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Arnaud Merlet

Chief Operating Officer, SAP France

The team you join is more important than the role you assume or the title you get.

Arnaud Merlet
Paris, France

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

By Lineke Stolker
Arnaud Merlet has had a diverse career so far. After graduating from Engineering School, he worked as an IT Consultant for the banking industry in New York for five years before going back to Europe to earn his MBA at INSEAD.
He joined SAP as a Value Engineer in 2010, and then rapidly became executive assistant then chief of staff for Franck Cohen, President of the EMEA Region. This experience really widened his insight into the business, including customer engagement, deal structuring, and forecasting processes. Running an EMEA operations team helped him develop the people dimension of management. Last year he assumed his current role as COO for France.
Be flexible in your career planning
“Looks like I have had a smooth career, but truth is even though I knew where I was going, I did not plan all the steps. It was more like a series of opportunities, wise decisions and hard work,” says Arnaud. He stresses the importance of having a career plan, but the reality is that you have to stay flexible, because you never know how things will pan out exactly.
Arnaud chose SAP after his MBA graduation because the vision behind the solid, innovative strategy and prosperous, international environment with its high level of expertise, resonated with him. “SAP is large and diverse enough to learn how to manage in a complex organization, with strong local execution enabling you to have impact,” says Arnaud. His learning focuses on building experience for a general management position and he freely admits he still has much to learn.
Choose the right team
The most important career advice, according to Arnaud, is firstly to carefully choose the manager who is going to help you grow. “You decide who this person will be; you pick the one who will guide you. The team you join is more important than the role you assume or the title you get,” explains Arnaud.
Do the rights things for the company
Another wise lesson comes from how we should see our job. “Focus on the integrity and quality of your job and ask yourself what you would do if SAP was your company. Caring about your contribution is caring about doing what’s best for your customer and your company, not just about reaching your KPIs. This builds trust among others and gives you legitimacy for the next job,” he explains.
“Inherent motivation should always be the driver, that’s why the above is so important!” he concludes.
Get out of your comfort zone
“Being pushed and challenged constantly by a manager can be a sign of trust. Great managers will take you outside of your comfort zone and constant adaptation prepares you for the next step,” explains Arnaud. “And, as a manager, your success will only be determined by your ability to attract the best people and to challenge them to excel”.
He concludes with a reminder for employees by saying: “Do not get out of the heat, because that is where you learn, but remember to get out before you get burnt!”

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