagine if you had to do the work every day, would you be 100% passionate about it?” My answer was clear. I decided to stay in development and today, I manage teams of developers, which has added a different dimension to my career.

Working in technology can be extremely challenging, both professionally and personally. That is not a bad thing. Challenges present great opportunities and working with great people will help you overcome them and achieve more than you can imagine. 10 years ago, when I was on a business trip for a customer pilot project, I encountered technical issues that I couldn’t resolve. To add salt to the wound, I sprained my ankle on the trip and had to forgo the return flight home until we could resolve the customer escalation. I was very depressed and embarrassed. Noticing the state that I was in, a colleague gifted me a hat. It was a common straw hat, but he spun a tale that it was a magical hat, which would empower my mind and intelligence. I knew it was his way of encouraging me, and I was moved by his kindness and care. In the end, I did a great job, which opened doors to new opportunities. I still have the hat.

At SAP, there are many ways for you to define your own success. Switching career paths and departments is highly possible and encouraged. Interested in learning a new programming language? We will find the right project for you to learn. You will need to meet challenges head on, but there will be a team behind you who will help you turn them into life-changing opportunities.

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