When 13-year-old Rayan speaks Farsi with his mom, it’s clear he feels just as comfortable in her native tongue and culture as he does in his German environment. For Tannaz Piroozi, though, it took a long time for her to achieve that same level of comfort in a new culture.

“I come from a culture where women still don’t have the right to decide for themselves,” she says. “It wasn’t easy for me to come into a very free, open society — to stand up for myself and speak for myself, to feel independent, to feel confident. For me, it was a long journey.”

SAP Women in Tech – From Tehran to Tech Giant SAP

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SAP Women in Tech – From Tehran to Tech Giant SAP

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Limited Career Options

Tannaz’s journey began in the Iranian capital of Tehran. As a child, she sometimes thought it would be much better for her parents if she were a boy – the eldest son rather than the eldest daughter. The message she got from society, university, and school was, she says, “OK. You’re a woman. You can study, maybe work, but it’s not important to have career ambitions. The important thing is that you’re going to be a mother and that you listen to your husband.”

Contrary to social norms in Iran at the time, Tannaz’s parents were keen for their three daughters to study and work. Tannaz chose a career in accounting because she loves math and numbers. At the time, accounting was also one of the few professions that were acceptable for women in Iran. Today, reports the Middle East Institute in Washington, more than 60% of university students in Iran are female. However, this is not reflected in equal representation in the workforce, as only 15.2% of Iranian women are employed.

After working for several years in Tehran, Tannaz decided on a life in Germany. “I was important for me to have freedom and to move forward in my life, and I didn’t see the opportunity for that in Iran,” she says, though she is careful to note that is purely her own experience and she can’t speak for other women and girls from Iran or the Middle East.

SAP Was Not On Her Radar

Tannaz met her future husband while still in Iran, moved to Germany with him, completed an MBA in international finance and controlling, and worked until her son was born.

When she was looking to return to employment a few years later, however, the situation was complicated. “As the mother of a small child, I wasn’t able to work full time,” she remembers. “But the companies I applied to wouldn’t even consider part-time employment.” Except SAP in Walldorf, where she was offered a part-time (75%) post. “SAP wasn’t on my radar at all to start with,” she says. “I thought they only needed software developers.”

Tannaz started at SAP in project management and controlling. “After a few years, I found that working as a controller and in reporting wasn’t the only thing I can do. I can lead teams and bring people together,” she says. She tried her hand at various roles, working as a project lead and as a scrum master before exploring agile transformation and training at SAP to become an agile coach.

Flexiblity for a Single Mother

That sounds like a smooth career journey. Rewind four years, when Tannaz and her husband decided to separate, and things were far from easy. Suddenly, in her late thirties, she was a single, working mother and completely on her own for the first time in her life. She and her son moved into a new apartment when his new school year began. The challenge then was that he wanted her to be there when he got home from school, often at completely different times of the day. The new situation required her to be very flexible, and Tannaz, who was back to working full-time, needed support from her colleagues and her manager.

“For me, and in my situation, SAP plays a major role in my journey towards independence and in the way I live and the person I am right now. When I decided to live my life as a single mom, I knew that I’d have the support of my employer, and that helped me to make the decision and to go this way.”

Now, several years later, she says, “I can organize my working day very effectively. My son is almost 14 now and much more independent. We’re a team.”

Managing People Is Her Thing

Today, Tannaz co-leads the SAP S/4HANA Agile Center of Excellence, a role that includes managing people. “Leading a team and achieving something together makes me unbelievably happy,” she says. “Right now, I’m really happy that I can decide on my own about my life, my career, my child,” says Tannaz.

For her parents, who are getting older, Tannaz has become the go-to person. “Now I can say that being a daughter and living my life the way I’m living it is a big help to them.”

SAP Women in Technology

“As a woman working for SAP, you are a ‘woman in tech,’ regardless of what you have studied or graduated in,” says Christine Regitz, head of the company’s global initiative, SAP Women in Tech. The new Women in Tech series covers the successes and opportunities woman have had and the clichés and challenges they’ve encountered. Some entered the IT industry after studying computer science, others via very different routes. Let their stories inspire you!