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Ryan's Story

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

I’m often asked how my military service has impacted my career at SAP. Through deployments in highly volatile situations, I’ve learned to remain calm and rational during “stressful” situations.

Ryan Somers

Over my 14 year career at SAP, I have had the freedom to pursue several different roles within the company, and also to simultaneously advance my Air Force career. I’m privileged to work in SAP’s Sponsorships department while also serving as a Captain, working in the Intelligence Community for the last eight years.

Like many high school graduates, my options for college were pretty limited due to insanely high cost of higher education. In 2001, after two years at a community college, I heard about part time options in the Air Force and it appealed to me because I could finish college (for free!), while serving. It was absolutely an economic decision (at first), and not one born thru patriotism. I was going to get in, do my six years of service, and get out.

The tragic events of 9/11 occurred right after I finished my initial training. I remember the mood of the country during this time, and we were unified together, in ways that I had never witnessed previously. I could feel the immense patriotism building inside of me. The “economic” decision to enlist, was morphing toward a true sense of purpose. This led to my first deployment to Iraq in 2003. This profound experience . During this deployment, I was working 18-hour days loading the A-10 aircraft with weaponry, many days working and sleeping in my tent with very heavy and hot chemical gear to protect myself from incoming SCUD missiles, each with the potential to deploy chemicals weapons. During one specific attack, I even helped Diane Sawyer don her mask and gear, all while filming! I developed a sense of brotherhood with my fellow Airmen, who were just as responsible for my life as I was theirs. It will come as no surprise that the military is very much a leader-follower hierarchy, but what I learned was the valuable skill of how to influence strategically, even at a lower rank.

After my Iraq deployment, I returned to my civilian job. It was 2003, and I was a young professional eager to start building my civilian career alongside what was now a developing military career. But my job at the time was just that: a job. I felt stagnant because I was not being challenged, and I was certainly not on any sort of career growth track. That changed when I joined SAP in early 2006. Here was a company with offices across the globe and tens of thousands of employees who wanted to “make the world run better and improve people’s lives,” as our tagline goes. I learned really quickly that what we do at SAP is so much more than marketing-speak. In one of my roles leading the Customer Storytelling team, I interviewed customers who used SAP products to power cancer research, and to build renewable energy resources.

I am a huge sports fan, and the customer stories I wrote about SAP products powering the NBA and NHL’s statistics was of huge interest to me. With my manager’s overwhelming support, I started what was supposed to be a fellowship in our Global Sponsorship department. My fellowship turned into a permanent role change in Global Sponsorships, which is absolutely not uncommon at SAP. Employees have the freedom to pursue sabbaticals, fellowships, and rotational programs to find out what their true passion is, and impact SAP’s customers with that heightened energy and expertise.

My second deployment came in 2008 as an SAP employee, this time to Afghanistan. While I was deployed SAP held my job and paid me deferential pay. I can’t tell you the sense of security this gave my wife and I (especially because she was pregnant during that time). While I was deployed, my SAP colleagues sent me funny notes and care packages, and our former CEO, Bill McDermott sent me a personal letter thanking me for my service. I don’t think you find that genuine sense of connection with colleagues at every company.

Friends and colleagues often ask me how my military service has impacted my career at SAP. I always say really it works both ways. Because of my time on deployments in highly volatile situations, I can make very rational decisions in my civilian job at SAP, bringing a sense of calmness and mental fortitude to everything I do. I also reflect to those deployments in a very positive light. Even in some of the darkest, most dangerous corners of the planet, I was able to keep a smile, remain optimistic, and even enjoy a few special moments. Working for a large global corporation with such creative freedom to innovate, diversity of thought and cultures also has a positive impact on my military career.

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