Why Diversity Should Be More Than Just A Company Initiative

Maggie Chan Jones

As a business executive working in the technology space, I can attest to the importance of diversity in the workplace. Countless studies have proven that diversity is an economic and business imperative. According to recent McKinsey research, companies with gender and ethnic diversity perform up to 35% better financially.

As an Asian-American woman, with English as my second language, diversity has always been a deeply personal matter.

When I was 14 years old, I took an opportunity to move to the United States, a move I knew would enable me to become the first person in my family to get a higher education. Driven by this ambition, I took the huge leap of faith and left Hong Kong for a new life in New York. As a teenager, I had this sense of fearlessness that pushed me to embrace the risks and just go for it.

I will never forget the moment I arrived. Not only was I traveling by myself, I was to live with relatives I had met only a few times. I left behind my school, my friends, and my mum and grandmother who had raised me until that point. Growing up in a government-subsidized apartment, we didn’t have much, but family meant everything to me. My most vivid memory upon arrival was sitting at JFK airport overcome with a surge of anxiety because not only was I unable to communicate in English, the airline had also lost my luggage. The helplessness I experienced, combined with the fact that there was no turning back, cemented my determination to keep moving forward.

For a long time this moment defined my outlook on life as I realized that I would have to fight through all these challenges and continue to push ahead if I wanted to succeed. When I look back to my defining moment and reflect on all my experience and accomplishments, I can’t help but be overcome with emotion again. Who would have guessed that 25 years after my arrival to the United States I would once again find myself returning to New York? This time, I was moving back as the CMO of SAP, and I was no longer alone. My husband and our dog were joining the new adventures that waited in New York.

I was incredibly honored and humbled to recently join a group of phenomenal leaders and speak alongside the likes of Sheryl Sandberg on best practices for promoting and supporting women in business. The recently released women in the workplace study by McKinsey, in conjunction with Lean In, reaffirms the reasons why diversity is so important, as diversity has been linked to better business results and creates a more beneficial working environment for employees.

The study finds that although companies’ commitment to diversity is at an all-time high, they are struggling to put their commitment into practice, and many employees are not on board. This is particularly true at senior leadership levels. In fact, the report finds that women are promoted and hired at lower rates than men and are underrepresented at every level, with the highest gaps at the top including:

  • Only 29% of VPs are women
  • 24% of senior VPs are women
  • 19% of C-suite executives are women
  • For every 100 women promoted, 130 men are promoted

The results are even more staggering for women of color; the report found that women of color hold only three percent of C-suite positions, despite being more likely to desire a C-suite role than white women. I am part of that three percent.

While it’s clear the industry has come a long way in making a push around hiring diverse employees and implementing initiatives that enhance this line of thinking, there is still much more that needs to be done.

If we want to drive greater performance both for individuals as well as for the companies we represent, we must embrace our different perspectives. For me, this topic starts at the top. The diversity on our marketing leadership team – 50% of us are women, 50% are ethnic minorities – consistently brings new perspectives to our discussions that influence our decision making. To help move this forward, we have also set in place two initiatives within SAP marketing that are designed to enhance the company’s broad set of global offerings.

Our women in leadership program provides exceptional candidates with personalized offerings including executive sponsorship and mentoring. In addition, the early talent program is designed to support the retention of our next generation of leaders. Just this month, SAP became the first global technology company to receive EDGE certification. We adopted practices to help minimize unconscious bias in the recruiting and promotion process, and we’ve established guidelines regarding diverse candidates on the short list for managerial positions.

I am incredibly proud to be a part of this company for recognizing just how important it is to take business beyond bias and for having the passion to drive this significant change.

This blog is part of our Defining Moment series. At SAP, our higher purpose is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. We are committed to diversity and inclusion in the workplace and moving #BusinessBeyondBias. To learn more about the future of diversity and inclusion, visit www.successfactors.com and watch this video to hear from other leaders on the topic. 

This article originally appears in The Guardian.


