Originally published and shared by Caroline Harper, SAP EMEA Communications UK.
Zeynep Keskin, Managing Director - SAP Turkey, answers a few questions and shares a personal view on leadership at SAP.
What was your route to becoming a leader at SAP?
I’m currently in my 24th year in the IT industry and aside from SAP I’ve worked at other big technology companies such as NCR, HP and Cisco.
I started out my career in the sales field, before I moved into more management and leadership focussed roles. I’ve always liked the technology industry because it’s fast paced, continuously growing and creates significant business value for many other industries.
I firmly believe that when you are passionate about what you do you will always be willing to take the necessary steps and go the extra mile. I believe that at SAP, we all have the chance to engage our own entrepreneurial spirit and to take initiative and responsibility. In return we have plenty of opportunities to grow quickly and enhance our networks.
I’m very confident that I’ve found the right company!
What advice would you give to colleagues who aspire to move into leadership roles?
First of all, I’ve always believed that nothing is simply given to you. You have to go out there and create your own career path, your own destiny and build your own credibility.
You need to be passionate about what you do and feel that it is this ‘adrenaline’ that will push you further. You also have to look positively at difficulties and challenges, enjoy learning and be willing to share what you’ve learnt.
Constant change is our life-style. Change means greater opportunities, new responsibilities, and new challenges. In our industry we are luckier than many others because there is ongoing change and innovation, bringing with it new opportunities.
Finally, one has to feel the empowerment within herself/himself. This leads to the creation of your own path.. becoming effective leaders.
Do you think SAP as a Cloud company offers different opportunities to become effective leaders across the business?
Definitely, Cloud technology is opening new opportunities in the business world in which we operate. There will be a new ecosystem and ‘go-to’ market model and new ways of working and leading. People who embrace these changes will create new, exciting opportunities for themselves.
Transformation in our business is taking place right now. If you are part of this, you have the chance to make a real difference and become an effective leader. There is a tremendous opportunity not only to be part of this change, but to lead it, particularly for the younger generation.
What advice would you give to your daughter or son to help them become business leaders?
I was the youngest daughter in the family we took different paths but we always enjoy being part of each others path. I have two sons. My elder son is 19 and just about to take important steps in his life, I don’t believe that he is ready to make concrete plans but I do encourage my both sons to always have dreams at any stage. To become a leader in society or business, you have to have dreams first that you can then turn into life plans. Finally, rather than giving advice, I try to be a role model for my children. I hope I am a role model for them so that they support women and diversity in their social and business life.
What is the key to effective communication and leadership for managers at SAP?
The first crucial thing is empathy. You have to build it with team members, peers and your customers .Within the entire SAP ecosystem, I would say the most important thing is to build empathy. This is achieved through open communication, and ensuring you understand every individual’s needs and aspirations.
The second thing is simplicity. Being clear and simple in your messaging. We now operate in a business world that has fundamentally shifted – there is less of a hierarchy, more openness and empathy. It is crucial that we continue to communicate in clear and efficient terms.
Finally, I cannot stress enough the importance of sharing our enthusiasm and energy! For me it is important to share this with my team to have common dreams and to be part of the team rather than being an unreachable leader for them. Who do you think is the greatest leader of all time? Who inspires you the most?
If you look back in Turkish history, Turkey was founded as a republic in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. He transformed the country from what was the Ottoman Empire to a Turkish Republic. The changes were enormous – he changed the way of life, democracy, culture and values.
He was a believer in people (particularly the young generation) and he believed in Turkey as a nation. He was also very humble and captured the hearts and minds of the Turkish people. He was also very determined and people were willing to follow his actions.
One of his most important characteristics was that he knew when to step down and put new leaders in place in Turkey. For me, this is why he was such a great leader.
Could you explain what our new strategy, SAP the Cloud Company powered by HANA, means for you in your daily job?
It’s not a change in the daily life but it is rather a transformation towards a simplified GTM, more coverage and more efficiency.
Do you think the way you do business at a local level will change as we become the Cloud Company?
This new model will allow us to reach out to more businesses, people and networks than ever before. It will help us show customers that we are easy to reach, easy to work with, fast and flexible. The message in the market that we want to convey is that we are not just a core partner anymore; but we are simple and easy to do business with.
Our market, Turkey, may not be fully ready for the Cloud right now, but I’m confident that this new technology will be accepted quickly because it’s so easy and efficient for business.
How will you continue to build the momentum around innovation with your customers?
The first word that we want to hear from our customers when they think of SAP is ‘innovation.’ We can create momentum within our market if we promote innovation as a partnership; as something that we do with our customers, rather than for them. With the introduction of the Cloud, there is now a great new platform for innovation, and I think that SAP is the only company out there highlighting this.
It’s important to remember though that you cannot innovate alone – you have to include lots of different stakeholders. I think this is something that SAP has been very good at doing.
Franck recently wrote, “Simplification starts with us." How will you support the company goal of simplifying everything from an internal perspective in your Market Unit?
I believe that every single Market Unit should be part of a simplification story. In Turkey, I encourage people to talkless aboutcomplexity but more about simplification.. I also encourage people to think twice about what they are doing– is it really adding value? Is it absolutely necessary? Is there a way of making the process more efficient? and find out more creative ways to do it.
What impact does great team leadership (i.e. within SAP) have on the experience that customers have with us?
We work with thousands of corporations and literally millions of end users. It’s important to remember that the work we do impacts the lives of many different people.
The right leadership style will create motivated, energized and passionate employees. In turn, happy employees create happy customers. As leaders, if we are the right role models, it will make our people act in the correct way.
It all starts with communication: how you deliver messages; how you respond to challenges and how you can inspire people. Whatever you do when you’re at the top, it has a domino effect on many different players part of the chain.
What’s your greatest business achievement?
I’m most proud of my determination, which has helped me stay in this industry for a long time and get good results from it. I’m very lucky to have witnessed lots of different changes, including mergers and acquisitions, and major technological advances. I’m very happy to be working in an industry where I can use what I’ve learnt effectively and continue learning every day. I’m proud to be part of a world that never stops changing or evolving.
All of this has helped me take on this leadership role at one of the leading companies in the world.
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