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After her initial career plans were shattered, Preeti Singh discovered the qualities inside herself that would turn her into the strong and independent woman she had always wanted to be.

Preeti Singh was heartbroken after her career plan was shattered. Just like her father, Preeti was determined to join the Indian Army after she gained her degree in computer science from a technical college in Bangalore. Having grown up on an army base and as a daughter of an army officer, she felt this was her ticket, her destiny, her birthright.

Other career options didn’t appeal to Preeti, and among the last things she wanted was to become a cog in the machine of the Indian IT industry. There she pictured workers with no life, boxed in to their offices by day, and long grinding commutes by night. “That sounded really boring and senseless to me,” says Preeti.

Close to despair, but not giving up

Life as a computer specialist in the Indian Armed Forces seemed much more exciting to the ambitious 24 year old. Preeti passed her military exams and medicals – but was close to despair when she learned that she placed only 23rd among 150 women for two open positions. To make things even worse, she had suffered a serious ankle injury that could jeopardize any prospects of an army career.

Frustrated, but not beaten, Preeti chose to use her time by getting work experience and extending her education. She joined the vocational training program offered by SAP Labs India, which enabled her to gain experience as a software developer, while at the same time working towards her Masters degree. During theScholars@SAP program, Preeti rotated software development projects on a seven-month basis and on weekends she took classes at the company campus in Bangalore.

That’s when a transformation began take hold. Working at an IT company and studying with 40 other student colleagues wasn’t at all like she expected it to be. “It was fresh, new and interesting – like an extended college life in the corporate world,” she says beaming.

Preeti is now on the team that develops SAP’s purchasing and procurement software, SAP Supplier Relationship Management. Her task is to help improve and simplify the procurement process for customers. To keep pace, she has to learn the latest technologies, such as SAP HANA, UI5 and SAP Fiori. “I love being a developer because of the inventiveness that goes with the work,” Preeti notes, adding that “SAP gives you the freedom to do what you really desire and you can go after what you really want.”

It cleared her mind, made her calmer, and awoke the fighter in her

It was during this period that she tried kickboxing, one of many classes offered to SAP employees in Bangalore. It was the perfect fit for Preeti, who even as a child had set her sights on becoming someone who could look after herself in any situation. Despite lingering pains in her back and ankle and a weak immune system, Preeti pushed herself through the physically exhausting practice sessions.

She could barely walk after the initial sessions, but it cleared her mind, made her calmer, and awoke the fighter in her. She decided to dedicate a year to kickboxing and see where it would take her. After the year, Preeti says that many things fell into place for her. “It turned into a lifestyle change for me, and I transformed both mentally and physically. You understand yourself and your body a little more. You notice changes to eating habits, the way you work, the way you carry yourself.” Kickboxing has also brought Preeti closer to her teammates at work, who share the same interest and sometimes try out new moves during their work breaks.

Preeti talks of an attitude change that has penetrated all areas of her life. “It’s the positivity that you feel after a session of kick boxing and the stamina that you build over a period of time. Everything new that we do in kickboxing is challenging, but it becomes possible in the end. So whenever I face an obstacle, I try and try until I completely master it.” Today, the demure but competitive Preeti is not afraid to take on some of her larger male colleagues on the mat.

This new phase in her life helped Preeti recover from her ankle injuries, and more: “Intellectually I am really enjoying myself, and I am happy with my lifestyle and my team.” Preeti says she finally realizes that she has acquired all of the things she was looking for as an army officer: motivation, mental and physical strength, dedication, and job satisfaction. “It is not a career that defines you, it is you that define your career.”

Video: Alex Januschke and Natalie Hauck, SAP Development University; Text: Paul Baur, Global Corporate Affairs Content Team.

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