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For most organizations, the measure of success of diversity and inclusion initiatives has become merely a matter of numbers. However, creating equal opportunities for female leaders and challenged persons is more than a numbers game. Diversity and inclusion must not be just enforced, but embraced as an important pillar within the human resource strategy. This multi-part series shines a light on how women in leadership positions at SAP P&I Enterprise Cloud Services have risen to the top within their field. Each portrait shares insights, lessons learned, and tips for the next generation of female leaders in cloud computing.

In the fourth part of this series, Shylaja Sabbani, senior development manager at Application Innovation Services (AIS), shares her insights on how to build a successful career in the technology industry.

Part 4: Shylaja Sabbani: Pave your career path with passion, perseverance, and a bit of patience!


One of Shylaja’s favorite quotes about what it takes to lead a team comes from leadership expert Robin S. Sharma: “Leadership is not about a title or designation. It’s about impact, influence, and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you inspire by walking the talk.”

When Shylaja joined SAP Labs Bangalore in 2004, she had no idea to which heights her career could take her. She started as a developer in the lab’s maintenance and support division to provide techno-functional support to SAP Fashion customers. “Being in maintenance and support was the best launchpad for my career. Knowing the customer is the foundation for everything, regardless in which business division or role you are in. Being close to customers and understanding their requirements shaped the way I look at the product and build the business acumen. Also, I learned how important it is to perform as a team to provide a complete solution to issues,” said Shylaja.

Shylaja started sharing the knowledge she gained from her customer interactions within and outside her team. Her passion for spreading best practices and learnings of excellent customer service brought her close to different business areas. Over the years she evolved from team lead to project leader to project manager.

In 2010, as a rising young female talent at SAP, Shylaja was offered to take on a people management role. She fully embraced the opportunity to become a leader and mentor others. As a people manager, Shylaja finds fulfillment in helping her team learn, grow, and thrive.  “In my eight years of management experience, our team has faced many critical customer situations. It was a challenge to handle multiple global customers, products at the same time, but what kept us going throughout all situations is teamwork coupled with our strong customer focus and product knowledge.”

When asked what advice she would give early talents, Shylaja recommends creating your career step by step. “Don’t do anything in haste. Sometimes when you start, you want to reach the next career ladder step quickly. But you can’t see all the possibilities in the beginning and it takes time to develop certain skills. It’s good to explore your current opportunities and grow with your experience. This way doors will open for you.” In her experience, the most important part for succeeding is having passion and drive.
“Enjoy your work, do what you love, and love what you do” is Shylaja’s mantra.

One of her hardest lessons learned was handling career transitions.  “When you take up a new role, it is important to wear the ‘new hat’ from the start. Otherwise, it will confuse the team you work with and they won’t perceive you as the go-to person for your new role. Make the transition swiftly and focus on building the required competencies.”

As the Gender Diversity lead for SAP Labs in Bangalore, Shylaja runs various initiatives that foster inclusion. She believes in embracing one another’s uniqueness. In her experience diversity of thoughts yield better business results.

Her advice in handling various career situations is reflected in the workshop “Career Transformation journey – Turning your Snakes into Ladders” which was curated with Uma Rani TM and Krithika G. More than 2,500 participants globally participated in this workshop to date. “Similar to the popular children’s game “Chutes and Ladders,” in your career you’ll never know when you land on top of a chute that could bring your career down to a halt or when you find yourself at the bottom of a ladder and are able to climb your way to success,” said Shylaja. Our workshop helps to identify and navigate pitfalls and transitions throughout your career quest.”

But ultimately, it’s your inner voice that tells you the right path to take. “My father told me from a young age to make better what you do best. This philosophy shapes my life,” concludes Shylaja. “Knowing your strengths will help you make the right decision at career crossroads. Be prepared for challenges and enjoy your journey – with passion, perseverance, and a bit of patience.”