Maggie Chan Jones

About Maggie Chan Jones

Maggie Chan Jones is CMO of SAP, responsible for leading SAP’s global advertising and brand experience, customer audience marketing, and field and partner marketing functions across all markets. Her mission is to bring to life SAP’s vision to help the world run better and improve people’s lives through storytelling, and to accelerate company growth. A career-marketer in the technology industry, Maggie has held a succession of roles at Microsoft, Sun Microsystems and other technology companies.

Why The Next Steve Jobs Might Just Come From Kazakhstan

Vivek Bapat

Denis is a typical nine-year-old who loves playing video games. His parents both work full-time jobs — his father is an accomplished engineer and his mother is a professor of economics. Thrice a week during the summer, his grandmother drives him to a small computer training center on the outskirts of town. When his parents discovered this training center through Facebook, Denis proactively suggested he wanted to go there to learn how to make his own computer games. On return trips, Denis often tells his grandmother, with great excitement, how he just developed a new game in which a monkey must make several moves, jumping and spinning over obstacles to gather fruit.

Alzhan is 13. Altai, his proud father, takes Alzhan to the center twice a week. He recognizes great potential in his son’s innate math and English skills and is convinced that early exposure to computers and programming will provide an edge in his son’s future career prospects.

Boris attends the training center five days a week, for six hours a day. Quiet and serious, the 14-year-old has always known he wanted to be a programmer and loves tinkering around with new programs and advanced algorithms.

Elya, also 14, is a sharp, savvy young girl with boundless energy. She wants to study medicine and become a doctor. She attends the training center for several hours a day, thrice a week, to get familiar with programming skills that might accelerate her academic trajectory.

These are aspirations of some of the children I met at Love to Code, a small entrepreneurial educational center on the outskirts of Almaty, Kazakhstan, a prominent city in Central Asia on the iconic Silk Road.

Weaving these strands of diverse aspirations together into a proverbial magic carpet of dreams is one of the founders of Love to Code, CEO Yeldos Balgabekov.

Attired in casual shorts and t-shirt, Yeldos is a soft-spoken, mild-mannered 28-year-old. He has a bold vision to educate one million kids in Kazakhstan with basic and advanced computer programming skills by 2020. Of humble origins, Yeldos has a finance, math, and economics background from one of the most well-recognized universities in Kazakhstan, but has developed significant skills in programming through self-study and interest over time.

I met Yeldos and students Denis, Alzhan, Boris, and Elya — along with many more aspiring coders — during a two-week trip to Kazakhstan. I was there as part of a two-week “social sabbatical” offered by my company, SAP, in support of its mission to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. Together with SAP colleagues Eckhardt Siess and Matthias Medert, we served as a team of consultants to Love to Code and Yeldos in his quest to improve digital literacy in Kazakhstan. During our two weeks there, we worked with numerous stakeholders — including students — to identify the opportunities and challenges in bringing Love to Code’s vision to life.

Inspired by the likes of Khan Academy, Yeldos created Love to Code in 2015. It’s a private programming school with a unique approach built on top of commercially available tools such as Scratch, Code Monkey, Python, and other languages. The curriculum uses a proprietary step-by step-process so children between the ages of 8–15 can learn at their own pace through hands-on one-on-one instruction delivered in Russian, Kazakh, and English. Today, Yeldos operates five training centers in major cities including Almaty, with ambitions to grow across the country. He recently organized a national coding event, where his programs touched 150,000 kids with an hour of coding.

Balgabekov’s ambition to get a million kids coding is not as far-fetched as it may sound. Although Kazakhstan was one of the last former Soviet satellite states to claim its independence, it is still very much an emerging nation. Its history and resources (including large oil reserves) provide it with major advantages, which have accelerated its growth. The ninth-largest country in the world, Kazakhstan is abundant in natural resources such as oil, natural gas, and minerals, including 40% of the world’s uranium, providing the underpinnings of the largest economy in Central Asia. It was a space center during the Soviet era, making engineering and mathematics admired pursuits, and its school system produces a population that is virtually 100% literate. While Kazakhstan is 70% Muslim, the religion is not practiced with the orthodoxy found in other regions.

