At SAP, we believe that when you bring everything you are, you can become everything you want.
Not all of us know everything. Making things better, revamping them socially or economically, that is how we are challenged to overcome gaps that exist in our knowledge.
Ask Emil Farkhan if he was named after Emile Zola, the 19th-century French novelist and playwright who was one of his country’s most prominent literary figures, and he breaks out into a huge grin.
"Ya, ya, ya", he says, laughing.
But wait, there’s more. It’s not quite so simple.
"My father named my siblings and me in alphabetical order. There are five of us, so we were respectively given names that began with A, B, C, D, and E. My eldest sibling is A – Ahmad. I’m the youngest, E – Emil. I was given the name of this writer and intellectual because I think my father was reading his books at the time. It was probably like, ‘I love this writer, and here is my fifth child, so I’ll name my son after him.’
"Naming a baby is really a big deal, because it is branding a child for life, and I’m happy with the name I was given. Just as branding is important to SAP, it’s important to me personally as well, as a person named Emil. My father chose well."
But there is one piece of information Emil does not reveal, and that only comes to light much later. His middle name is – of course – Zola. After completing a Bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering, he did a Masters in oil and gas engineering at the University of Aberdeen. His career started in the geothermal industry before he moved to a telco and then to the oil and gas industry before he started at SAP as a Presales Associate in April 2017.
"My university major was industrial studies, which is quite interesting because my siblings and I all chose different majors at university. In each of their cases it was more about life skills rather than formal skills. Sure, formal skills are important, but they’re more temporary in nature. And yes, my industrial curriculum was formal skills but they’re more general, so they’re applicable across several fields. I have no regrets at all about that. But when you think about my siblings as a whole, one is in the medical field, one is a civil engineer who went into banking instead, one is an accountant, the last one is oculist and so I guess between us we’ve got every major field covered! That’s one way of looking at it.
"It’s interesting to look back and think about what brought me to SAP. In my third job, I realized that if you grow up in one particular company or remain in one specific industry, you will always spin around the same context. I didn’t want to be intellectually or operationally limited, so I decided to find a way to get a flavor of other industries as well, to broaden my experience. Think about it – nowadays, far more industries are connected than before. The more you correlate, the more it forces you to think in a diverse way. Intellectually, it is increasingly possible for a person to move from one industry to another, whereas one generation ago, in my parents’ time, that was not necessarily the case.
"I picked this medium in order to achieve that kind of professional flavor. I had a person who approached me on LinkedIn. After that, I applied to SAP. I already knew about the company because previously I used to be in the data cleanup area for plant maintenance.
"When I had my interview for SAP, I was a little nervous because it was something new for me. Then, when they rang me to say they were offering me the job I thought it was great. I was freelance at the time and so I was like, wow, this is really happening! I told my parents, but I actually didn’t tell my siblings because they didn’t know about SAP, so it really didn’t matter. They’re like, what is this company? And I said, oh it’s just a company.
"Then when I was told that I was going to the Pre-Sales Academy in San Ramon, I was very excited. I wondered what was ahead of me and what I was going to learn. It was really good because it taught me about the many faces of diversity. The majority of the assignments were done in a group context. There were only maybe one or two individual assignments and the rest were done as part of a group effort. But being a part of the group really challenged us to have different measurements, different goals, different attitudes. And different perspectives, too. That was really important to me.
"For sure, it pushed me out of my comfort zone, yeah, because I was born and raised in an Asian way, in one of the developing countries. Many of the others at the Academy came from a different context, having been born and raised in different social contexts, in different nations. The way in which we all think is totally different – in defining priorities, in designing, in approach. When you have to solve a problem, how do you approach the problem? The way in which people do that is totally different depending on who they are, and so much of that comes from how the person is born and raised.
"That experience taught me to be open and to approach things differently. I enjoyed the way they challenged us at the Academy. So like, even though you know the glass is full and you’ve already met the expectations, how about I offer you another glass? It’s always like that. Because of that, now I reflect far more deeply on my customer visits. It’s totally true that the industry will always challenge us, it will always challenge everybody – so then, what if we do in a different way? What if we simplify things? What if we use a completely different approach? It creates a lot of hope in every single line of business. And so much of the thinking that we need, or that I use in particular, comes from what I was exposed to in San Ramon.
