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James' story

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The culture of SAP, the dynamics, has not changed. It’s all about people. It’s all about meeting our customers' challenges. You need people to make the dots connect.

James Idun

I was born in Ghana in West Africa. I am a runner and I qualified for the 1980 Olympics in Moscow but on my way to the airport, I was told Ghana was not participating due to the political situation at the time. I was in the best shape of my life! I had to really accept that as defeat. I almost quit running, but I picked myself up, stuck with it and ran track for the University of Nevada at Reno where I had a full scholarship. In 1984 I was asked again by the Ghana team to compete in the Olympics, but I declined. The family and friends that I had made in the US wanted me to experience what I had missed in 1980 and they raised money for me and my friend from Ghana to go to the Olympics in Los Angeles. The entry in the stadium was a surreal feeling. That was better than the actual running.

Before 1980 Olympics, I wanted to be the fastest in my town, my region, my country, and I achieved that. Even with all the adversity of injury and then not being able to compete in the Olympics, I remained an optimist. I had the idea that I was going to win.

I went to Drexel University for Mathematics and then to the MBA program after my undergrad degree. I realized that I’d gone to school for so long and wanted to do something different.

I was in my living room, and I saw a handwritten note on a roommate’s wall, saying there is a new company and they are hiring. It was 1988.

I got an interview with the SAP President in the local office in New Jersey where SAP was just renting space. I was asked to come for a 2nd interview and then offered a job where I would move to Germany for 6 months. For most of that time, I worked from home, as there was no office space for me.

First, I had to learn German and then, I had the privilege of learning all about SAP software, directly from Hasso Plattner, a founding member of SAP! It was a very unique and special experience that I will never forget. I was one of what they called the SAP Hundred. There were 6 of us from the US, some from UK, France, etc. and we were all right out of school and eager to learn. The SAP product and the people are what motivated me. SAP had such brain power in this group of people. They were patient, and they knew that what they were doing was great, and revolutionary. I was working with SAP founders, the best in the industry!

When I first started at SAP the technology was more application based. Our solutions could integrate applications, they could talk to each other. That was really innovative. It was multi-language and multi-currency. That is what drove us into the marketplace; the product sold itself. It was built like a German car, that’s what we would jokingly say.

I was in the field a lot, very technical work moving from product to product, I actually ended up in sales because I had learned the whole suite of SAP software, even though that was not the purpose. I had such a breadth of experience and I could bring something to product development, because I had such experience with all of the SAP products.

Now that we are bigger, we have more processes, more tools, more people. What has never changed is that people are willing to listen and willing to work together. The emphasis has always been on personal relationships both internally and externally. We all work together to help ensure our customers’ success. I travel quite a bit. Every one or two weeks, I go into my home office to meet new employees, to see what customers they are talking to, and where the synergies and challenges are. The culture of SAP, the dynamics, has not changed. It’s all about people. It’s all about meeting our customers' challenges. You need people to make the dots connect.

I had a mentor at SAP named Wendy. She was like a mother to me, and took a personal interest in me. I became a mentor as well because I had such a great experience. Giving is the best way to learn. The more you give, the more challenges you can tackle and that makes you feel not so all alone. It makes you feel connected. I am a problem solver. By listening to others, I learn how to solve my own problems, and my customers’ problems. When I put my mind to something, I will achieve it. I do my homework and go for it. Just do it! That is my motto.

I’ve done training, consulting, escalation resolving issues with customers over 100M, etc. You need a team: you + 1, or you + 100. Each person needs to have skin on the game. I am a customer focused guy and I work for the customer.

Connect with James on LinkedIn > >

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