On the other hand, Kazakhstanis have a broad gulf between rich and poor, and despite an elected government (the same president has been in office since the early 1990s), there are limits to freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and other rights that might challenge the authority of the state. In a country where the average monthly salary is 130,000 Tenge (USD $400/month), only a tiny elite earns enough to cover the monthly 25,000–65,000 Tenge cost of the courses at Love to Code.

Between tastings of camel’s milk, horse milk, and horse meat — local delicacies reflective of the nomadic history of the Kazakh people — we witnessed a free-flowing energy. There is a hunger and desire to compete, especially in areas like technology and digital literacy, where the market is just forming and where early movers have the potential to strike it big. While there is little legal infrastructure to protect intellectual property, local coding education startups like Method.kz and Step.it are already carving out niches in the market. It will be only a matter of time until international players such as U.S.-based Tynker focus on Central Asia.

Typical of a startup, Love to Code always feels like it is on the verge of a breakthrough. The demand for its services is clear among parents, students, and teachers. It has an array of go-to-market models, including franchise and private-label opportunities, no different than anywhere else. It has a strong product that it’s constantly improving. Its challenge is clearly in scaling the program and bringing it to a wide swath of the population. That’s where the SAP team focused our time, identifying prospective partners and distribution outlets. Then we began doing the legwork.

One scalable idea, bringing Love to Code into schools, is fraught with challenges. Mr. Mereihan, the young principal at one of the top-10 public schools in the country specializing in physics and math, told us that he recognized the great value in programs such as those offered by Love to Code. However, for him to introduce the program into his public school, it would have to be endorsed and funded by the Ministry of Education. The Ministry requires a full-fledged curriculum from grades 1–12 — a very high bar. The expensive private schools we asked reported they already covered the topic (though our research suggests otherwise) — and besides, their students could likely afford the fees at the Love to Code facilities.

Mr. Murat Narkulov, the highly progressive director of the United Nations Development Fund in Kazakhstan, is already planning to incorporate coding education into their programs for women and people with disabilities. They are thinking about a JAVA/Rush application that gamifies coding. It would be delivered free of charge on mobile phones with the aim of reaching millions of people in five years. We found that these organizations could provide the muscle and the money required to scale digital instruction and learning.

The greatest opportunities to scale Love to Code, it turns out, are coming from wealthy private donors. Many of them are creating their own funds and NGOs with the explicit intent of improving the civil life of the country. Making coding education across income levels and populations a priority for these new social investors will, in our opinion, present the best opportunity for the widespread teaching of digital skills. Technology companies can also do their part to create a pull for future talent with digital skills — investing the region, creating new jobs, training their employees, and improving wages for high-tech workers.

Despite all of these issues and hurdles that would seem daunting to the best of the best, Yeldos keeps pushing ahead with a flat organization of a few full-time and part-time workers. He is constantly on the go. Like a Swiss army knife,  he does it all: develops the content, delivers training, and talks to investors, clients, and parents. With the classic persona of a founder of a self-funded company, he is quick to strike new deals and make instant adjustments to the business.

As we peeled the layers of the onion back each day, we discovered a new set of ideas, events, opportunities, and surprises that challenged our recommendations from the day before. In the end, our findings and consultations helped uncover a few new ideas, and a short-term and longer-term strategy for sustenance, growth, and scale. Most importantly, it helped validate the fundamental beliefs and tenets of the business model from an independent, external perspective.

One more thing: We learned that Yeldos recently won a full academic scholarship funded by the British government to attend a one-year Master’s program in Computer Engineering in Southampton, U.K. He has decided to take this opportunity to beef up his credentials in data science and is leaving for the U.K. in six weeks. His wife and his 18-month old baby girl are both supportive of this life-changing opportunity. While he is away, his co-founders and staff plan to step in to sustain the business.

Yeldos intends to drive some of the business development efforts to grow the business while managing the rigors of what will be undoubtedly a challenging period in this life.

But he knows that the hopes and dreams of young Denis, Alzhan, Boris, and Elya — representative of the children of Kazakhstan, are all unequivocally pinned on to his own. And that he bears and owes them a greater sense of responsibility in their success than that of his own.

Vivek Bapat is senior vice president and global head of Marketing Strategy at SAP.

This story previously appeared on Medium.