"I learned to think more outside the square, for sure. In essence, being able to think outside the square is not simply about creating a new scenario, it’s never about a copy and paste approach, but it comes down to how you step back and look at it from a different perspective. When I finished at San Ramon, I was a different person from when I arrived there. In the interim, I realized that listening is really important. The way in which you listen really helps you accumulate every single point of view, and that in turn gives you a more nuanced standpoint. And after that, you know how to react in the best possible way. It really taught me how to reframe the basics. For instance, what is the concept, what is the objective, and what are we striving to achieve? If you listen, then you evaluate, and that helps you understand – and if you evaluate and you understand, then you work out the most appropriate solution in that situation.
"Now in my role, I understand even more than ever before that the listening skill is so important. And by that I mean listening in a purely business context, not a social context. I know now that business meetings are about listening because this is actually the foundation of the processes that follow. If you don’t listen, you don’t understand what a customer’s pain point is. Sometimes, being able to listen really does help us to connect the dots. It helps us uncover and accurately identify their needs. That’s why it is so valuable.
"Being able to do this turns each one of us into Yoda. That’s what we should aspire to. Every one of us should want to be a Yoda, in every single aspect of a business. He coaches the protagonist in a balanced and relaxed way, not dictates him because Yoda believes about momentum” “If you have the approach that a one-fix approach can solve every issue, that’s not going to work. If you just tinker with something to fix it, it will die eventually. We need to be constantly adaptable in the long term. Whatever action we take, whatever belief we have, we must always be willing to take on board new ways of doing and unexpected new case. Our industry is always changing, which means customers are always changing too.
"If you take this a few steps further, what I learned in San Ramon really prepared me for these scenarios. It made me believe that I was ready to do things in a different way from what I was geographically hard-wired to do. Some people can do it in a totally American way, some people can do it in a totally Asian way. But it is actually possible to take the best factors from both scenarios and to really contextualize them for our Asian customers. What is totally American might not necessarily work for them, but if we can adapt lessons from America and put them forward in a way that is relevant to our customers in Asia, then it proves that operational flexibility is possible and can certainly be successful in any context.
"We have an existing business culture here in SEA, but even within the Southeast Asia region, there are different approaches in different countries. It’s up to us to work out how best to approach a Singaporean customer and how do we approach an Indonesian customer and so on? Each country is totally different. I see that all the time as I travel throughout the region. The fact is, what works well in one country does not necessarily work as effectively in another.
"When my family members ask me about my job now, I tell them it’s a company that challenges us in our own respective states of cluelessness or journeys along the path to wisdom. Not all of us know everything, which in turn means that we are all clueless about some aspect of life. But making things better, revamping them socially or economically is all about context, and that is how we are challenged to overcome gaps that exist in our knowledge. That’s what SAP does for us.
"We say we make the world run better, and while that might sound idealistic to some, it really is a must in terms of our strategic vision. The purpose is really what matters, not just the messaging around it. What’s of prime importance for me is the fact that we do make communities run better and we do have a deep sense of purpose that runs through everything we do. Whether we articulate that well or not is really immaterial. Being genuinely driven by purpose is what counts the most. I love the fact that we are constantly looking for more meaningful ways in which to improve people’s lives.
"Context is so important in what we do at SAP. And it resonates with me because when I was a kid I was drawn to history, which is all about context. I would have liked to become a historian because it was my favorite subject in school, but if you are growing up in a developing country, you can’t really make a career out of history because I don’t think it’s a very well-paid profession. History makes us understand that people always have a way of doing things. No matter how many wars there have been and no matter how many disasters there have been, mankind has always come up with amazing achievements. The motivation of having progress throughout humanity can be traced throughout every period of history.
"But I began to think about a career far removed from being a historian. And in this respect I was definitely inspired by my dad. He’s an entrepreneur, so when I was so little he was always busy, he was always taking calls in different time zones, even if it was 2 am or 4 am. But even then I could understand that every day signified progress for him. He always treasures big and small opportunities, and I think that’s why I understand, and I empathize deeply with customers. After all, they are all looking for future opportunities.
"Sometimes, when you dream about your job, you just lock into one context, but it’s better to be more diverse. It’s a bit like having your own playlist. You have to enjoy it. And that’s precisely why I enjoy being at SAP. We have a great playlist here."
You may also be interested in…
Students and graduates
How do we keep our entrepreneurial spirit? We hire students, recent graduates and young professionals who think differently and push businesses to do things smarter and more sustainably. Check out our university programs to get a head start.
Life at SAP
We go to great lengths to ensure you have every opportunity to succeed – in your own way. Flourish in an environment that encourages free expression, collaboration, individuality, and diversity. Learn how we operate, innovate, work, play, and give back – to make sure we’re the right fit for you.
Want to work in your hometown, on the other side of the world, or somewhere in between? SAP has offices on most continents, in more than 78 countries – and we’re continuously expanding our presence in new and exciting places.