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Ingmar Lemke chooses his sports the way he chooses his employers. Now the software engineer is riding a wave of his own creation while fulfilling the dream of a lifetime.

Ingmar Lemke is sitting on his surfboard near Half Moon Bay, anticipating the next set of meter-high waves and looking west over the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. Surfers in California will tell you that winter is the best time of year if you like big waves, but they might neglect to mention that from December to February the water temperature hovers around 10°C (50°F). Perhaps they’ve collectively chosen to forget that small detail, or maybe the thrill of riding Pacific waves under blue skies is simply too great for them to resist. That’s part of the mystery of this sport.

If this was the story of a surfer boy from California, then it would probably end here. Instead, the story of Ingmar, a software engineer in SAP’s Silicon Valley office, is really still just beginning. Like the waves that roll onto California beaches, Ingmar has moved thousands of miles in the opposite direction in order to ride them. Born and raised in Leipzig, Germany, Ingmar studied software engineering at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam and on completion in 2006 spent a one-year internship with SAP in Palo Alto. It was an exciting time in Ingmar’s life, and he liked it so much that he joined the company. “I really like to work and play with technology,” he says.

Most recently, Ingmar has worked in teams that develop mobile applications tailored specifically to the needs of SAP’s business customers. Running businesses from mobile devices has become a differentiator in many industries, bringing significant competitive advantage. And as more and more customers demand business on their smart phones, Ingmar and his colleagues at the SAP User Experience and Mobility Center are busy building custom solutions for them, with the associated challenging deadlines.

Ingmar spends a lot of time listening to the customer in order to understand what’s really needed. He’s is only really satisfied when the customer is happy with the experience of using each application.

But change is the only constant in enterprise software. Beginning in 2016, Ingmar will join SAP’s Global Design Team, where he will apply his expertise to design and implement new features and tools for SAP Fiori, the company’s award winning user experience for all new products. Challenging himself and adapting to new projects, technologies, and teams are definitely part of Ingmar’s nature.

And he’s learned that putting in more hours is not always the answer to solving tough problems. When the computer expert needs to get a new perspective on a problem, he often heads for the beach. There he does one of two things depending on the local conditions, wave surfing or kitesurfing. “My hobbies give me a good way to reset, to not think about anything else. If I work too long then even the easiest solutions won’t come to mind.”

What Ingmar likes most about working at SAP? He appreciates that he can be very flexible with his work hours so he can pursue his hobbies. He also likes the ocean of opportunities the company offers its software engineers. “Most of the other companies in the Valley do one thing really well, but SAP offers so many areas where you can go in and specialize as an engineer. And you are encouraged to change your focus in order to gain experience in other areas.”

Switch back to the surf off Half Moon Bay: Under blue sunny skies, against the backdrop of the sun scorched hills, and feeling the forces of the water and the wind on his body, Ingmar loses his sense of time and place. He emerges from the sea exhausted but positive and ready to tackle the next challenge.

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

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