No matter what the obstacles, some people manage to overcome them and achieve their goals. Malbina Ramil Kyzy is one of them. You can’t help but be struck by the extraordinary perseverance, curiosity, and enthusiasm she has shown in her young life. Born and raised in the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan, she challenged herself and set out to make her dreams come true.

Malbina Ramil Kyzy
Malbina Ramil Kyzy. Copyright Norbert Steinhauser

A Chance Meeting 

After signing up to a work-and-travel program, Kyzy came to Germany in the summer of 2019. She and a friend worked as catering staff at weddings, festivals, and hotels. But Kyzy soon found the irregular shifts stressful and asked her employer for a job with fixed working hours.

That took her to one of SAP’s cafeterias in Walldorf, where she worked as a kitchen assistant. When asked about her first impressions of the company, she said, “I just thought, ‘Wow! SAP is huge and there are so many young, interesting people here!’” The company’s size, culture, and dynamic working environment captured her imagination and planted ideas in her mind about a future career.

She had not been in her new job long before – completely by coincidence – she met an SAP employee who was also from Kyrgyzstan and who motivated her to study in Germany. “She inspired me. She had a similar background to mine. She’d started out working as an au pair in Germany and went on to study here. She was amazing and she told me, ‘I did it, so can you!’”

After this chance encounter, Kyzy’s mind was made up: she wanted to follow a work-study degree program in IT in Germany. But she had to learn German first. Little did she know what obstacles lay ahead.

The Pandemic Strikes 

When her work-and-travel visa ended, Kyzy returned home to Kyrgyzstan to continue her studies. But as she observed, “Corruption is a problem in higher education in Kyrgyzstan, and it seemed to me that grades were not necessarily awarded on merit,” she said. She had always dreamed of studying abroad – even as a child. “I’d given up on that idea long ago, to be honest, but my experiences in Germany and at SAP suddenly made me reconsider. I decided to give it a go!”

She arrived back in Germany as an au pair in 2020. But no sooner had she taken that vital step closer to her goal than reports of the country’s first case of coronavirus came through. Everything changed in an instant. Lockdowns, masks, and social distancing followed. No one could have predicted that the pandemic would drag on for three whole years.

It was a tough time for Kyzy. Her voice tailed off for a moment as she thought back, though her determined tones soon returned: “No matter how hard it was, I was not going to give up. The most difficult part was being stuck at home. But I wanted to protect my host family and myself.”

The Power of a Clear Goal 

The German course she was supposed to attend was canceled. Undeterred, she told herself that if she wanted to study here, she needed to speak, read, and understand the language well. So, she began teaching herself. With the help of language Web sites and YouTube videos, she learned the basics, getting up at 8:00 a.m. every day to spend three or four hours studying.

She was often troubled by doubts and the fear of failure. “Will I get a visa?” she wondered. “Will I really manage to learn German? Will I pass the German language test?”

How then – despite all the difficulties – did Kyzy stay motivated, day after day, to pursue her dream? “I told myself that if the worst came to the worst I would return to Kyrgyzstan and pick up my life there again,” she said. That thought helped relieve the pressure and allowed her to focus on her goal.

During this time she also started learning the Java programming language at an IT academy. Slowly but surely, she was making progress. In 2021, as part of the German government’s volunteer service program, she worked at the country’s central agency for continuing vocational education and training in the skilled crafts. There, she learned about the Drupal content management system and developed a Web site with a colleague. This experience fired her enthusiasm for the IT industry and gave her the confidence she needed.

Today – just like the colleague who encouraged her – Kyzy does all she can to motivate young people to realize their dreams. “Lots of people are scared of failure. But you have to take things step by step. You have to be brave and do what you need to do. Follow your passions. Follow your dreams!”

All the effort and sacrifices paid off. In 2021, Kyzy achieved her goal and embarked on a work-study degree program in IT at SAP. René Wohllebe is a vocational training manager and Kyzy’s supervisor. “Malbina is a fantastic example of a young woman who is passionate about IT and proud to work for SAP,” he said. “We are very lucky that she – and many other young women like her – want to train with us and shape the company’s future.”

But even now, in 2023, there are still too few women in IT. The industry needs them desperately – yet traditional gender-role stereotypes persist. Campaigns such as Girls’ Day or cooperation with schools are some of the ways in which SAP is trying to get women interested in technology at an early age.

The work-study degree program is structured to allow students to rotate through as many as six different practical phases. This means that they get to work on a wide variety of projects and try their hand at a range of different tasks. Kyzy is currently working in the SAP Enterprise Cloud Services organization, which supports companies migrating to the cloud. Here, she has carried out a requirements analysis for the introduction of a new tool. “SAP is a great place to work. It allows me to try new things and grow professionally,” she said. She’s already looking forward to the next stop on her learning journey: consulting.