Vault Q&A: Souling Zhang, SAP
Q: So, how did you end up working for SAP?
SAP was highly recommended by my classmates. They said SAP is a good company to work for, and also because I was interested in enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. ERP systems combine some modules into a unified system, for example, combining financial and logistics functions as well as preparation or human resources.
Q: Do you remember what your interview was like? Was it in English or Chinese?
It was half in English and half in Chinese. I remember that there were four platforms -- these included technical aspects and personal capability. The interviews were one-to-one. I didn't think it was too hard. If you are well prepared, it should not be too difficult to succeed if you believe in yourself.
Q: Do you use English or Chinese more in your daily work?
For e-mail, we always use English because we need to communicate with foreign colleagues. In daily conversation in the office, however, we generally converse in Chinese. I'd say we use Chinese more than English.
Q: What skills and experience are important for success in the software development field?
Besides some technical skills, for personality, I think that the most important thing is a sense of responsibility. We have our core values, including quality and commitment. If you have no sense of responsibility, you will never deliver a good, quality product.
Q: How relevant was your education to what you are doing today?
In my job, computer management is very important. But even if you come from another major, if you are very familiar with computer knowledge, I think that's okay. I think technical skills are important, but capability is important as well. For example, even if you don't have any knowledge about ERP software, you can still join SAP and learn it on the job. Passion is important.
Q: What is your perception of working for an MNC like SAP versus a domestic company?
I think there are some differences. For example, you must follow some regular process in SAP because these processes are standardized. One example is with our product LifeCycle, which has a strict rollout process to deliver a new version of the product. Also, the environment of SAP is very open. You can talk about anything with your bosses or colleagues. In domestic companies, I think you have to be a bit more careful about these relationships.
Q: So what's the best part of your job?
You can learn lots of business knowledge from your development. I'm very interested in ERP software, so I can learn a lot every day. My first part-time job was to program management information systems (MIS) for a small domestic company. At that time, I was attracted by business software. In succession, other small companies usually handle a number of projects at once. Their businesses are similar, but their detailed requirements are different. At SAP it's just like a dream, because I can focus on just one product at a time.
Q: Is there anything that you would like better about your job?
For me personally, I like to travel, and for my job I think the international travel opportunities are a bit limited. Of course, there are some trips; I go to foreign countries about once per year. My last trip was at the end of 2007; I went to Israel for a business meeting.
Q: Can you tell me a bit about the promotion process at SAP?
Usually there are yearly promotions, but sometimes you can get promoted within half a year. Managing, productivity, ability and personality sense about your work are all important values.
Q: What training programs does SAP offer?
We have individual training once a year. You can choose technical training or other programs, for example, business training or management training. Usually you will have a trip to Beijing, Hangzhou or even Shenzhen. We also have team training; sometimes we will invite some technical experts to give some training sessions, for example, in databases or programming languages.
Q: How about for personal development?
We have a lot of activities and clubs. We have the Fast Track program, where some top employees are chosen and have opportunities to talk with senior managers, face-to-face. We also have some sports clubs, for example, basketball, football, tennis, table tennis and yoga. There are also a lot of sessions to introduce traditional Chinese culture -- professors from universities come to teach some concepts like Confucianism and Buddhism.
Q: Overall, how does working at SAP make you feel? I always feel proud at the end of the day. I remember the singer of a jazz band joined us at a party one time, and during a song he shouted three letters -- SAP. It was a powerful moment and made us all feel very proud to be working here.