Vivek Bapat

About Vivek Bapat

Vivek Bapat is the Senior Vice President, Global Head of Marketing Strategy and Thought Leadership, at SAP. He leads SAP's Global Marketing Strategy, Messaging, Positioning and related Thought Leadership initiatives.

Saving The World’s Treasure: Can Technology Stop Pirates?

Simon Davies

When you hear the word pirates, you might think of eye patches, crosses on maps, parrots on shoulders, or all of the above in a Disney movie. Despite the fact that the fictional kind of pirate has thoroughly permeated the common consciousness, Somali pirates have been a real threat to international shipping since the early 21st century.

We need some great plans to combat these sea thieves. In this day and age, technology seems to be the best answer.

Pirates are a real threat to the global economy

Yep, they’re real. On June 23rd, 2017, a group of armed pirates hijacked a Thai oil tanker and drained the vessel of 1.5 million litres of diesel fuel.

Studies have shown that more than 80% of the world’s trade is transported by sea, which means that our economy is highly reliant on the shipping trade. It’s no mystery why pirates seem eager to hijack merchant’s vessels and claim the “treasure” on board. Maritime piracy is a big problem that can take a sizeable cut from the world’s economy—$6 billion, to be exact.

Satellite imagery provides eyes from above

Maritime tracking using the latest in satellite technology is the new solution on the horizon, according to Earth observation experts Earth-i, who have discussed how satellite data helps prevent maritime piracy. With high-resolution images, it’s possible to track ship and vessel movements to ensure safe passage for passenger and cargo boats across the world’s seas.

Monitoring, observation, and tracking technology has been used to surveil trade at sea with precision and reliability. Pirates can disable terrestrial AIS (Automatic Identification Systems), which are used to track ships and vessels, but the same cannot be said for satellite AIS.

Companies using satellite AIS also benefit from the tech’s capability of providing coverage for the most remote parts of the Earth and sea 24/7.

Unmanned stealth vessels can take on pirates remotely

A self-made millionaire has taken the treacherous seas’ biggest problem into his own hands by inventing a one-of-a-kind high-tech stealth boat.

The Ghost is a seaborne combat vessel made by Greg Sancoff’s startup, Juliet Marine. It’s called “Ghost” because it’s “virtually invisible to sonar and radar detection through its aluminium and stainless steel construction.”

Sancoff said that although the boat can function as a speedboat and attack ships for Navy SEALS, it is best suited for fighting pirates. Gas turbines are used for the engine, and the ship rides above the water on robotically stabilised pontoons, making the vessel steady on rough seas.

Inside the high-tech vessel, the battleship is controlled by an array of computer screens, but Greg Sancoff said that the anti-pirate machine can be modified for unmanned operations, potentially making the Ghost moniker even more fitting.

Unmanned stealth vessels may be an effective way to combat pirates, but they are expensive. That expense may be justified if Juliet Marine is accurate in saying that two Ghosts, which would cost $20 million, could protect thousands of square miles.

Hardware for tackling pirates head-on isn’t always effective

Large budgets have already been spent on hardware for directly tackling pirates, with less than impressive results.

The long-range acoustic device (LRAD) uses a pain-inducing sound beam that has been used to drive pirates away, and the ADS (active denial system) transmits a narrow beam of electromagnetic energy to heat the skin without causing permanent damage. The wave can be used to penetrate beneath the skin and cause an unbearable burning sensation, forcing pirates to jump overboard.

Unfortunately, as Wired discussed in an article titled “Sonic, Pain Weapons All Wrong for Pirate Fight,” these options are severely limited. The LRAD can be rendered completely useless by pirates’ firearms; guns such as the AK-47 out-range the non-lethal sonic weapon. Meanwhile, the ADS, costing $3 million, is known to have harmed the people using it.

Evasion remains the best defense

Despite the proliferation of high-tech solutions for taking on pirates, HowStuffWorks maintains that the best defense against pirates can be low-tech: “The best defense against a pirate attack is evasion.” They have recommended that crews encountering pirates should fire flares, sound their alarms, call for help, and warn other ships in the area when encountering pirates. They should then commit to outmaneuvring the pirates.

