We’re grateful for their time and expertise.
Pinary, Inc. (PI): Can you tell us about your background and the evolution of your career in SAP and international trade?
Daniela Dung (DD): I grew up as an only child in the German countryside. I started studying medicine after finishing school, but switched to business administration a few years later at a University of Applied Science. I took a couple of elective courses there, and some teachers put me in contact with SAP. One of my teachers had been a consultant for SAP, and she inspired me to follow the same path. I completed an internship with them. I did my thesis within a consulting team that acted as an SAP GTS foreign trade solution center of expertise. I went straight from that degree into international trade projects for SAP, and I’ve been with them ever since. In the past 12 years, I’ve dealt with international trade projects of every size and in many different industries.
PI: Are there any challenges or stories you’d like to share about your entry and progression in such a demanding and dynamic field? These stories can but don’t necessarily need to point to gendered challenges.
DD: I was completely foreign to the topic of foreign trade. And although having run through a solid training including international trade courses at respective academies and getting a good insight into the technical side by being educated through SAP GTS development colleagues, it was quite a challenge to be confronted with my first project. I was supposed to shadow a senior colleague. The experience was a great example of how to handle a project—especially one with all the particularities of an international trade project. The project scope was the implementation of the restitution management of CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) goods. That topic is not really your “standard” export/ import process.
The senior colleague was increasingly pulled away by conflicting project engagements, and after our second customer workshop, he wasn’t available at all. At the time, it was a gigantic challenge for me. I typically tackle challenges, and I rely on my skills and confidence to get things done. To be clear, I was not misled, but I was still the one left to present to senior international trade personnel. I was honest about my experience and knowledge, and succeeded in our dialogue. That’s just one project. It’s a wide, demanding, and dynamic field.
PI: From your experienced perspective, what does the representation of women—in business, in trade, in tech, in public policy, etc.—mean for the health and growth of our international landscape?
DD: I do find women bring a different leadership culture to the floor, as they bring different perspectives and talents to level out differences within a team. Having had a female manager for the last two years and after having been managed by two different men in the ten years before that, I am taken with the way my current manager has increased the team size by adding junior and senior consultants from different nations of both genders. This has helped equip us with a team spirit par excellence.
We have also broadened the international trade and SAP GTS network both internally and externally. That had been a shared objective for a while and I felt as if it fell into place naturally, with two like-minded women with an interest in the topic succeeding in getting visibility—and establishing a solid conceptual base that lets the consulting team serve customers in the best way.
PI: Have you encountered unique challenges collaborating with international trade players? I ask this question with an interest in any gender-related challenges, but it certainly doesn’t need to be limited as such.
DD: I do not recall any specific gender-related challenges. Throughout my career I experienced a heterogenous mixture of characters that had one thing in common: As soon as they were sure that they were addressed by a woman that understood and conversed in the language of international trade, collaboration was easy.
Challenges based on intercultural differences are part of the experience in projects for large enterprises with international branches. In this context of intercultural perception of women not being the go-to person for expert advice, in addition to my assertiveness and competence, I feel that being the SAP consultant coming from SAP somehow serves as a voucher.
PI: As a consultant, can you share some of your priorities in guiding businesses toward responsible trade practices and partnerships?
DD: In my field of responsibility within a trade software implementation project I am mainly concerned with the translation of functional requirements to the technical realization. This regularly involves the ascertainment of missing coordination or agreement in a company’s trade processes.
Therefore, my main advice in every implementation project is to make sure to establish a central team of process owners, trade specialists, and decision-makers to coordinate and execute streamlined and compliant trade processes. I’d like to add that creating a respective architecture with a central international trade platform connected to the business’ enterprise resource planning software is an optimal way of dealing with the complex and quickly changing foreign trade requirements businesses are faced with.
PI: Are there ways in which you mentor or encourage other women to succeed at your company?
DD: I got the chance to participate in SAPs’ Leadership Excellence Acceleration Program. It’s a year-long targeted development journey focused on women who have the potential and desire to rise into management positions or reach new levels of leadership. The program’s vision is to develop women who are practiced and successful in identifying, articulating, and expanding their value proposition by showcasing their contributions to the organization, themselves, and each other. I was part of an international team of seven women from different nations. We worked virtually on creating a concept to support female students from Spain in their personal determination of possible fields of studies by showcasing the different fields of work within SAP.
From a mentoring perspective, I do support career starters and newcomers to the GTS group within our consultant team to give them a successful start and a solid base to tackle international trade related implementation projects.
Apart from that there is as yet no activity to specifically mentor women within SAP. Which does not mean that I am not, out of a natural habit, encouraging people to reflect on their strengths and articulate them in a manner that lets them succeed in their journey. From my personal experience, that seems to be needed by women more often than men.
Next in the Women in Technology series: Ellen Smith of GE-owned Baker Hughes. See also: SAP-specific discussions with Pinary’s CEO Greta Villagran and GRC Architect Traci Dunn.