I've just completed my first week back in the office after 2 weeks on the SAP Social Sabbatical program working with The Smith Family. I'd always known it was going to be a great experience, but I could never have imagined how much I could learn (and accomplish!) in 13 days.
"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." - Winston Churchill
In the last 4 years SAP has been partnering with nonprofit organisations around the world to identify critical and high-profile projects that may have a high impact on other peoples' lives. In parallel, SAP selects program participants from its top-performing employees and creates teams per project/organisation. At program start those high-profile projects are then handed each to designated team so that Social Sabbatical participants can get their teeth into it. There are global programs on developing countries going on for a month, regional ones lasting 2 weeks and local programs in developing nations where SAP has presence are held on a more ongoing basis.
The program I participated was the very first in Australia and was at regional scale. We were 12 participants working on 2 organisations - 6 working on Australian Indigenous Education Foundation and 6 on The Smith Family. Latter team was split in 2 sub-projects, so I was working with other 2 colleagues on a team of 3. We were all tasked with:
Creating high-performing teams with SAP colleagues from all sorts of areas and backgrounds, but whom we had never met before
Working on a high-profile and high-impact project on an organisation we knew virtually nothing about
Deliver as much value as possible through recommendations and ready-to-use deliverables whenever possible, so that we potentialise the impact on the lives that those organisations improve
Propose implementation plans that are as cost-neutral and easy to implement as possible, so that charity organisations can accomplish it
Do all of the above in 13 days
The Organisation: The Smith Family
A better future for young Australians in need.
To create opportunities for young Australians in need
by providing long-term support for their participation
I myself come from a disadvantaged family, so I deeply understand the challenges faced by families going through financial hardship. To me it's a sublime privilege to have the opportunity of helping an organisation focused at improving educational outcomes of disadvantaged kids. My personal values and experience profoundly align with the vision of breaking the poverty cycle through education.Additionally, as a migrant from a developing country I am absolutely delighted with the opportunity of building a better future for the country I now call home. It's a way to give back to this society that so readily welcomed my family.
In those 13 days there were a number of lessons I learned, from which I name a few below:
Some charity organisations are more mature and professional than I would've expected
There's a passion and commitment on charity workers that are just inspiring
Some charity organisations are causing great impact on society by following a vision which includes being evidence-based
There's great opportunity for substantial process improvements on organisation within the charity space
Story boards are an awesomely effective way of communicating
SAP is an amazing company with a wonderful culture which includes having real human beings in senior positions
SAP is implementing major CSR initiatives which are causing high positive impact
Major Takeaways Moving Forward
On top of those, there are 4 lessons I learned which I'm certain will cause a long-lasting impact on my life:
I Can Cause Major Impact on Organisations
I always knew I was a good professional and could produce good outcomes, because that's the education I had. However, in those 13 days I was able to contribute with my team on points that became recommendations potentially leading The Smith Family to double the number of scholarships with the same number of staff - which would mean a high-impact in the lives of up to 34,000 disadvantaged kids. Realising that I am able to offer that much value to an organisation and help them enable business at new scales was a major milestone. In my day job and on my career that translates as a professional operating at a different level, delivering much more value to clients and leading them on business enabling projects.
Listening is Great
Listening is critical, we all know that. It's already been long time since I learned that no matter how certain I am of something, I could always be wrong - so I'd better listen to others. However, in the course of those 13 days my views were shifting with each new input I heard and within such a short time span that I learned to enjoy listening. I now find pleasant to simply listen to different views hoping that a whole new perspective could be unveiled at any time. That is gold in my day job, as we're required to identify underlying client needs from many parts of their organisation and without true listening that process becomes painfully disruptive with the perception that requirements keep changing.
Talking about importance or teamwork is cliche, but having so much work done in such a short time and by colleagues which are so radically different made it crystal clear to me that no matter how hard one can work there are things that can only be accomplished when different individuals combine their different strengths. Amazing accomplishments can only be achieved through collaboration. Moving forward this means that I'll be building up from differences and enabling new levels of team accomplishments on my career.
I Can Cause High Social Impact from Within the Corporate World
Experiencing the difference between a sharp corporate perspective and the nonprofit world made it clear to me that I don't need to work in the charity space to help others in need, but I can cause high-impact in other people's lives while keeping my day job. I'll definitely be employing my corporate skills to improve other people's lives moving forward.
Thank You Notes
Robert Capanna - As my manager, thank you for supporting my participation in the program.
Perry Manross - Thank you for the opportunity to join the program and for all the effort required to make it happen