With the ability to monitor the progress and route of vessels, shipping companies using satellite systems to track their ships will find avoiding pirates far easier. This informed-evasion not only keeps the monitored crews safe; it can also provide greater security for all vessels at sea. If shipping companies share their insights (gained through satellite data) with the relevant authorities, they will always be one step ahead. Removing the element of surprise from the arsenal of pirates, which is arguably one of their best weapons, could help prevent maritime piracy for good.

For more on technology’s role in security, see Ransomware Attack Highlights Need For Comprehensive Cybersecurity.


Simon Davies

About Simon Davies

Simon Davies is a London-based freelance writer with an interest in startup culture, issues, and solutions. He works explores new markets and disruptive technologies and communicates those recent developments to a wide, public audience. Simon is also a contributor at socialbarrel.com, socialnomics.net, and tech.co. Follow Simon @simontheodavies on Twitter.

Diving Deep Into Digital Experiences

Kai Goerlich


Google Cardboard VR goggles cost US$8
By 2019, immersive solutions
will be adopted in 20% of enterprise businesses
By 2025, the market for immersive hardware and software technology could be $182 billion
In 2017, Lowe’s launched
Holoroom How To VR DIY clinics

From Dipping a Toe to Fully Immersed

The first wave of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) is here,

using smartphones, glasses, and goggles to place us in the middle of 360-degree digital environments or overlay digital artifacts on the physical world. Prototypes, pilot projects, and first movers have already emerged:

  • Guiding warehouse pickers, cargo loaders, and truck drivers with AR
  • Overlaying constantly updated blueprints, measurements, and other construction data on building sites in real time with AR
  • Building 3D machine prototypes in VR for virtual testing and maintenance planning
  • Exhibiting new appliances and fixtures in a VR mockup of the customer’s home
  • Teaching medicine with AR tools that overlay diagnostics and instructions on patients’ bodies

A Vast Sea of Possibilities

Immersive technologies leapt forward in spring 2017 with the introduction of three new products:

  • Nvidia’s Project Holodeck, which generates shared photorealistic VR environments
  • A cloud-based platform for industrial AR from Lenovo New Vision AR and Wikitude
  • A workspace and headset from Meta that lets users use their hands to interact with AR artifacts

The Truly Digital Workplace

New immersive experiences won’t simply be new tools for existing tasks. They promise to create entirely new ways of working.

VR avatars that look and sound like their owners will soon be able to meet in realistic virtual meeting spaces without requiring users to leave their desks or even their homes. With enough computing power and a smart-enough AI, we could soon let VR avatars act as our proxies while we’re doing other things—and (theoretically) do it well enough that no one can tell the difference.

We’ll need a way to signal when an avatar is being human driven in real time, when it’s on autopilot, and when it’s owned by a bot.

What Is Immersion?

A completely immersive experience that’s indistinguishable from real life is impossible given the current constraints on power, throughput, and battery life.

To make current digital experiences more convincing, we’ll need interactive sensors in objects and materials, more powerful infrastructure to create realistic images, and smarter interfaces to interpret and interact with data.

When everything around us is intelligent and interactive, every environment could have an AR overlay or VR presence, with use cases ranging from gaming to firefighting.

We could see a backlash touting the superiority of the unmediated physical world—but multisensory immersive experiences that we can navigate in 360-degree space will change what we consider “real.”

Download the executive brief Diving Deep Into Digital Experiences.

Read the full article Swimming in the Immersive Digital Experience.


Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Chief Futurist at SAP Innovation Center network His specialties include Competitive Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Corporate Foresight, Trends, Futuring and ideation. Share your thoughts with Kai on Twitter @KaiGoe.heif Futu


Jenny Dearborn: Soft Skills Will Be Essential for Future Careers

Jenny Dearborn

The Japanese culture has always shown a special reverence for its elderly. That’s why, in 1963, the government began a tradition of giving a silver dish, called a sakazuki, to each citizen who reached the age of 100 by Keiro no Hi (Respect for the Elders Day), which is celebrated on the third Monday of each September.

