Vice President and Head of Human Resources
SAP Japan Co., Ltd.
QX: Christian, you have been working and living in Tokyo - one of the biggest cities in the world - for a couple of months now. What has been the biggest difference in day-to-day business for you and how does it feel like?
Christian: It feels great! Living and working in Japan and in particular Tokyo as one of the world’s largest economic hubs is a pretty inspiring experience. While SAP with its 65,000 employees is a global company and a lot of things are handled in a pretty consistent way across the world, there are quite some local specifics one needs to be aware of. For example, the focus on quality and service orientation in Japan is absolutely remarkable. I also appreciate the strong commitment towards work and the high loyalty that employees show towards their employer.
QX: You started your professional career in Banking and Strategy Consulting. Now you are Head of Human Resources at SAP in Japan. That’s sounds like a pretty interesting journey. How did you get there?
Christian: Yes, you are right. I started my career in Banking / Corporate Finance and Strategy Consulting, but I realized pretty early on that I had a strong passion for people topics. That’s also why the focus of my Ph.D. studies was on Human Capital Management. Based on that, it was actually an easy decision for me to shift gears later on and join SAP in 2005 to manage global HR Projects and coordinate HR activities for SAP’s Software Development Labs across the world. Afterwards, I have had various other global roles such as being responsible for SAP’s overall People Strategy, the HR Process Office or SAP’s global HR M&A Office. Since the beginning of 2013, I am a member of the local Management Board for SAP Japan with responsibility for all topics related to Human Resources. Considering Japan as one of SAP’s key markets with 1,100 local employees and revenues of almost one billion Euros in 2012, I appreciate the direct operational impact of my current role.
QX: Managing Human Resources in Japan seems to be quite different from other parts in the world. What is the main difference in sourcing people compared to Germany?
Christian: There are indeed quite some differences which of course also depend on the industry one is operating in and the seniority level of candidates one is looking for. Historically, people in Japan often had a life-long relationship with their employer which makes the process of changing jobs quite challenging. Usually, agencies need to be involved and a lot of trust-building is required before somebody finally decides to move. However, Social Networks such as LinkedIn are expected to change the rules of the game moving forward also in Japan.
QX: You have been a member of QX since 1996. You have lived in various parts of the world and experienced different cultures, yet, through all this, there remains a special bond between QX and you. Can you tell us something about it?
Christian: Yes, this is true. Despite the fact that I have lived and worked in the US, Europe and now also in Asia, I have always stayed in touch with Thomas and his crew. What I think is really special about the QX-network is the passion people show for their areas and the ability to “make things happen”. This makes it inspirational and simply just fun to be around. Last but not least, I appreciate the professional exchange and “sparring” in the network and I am continuously impressed by the drive and creativity of the QX-Crew for new endeavors.
QX: Since last year, QX has become more and more international. We have co-operated with a variety of business schools all over the world. You hold an MBA from an US Business School. What has been the most impactful experience of your MBA-Studies?
Christian: I guess the learning that you take out of the huge number of case studies you need to work on during an MBA program is a pretty lasting experience. The approach on how to tackle a complex business issue in a holistic, yet pragmatic way from a top management perspective is a very good training. In addition, I really enjoyed the diversity of the participants coming from all over the world giving good insights into different cultures and working styles. And it is nice to be still in touch with some of the fellows from that time.
QX: You are a passionate reader. Do you have any recommendations?
Christian: As everybody knows individual taste can vary a lot in this area. However, if one is interested in management literature, Peter Drucker’s “Essentials” are definitely still a must-read in my view.
QX: Christian, thanks a lot for your time. Last but not least our signature question: What is your vanity?
Christian: Well, I have to admit that I have become a huge Sushi-Fan over the last couple of years – which makes it by the way one more reason why Tokyo is the perfect place to be …