Helle Dochedahl - Lead The Future
“It is also key not to defer the completion of your education because it is only at that point that you really start to find your bearings.”
Helle Dochedahl
COO
SAP

Facts

  • Helle Dochedahl
  • 1963
  • MSc (Econ.)
  • COO
  • SAP
  • Divorced
  • Has two adult children
  • Love to read and watch crime fiction

What would you like to have done differently?

I would have liked to try several different directions so that I had previously understood the value of all the theories I learned as a young person during my education. I would have liked to have had a trainee position, but it wasn’t available at that time. In that position, you are pushed into deep water and challenged whilst being allowed to explore freely without major consequences.

What career advice would you give young people?

I sit with many young people today and they give me as much as I can give them. My advice to them is to follow your passion and focus on your skills. It is also key not to defer the completion of your education because it is only at that point that you really start to find your bearings. But it must be something fun. For having a strong passion is more important than setting some lofty goals.

Why is education important?

If you complete a master’s degree, you acquire some methodology tools that an autodidact doesn’t always have, and that come in handy when you’re stuck. Even when you work with technology like here at SAP, methodology tools tend to be more relevant than the educational background itself. For example, I hired a theologian, and it wasn’t because we were short on priests, but because we sought a methodical salesperson. And that she is.

Who has been your role model?

My example is Jim Hagemann Snabe. He is the reason I applied for SAP. But before I started studying, it was probably – on a more unconscious level – my father. He was a contractor and, for the sake of his clients, did not allow the phone to ring more than three times. I took messages over the phone and he taught me to respect other people. Those learnings have stayed with me ever since.

What has been your most important career choice?

I made my most important choice as a student. Someone said it was clever idea to get a student job at the “data centre” and develop programmes for fellow students. I joined a team with four girls out of 60 people, so I was nearly alone with all the boys from day one. At the data centre, however, we were all about IT and managed to establish a very strong professional relationship. We challenged and supported each other and even overlooked each other’s master’s degrees.

What has driven you to your position overall?

My own passion and the place where I am. When I came to SAP, I thought I’d stick around for five years at most. But when you are in a business that is constantly moving, job hopping makes no sense anymore. Here, there is a continuous learning culture and open door mindset, where everyone helps each other and makes you feel like staying. The company offers plenty of opportunities if you just chase them actively. For me, becoming a leader has never been an end in itself but part of a quest for learning new things. And then my leadership followed. 

What has particularly challenged you in your career?

Until SAP set ambitious goals for diversity and women in leadership, advancing my career as a woman proved somewhat difficult. But time and attitudes have changed, and today that is not a problem anymore. There are many women in leadership positions at SAP. Young women worry about whether and how having children will affect their career; but there is a time for everything and you can achieve it anyway. I am an example of that with two adult boys.

How do you use your influence?

My philosophy is that you can’t do anything without having your team go along and making sure they understand. It has nothing to do with titles. You must consider the purpose when putting teams together. Purpose-driven leadership style – means that we have a WHY and move in the same direction.

What are you most satisfied with professionally?

When I go over our internal HR studies, I am seen as the leader that I want to be. Improving people’s lives. That’s what we seek at SAP. For myself and so that I can help and develop others.

How important is the salary?

Wages must be fair. Salary means safety to me and that I can help my children as they grow, and have experiences and quality time with my kids. I want to experience the world, and freedom is important.