Women’s Future in Work At SAP – Vanessa Ko

Be Proactive to Thrive

For Vanessa Ko, SAP’s Head of Presales in Hong Kong, female leadership is an elusive concept. Over the past 14 years at SAP, she focused on putting words into action with a proactive spin. This she believes is key attribute of good leadership. Here she shares her thoughts with us.


I believe one of the defining characteristics of successful leaders, female or male, is whether they are proactive. In my previous career, I was “discovered” by an executive who noticed that I was always looking for ways to make things run better. That prompted him to promote me for a senior role and this taught me that proactivity defines whether someone has what it takes in our industry. With technologies and business operations changing so rapidly, one has to be proactive to thrive. Being proactive also means that one is very committed to the job, so a sure sign that you have good team members is that they always look for ways to do things a little bit better. And people notice that, especially top leaders. They will pretty soon recognize that you are a great contributor to the business. Little by little you will see doors opening for you, especially leadership roles.


Total engagement

When opportunity finally knocks, I often see that females are hesitant to take up new responsibilities. Being a female leader might bring some anxiety because of our other family obligations but I believe that those aspiring to make it in the industry should stay open-minded for new opportunities. Women should see these as a chance to learn and a portal to a career path that was previously closed to them. You have to be ready to step up to the plate and give it your best when you have the chance.

For me, being totally engaged to your company is crucial to any sort of success. It makes you see things that others would overlook and help you be creative in finding solutions that escape others. But also, once you have some degree of success, you have to keep your ego at check. You will realize that people are more willing to work with you, especially in the long run, if you are not overbearing.


Be understanding and open-minded

Females are generally believed to be more considerate of others’ perspectives, and this is the characteristic that we should keep honing. For instance, I constantly look through the eyes of our individual team members and at times, I remind them to keep a work-life balance and not to overwork at the expense of their well-being. Sometimes, when people are too engaged, they lose sight of the need to recharge before they burn themselves out. Having a good balance between work life and personal life is very important to career development. Ultimately, if people drive themselves too hard all the time, it is not sustainable and they will eventually hurt not just themselves, but the team or the company.

The same empathy applies to putting forward ones’ ideas and recommendations to their peers or senior managers. You have to imagine yourself in their shoes and see how that idea would help their job, how it would help the team run better, how it would help customers’ business. All of these take empathy.

We should also be open to reshaping our perspectives to see things from a different angle, for our own benefits. For example, the intrinsic difference between males and females are quite easy to spot: females being more detail-oriented and more attuned to others’ likes and dislikes, while males are quick decision makers and are bolder in their approaches. Both sides should keep an open-mind, understand these differences and be prepared to change when the situation calls for it. There are always new ways to make things better. Sometimes it might not be your way.

Thinking about joining SAP? Learn more: https://www.sap.com/about/careers.html

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