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Laura's Story

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

I learn something new every day from this incredible community and personally, I like the ethos of being committed to each other’s success.

Laura Atkinson

Laura is Head of Partners and Alliances for SAP UK & Ireland having joined from Microsoft in 2017. We spoke to her about her role, and how she manages to juggle work, children, and a very demanding pug.

What does it mean to be Head of Partners and Alliances?

I will go on record now, and say I absolutely love my current role at SAP (this always seem to shock people when I say it!).

I run our Partners and Alliances business in the UK and have a team who manage our largest and most strategic Systems Integrator Partners, our Hyperscaler Partners, and our UKI Solution Extension business. I have personally recruited almost all of my current team, and we have a fantastic mix of backgrounds and experiences. I find being a manager very rewarding, and I love spending time with our very talented and very committed Partners. I learn something new every day from this incredible community and personally, I like the ethos of being committed to each other’s success.

I am also fortunate to sit on the SAP UKI Board and Leadership team. This is another very rewarding part of my role, as I feel that I get a chance to input into the strategic direction of our Business here in the UK. We have a great Leadership team here, very collaborative and very supportive.

You’ve been in the IT industry 25 years, so obviously knew who SAP were, but what made you join us?

During my tenure at Microsoft, I collaborated with SAP on a few deals, so had quite a lot of exposure to them as a business during that time. Having said that – I had no idea that 77% of the World's GDP flows through SAP, until I joined. It’s only then that you realise the huge scale of our business and the impact our customers have on the world!

An ex colleague joined SAP and was really enjoying it, and that made me consider the move in 2017. SAP are such a large company, with such great opportunity for its employees, so I wanted to see what roles might suit my skills sets.

I joined in the S4 HANA Public Cloud Line of Business, running the Channel Partners for EMEA North and South. I had team members in six different countries. When SAP absorbed that line of business back into the Market Units, I moved into the main UK business in the Alliances team. Firstly, I ran the UKI Solex business, then moved into running our emerging partnership with Microsoft, and then some of our System Integrator Partners. When my Manager moved on, I successfully applied to replace her, and since October of 2019, I have been running the team.

Many people feel that SAP, and sales in particular, is a very masculine environment. Do you agree, and do you see this changing?

There is no doubt that at SAP, there are more male sellers than females. However, I do not feel this is much different to most other large IT companies. I think a predominantly male dominated sales environment is the same in many of the other companies that I have worked in. Indeed, when I first started my sales career at Microsoft in 2000, I was the only female in my sales team! However, I think that as young women become more and more confident, we are seeing more females in all levels of sales roles. This is definitely something that SAP is actively encouraging, and we are certainly seeing some positive results in the mix of our sales force.

What advice would you giveto young women considering a sales career with SAP?

Believe in yourself. So many young women (and older ones too!) doubt their own capabilities, and lack confidence in their convictions and opinions. I used to constantly doubt myself at the start of my career and wish I had had more self-belief! Now, I am much more sure of myself. I voice my opinions with confidence, and nine times out of 10, it ends well.

I would also say that it is really important to come to work and be “your authentic self”. You need to create a good personal brand at any company you work for, but it’s hard to do that if you are constantly “playing a role” – especially if that is to be more like your male counterparts. Females bring many strengths to a sales environment. They might be different to those of your male colleagues, but that doesn’t mean they are not as impactful! In many cases, they are absolutely vital! It is your skills, your approach and your personality that will get the roles that you want, as much as it is your experience! So be yourself!

What is it about SAP’s culture that stands out?

I think there is a genuine desire to make a difference – which is great. I think we put innovation at the heart of what we do, and I also think the company has a bigger heart than perhaps it gets credit for. We do care about our employees and customers, and there is always the goal of making everyone as successful as possible.

What does success mean to you? Has SAP allowed you to reach that success?

Honestly - success to me used to mean how high up I could go on the org chart. Now – it’s different. Now, success for me is doing a job that I like, with people that I like – and respect, and that the role allows me to manage my work life balance effectively. I am a single mum of 2 kids, so managing my work life balance is absolutely critical, and if I can do a job that I love, whilst being able to fulfill my responsibilities as a parent, that is a massive win for me.

What about outside of work? Does working for SAP allow you to have a work-life balance?

Spare time has a bit of a mythical-like quality for me these days! I constantly seem to have loads to do. If it’s not work, it’s home, or it’s my children or my Pug (who is very demanding at all times!!). But I do try and drive a good work / life balance for myself. SAP is pretty flexible, and I think as long as you have some good track record to build on, you can get a strong platform to discuss your worklife balance requirements with your boss – in my case the MD. I was very upfront with our MD from day one that there would be times when I can’t physically do meetings because of my obligations towards my children, and he was very supportive – which is great. So, I think you can proactively manage your work life balance – but of course – you have to deliver! Having said that– when you get to senior levels in SAP – or indeed any company – you have to be realistic about being available at evenings / weekends. I do a fair bit of work outside of core office hours, but if I can leave a little early, have dinner with children, chat about their day, meet all the demands of my Pug, then do a little bit of work, then I can make things work for me, for my family and for SAP.

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