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Charlie's Story

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

The name of the SAP urban sketching club that I started here in Korea is The Creators. I act as a mentor for our own budding artists.

Charlie Lee

Contrary to everyone else in major IT companies around the world, Charlie Lee is keen to spread a virus.

He calls it his happy virus. "The IT world is dynamic. It’s fluid, it’s making rapid advances and because of that, there are some people who do feel the stress. So I try and neutralize that stress, and I do it by spreading the awareness of my happy virus. I have three hobbies – music, the outdoors, and drawing urban sketches – and I combine all three to try and help others realize that it’s not all about the pressure.

"I joined SAP in 2004 and I spent my first 12 years working in the sub-sales area, in client partner roles before I moved over to bid management for the Korean market units. This gave me the opportunity, especially last year, to use my story-telling approach for presentations at experience-sharing sessions. People who hear the term ‘happy virus’ for the first time always react with great interest and I am able to put a lot of passion into the concept because it truly reflects all of my three hobbies.

"While I love spending time in the outdoors, I don’t do it the traditional way, so I use a hammock instead of a tent. I enjoy spending time in a hammock. ‘Hanging’ is the real term for this and one of the books that truly inspired me in this respect is ‘Ultimate Hang’. These experiences give me a lot of information to share with my colleagues."

Given the severity of the winters, is it safe to assume that Charlie only goes camping in warm weather?

He laughs at that suggestion, a very polite laugh. "No, I go camping in winter as well. I’ve been doing this not just on my own but with my family as well, for the last six or seven years."

So what’s the best and most graceful technique to get in and out of a hammock, and how on earth is it possible to stay warm in one on a freezing night?

"I have no time to show you the technique right now, but if you come hammock camping with me, I would be glad to explain how to do it. Inside my home, I actually have a hammock suspended and that’s where I relax indoors. Because Korean winters are so cold, I also know the best mechanism of keeping warm in a hammock, rather than a bed. But my next goal is more extreme, and it’s one that I’ll perfect soon.

"Snapshots taken from my hammock are a big part of my presentations to my colleagues. So too are my urban sketches, which can be seen on my Instagram page. I participated in an industrial summit with my customer in 2015. There, I was inspired by an old painter's sketch and since then, it has become a major hobby. Since then, I have done 1,800 paintings, at an average of about 400 a year, which is more than once each day. It makes me very happy to do these on-location drawings. I also hosted my personal Urban sketch exhibition with my collections which are contained in about fifteen or sixteen sketchbooks. "See the world, One drawing at a time."

"For example, one of my paintings was done in a café, with all the people and I really try and capture the atmosphere. It’s not just people, but the motion as well. I sketch and paint everywhere, at exhibitions and during celebrations with my colleagues. I enjoy variation. One motion sketch was done at a lecture and another while I was waiting for my wife in a shopping mall. These urban sketches do not take longer than 30 minutes – and that’s not just the drawing, but the painting as well.

"That’s why I recommend urban sketching to my colleagues. It’s quick, it’s fun and it’s so fulfilling. I’m not a professional artist and I was never taught art. It’s just something I do as a form of expression and it reflects my joy and my interest in life and observation. But a lot of the urge to do urban sketching comes from people networking, which is part of my job in sales. The two just happen to go together. Especially when I play golf with my customers or even with my colleagues, I spend some time doing these sketches and after we finish the round, I actually send them to the customers. I see it in a very special way – and truly a unique way – to make a connection with my customers.

"As a bid manager in the Korean market unit, when we make a proposal to a customer, I often do a motion drawing and the first page of the big document is this drawing. It depends on the deal, it depends on the time, and it depends on the sort of rapport that we strike. Overall, it is a very healing and calming influence.

"I am very inspired by the work of James Richards from the United States. He is a world name in urban sketching. The central element at the core of urban sketching is speed. It is on-location drawing, completed as fast as possible. Last year’s urban sketching symposium was held in the United States, where I met many of the 800 global sketchers who were present, representing 46 countries. This year’s symposium will be held in Amsterdam in the Netherlands later this month. It’s a great opportunity for networking and the taglines are ‘We show the world, one drawing at a time’ and ‘We support each other and we draw together’, which is actually a very strong echo of what we do at SAP.

"As urban sketchers, we just carry a little sketchbook, pencils, and watercolors. That’s it. It’s easy to draw, easy to carry, easy to pack up when we finish. The name of the SAP urban sketching club that I started here in Korea is The Creators. I act as a mentor for our own budding artists. I hold sessions for our SAP employees. We draw together and we upload videos on YouTube. When Jen Morgan visited Korea, I did a live drawing of her session. And then after it was over, I showed it to her and she signed it.

"When I host a sketching instructional session at SAP, about 15 people join the class. And some of them really enjoy it, even though they are beginners. I was attracted to sketching because I’ve always been interested in the concept of people in motion. The challenge here is that movement is so dynamic and there is so much energy involved that it can be very hard to try and capture.

"Four years ago, I was a complete beginner, but it’s something that catches my interest every day. I would like to share this message with our colleagues because it represents grit, passion, and perseverance for a long-term goal. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in and day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years. And working really hard to make that future a reality. Which is all about living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

"I would like to spread my happy virus to all my colleagues at SAP, encouraging them to have long-term goals and always keep them in focus, by channeling the energy that the happy virus creates. I love connecting with people and I love networking. It is so dynamic, it is always in motion, and it’s in full color. And it changes every day. Exactly like SAP."

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