That first year, there were 153 recipients, according to The Japan Times. By 2016, the number had swelled to more than 65,000, and the dishes cost the already cash-strapped government more than US$2 million, Business Insider reports. Despite the country’s continued devotion to its seniors, the article continues, the government felt obliged to downgrade the finish of the dishes to silver plating to save money.

What tends to get lost in discussions about automation taking over jobs and Millennials taking over the workplace is the impact of increased longevity. In the future, people will need to be in the workforce much longer than they are today. Half of the people born in Japan today, for example, are predicted to live to 107, making their ancestors seem fragile, according to Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, professors at the London Business School and authors of The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity.

The End of the Three-Stage Career

Assuming that advances in healthcare continue, future generations in wealthier societies could be looking at careers lasting 65 or more years, rather than at the roughly 40 years for today’s 70-year-olds, write Gratton and Scott. The three-stage model of employment that dominates the global economy today—education, work, and retirement—will be blown out of the water.

It will be replaced by a new model in which people continually learn new skills and shed old ones. Consider that today’s most in-demand occupations and specialties did not exist 10 years ago, according to The Future of Jobs, a report from the World Economic Forum.

And the pace of change is only going to accelerate. Sixty-five percent of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist, the report notes.

Our current educational systems are not equipped to cope with this degree of change. For example, roughly half of the subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree, such as computer science, is outdated by the time students graduate, the report continues.

Skills That Transcend the Job Market

Instead of treating post-secondary education as a jumping-off point for a specific career path, we may see a switch to a shorter school career that focuses more on skills that transcend a constantly shifting job market. Today, some of these skills, such as complex problem solving and critical thinking, are taught mostly in the context of broader disciplines, such as math or the humanities.

Other competencies that will become critically important in the future are currently treated as if they come naturally or over time with maturity or experience. We receive little, if any, formal training, for example, in creativity and innovation, empathy, emotional intelligence, cross-cultural awareness, persuasion, active listening, and acceptance of change. (No wonder the self-help marketplace continues to thrive!)

The three-stage model of employment that dominates the global economy today—education, work, and retirement—will be blown out of the water.

These skills, which today are heaped together under the dismissive “soft” rubric, are going to harden up to become indispensable. They will become more important, thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning, which will usher in an era of infinite information, rendering the concept of an expert in most of today’s job disciplines a quaint relic. As our ability to know more than those around us decreases, our need to be able to collaborate well (with both humans and machines) will help define our success in the future.

Individuals and organizations alike will have to learn how to become more flexible and ready to give up set-in-stone ideas about how businesses and careers are supposed to operate. Given the rapid advances in knowledge and attendant skills that the future will bring, we must be willing to say, repeatedly, that whatever we’ve learned to that point doesn’t apply anymore.

Careers will become more like life itself: a series of unpredictable, fluid experiences rather than a tightly scripted narrative. We need to think about the way forward and be more willing to accept change at the individual and organizational levels.

Rethink Employee Training

One way that organizations can help employees manage this shift is by rethinking training. Today, overworked and overwhelmed employees devote just 1% of their workweek to learning, according to a study by consultancy Bersin by Deloitte. Meanwhile, top business leaders such as Bill Gates and Nike founder Phil Knight spend about five hours a week reading, thinking, and experimenting, according to an article in Inc. magazine.

If organizations are to avoid high turnover costs in a world where the need for new skills is shifting constantly, they must give employees more time for learning and make training courses more relevant to the future needs of organizations and individuals, not just to their current needs.

The amount of learning required will vary by role. That’s why at SAP we’re creating learning personas for specific roles in the company and determining how many hours will be required for each. We’re also dividing up training hours into distinct topics:

  • Law: 10%. This is training required by law, such as training to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

  • Company: 20%. Company training includes internal policies and systems.

  • Business: 30%. Employees learn skills required for their current roles in their business units.

  • Future: 40%. This is internal, external, and employee-driven training to close critical skill gaps for jobs of the future.

In the future, we will always need to learn, grow, read, seek out knowledge and truth, and better ourselves with new skills. With the support of employers and educators, we will transform our hardwired fear of change into excitement for change.

We must be able to say to ourselves, “I’m excited to learn something new that I never thought I could do or that never seemed possible before.” D!