My management style is about letting people grow. If you control people very tightly, they will never realize the breadth of their potential. That also means keeping a close eye on what hampers them. It’s a manager’s duty to detect and resolve roadblocks that keep them from being their best.
When Karina Hermann joined SAP in 1996, she did not expect to carve out a career in software development, let alone become a people leader in the SAP S/4HANA Engineering organization where she is today.
She says, “I studied business economics, which had nothing to do with software. What I brought to the table was a business perspective and was fortunate to be given the opportunities to learn the rest.”
Karina is based in Germany and as part of the Quote to Cash team, she leads a group of engineering teams and oversees the product development for several Quote to Cash scenarios and processes.
Her teams deliver one of the most fundamental building blocks of modern commerce: businesses worldwide rely on our solution to generate sales orders, accept money from their customers and record these transactions in their ledger while ensuring a great customer experience.
As part of a global organization, Karina manages teams in different locations. She also works closely with other team leaders in development centers across the world to discuss product and business strategy and exchange industry news. That is how she met Jody Yang, location head of S/4HANA Quote to Cash, in Chengdu, China.
“Jody and I recognize that we are working on SAP’s heritage. It is what made our company so widely successful. We recognize that we have a joint responsibility to reinvent strategy at SAP and to reinvent business. This is a tremendous piece of work. What we have is precious and we are focused on transforming it for the future, so our customers can transform their business and be successful. This can only work when we have all teams behind us.”
Connecting with other team leaders, such as Jody, is also a chance to talk about people. Specifically, hiring, training, and motivating diverse teams made up of different backgrounds, experiences, and personalities.
“When I took on this role, it made total sense to align with Jody, because she runs the teams in Chengdu, and those teams significantly contribute to the product. Chinese engineering culture is different from European culture and I rely on her to guide me on how best to equip and lead her teams to ensure we are on the same journey together,” Karina says.
Karina takes her people manager role very seriously, and that means leading people with a light touch. She believes that when you give people the space to take ownership, speak up and contribute ideas, the individual and the organization will reach new heights.
“My management style is about letting people grow. If you control people very tightly, they will never realize the breadth of their potential. That also means keeping a close eye on what hampers them. It’s a manager’s duty to detect and resolve roadblocks that keep them from being their best.”
She adds, “The art of management is knowing when to step in and when to withdraw. If you manage like a monarch, you make yourself a bottleneck by design and that is not good management.”
When asked to share career advice, Karina looks back on her time at SAP thoughtfully. She believes that she got to where she is today by taking on new opportunities, growing confidence in her abilities, and listening to her instinct.
“You can grow your self-confidence only when you are adequately challenged and that's what happened in the early days of my SAP career. My former manager put a lot of trust in me and this helped me to grow tremendously. I don’t believe in making a strict career plan. I'm convinced that a career is something that happens iteratively. Ask yourself if you are where you want to be. If not, what steps should you take to get you to where you want to go? Do this often, not every five years,” she says.
Equally important is the people that you meet in your career and finding opportunities to work together to achieve shared goals, just like how she works with Jody.
“With Jody, we exchange thoughts, listen to each other and figure out good approaches to solving issues in our day-to-day work. We may come from different cultures, but that difference in perspectives has helped us to learn and grow together,” she says.
Karina shares that some people wonder why she’s stayed at SAP for so long. True to her beliefs, her tenure at SAP wasn’t planned. With every iteration, opportunities arose, and she trusted her instincts to say ‘yes’.
“All these years at SAP have never been boring. There were always new things to learn, new people to meet, new challenges and endeavors ahead, new topics coming up, new perspectives to listen to. That’s the reason why I stayed.”
Karina manages teams around the world from her office in Germany. She works closely with team leaders around the world, like Jody Yang, to align on business strategy and exchange industry best practices.
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