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Spotlight on Women Leaders at SAP: Kamolika Peres

Feature Article | November 1, 2017 by Michelle Charles

Kamolika Peres, vice president of Strategic Customer Program for SAP India, developed a taste for travel and different cultures during the early years of her career at IBM. Spending time in Bangkok and Instanbul, building technology practices, learning local languages, and educating her children in new cultures were key aspects of her rewarding experiences. Kamolika’s interest in exploring new horizons and cultures has been a consistent element of her approach to life and work.

A graduate of the London School of Economics and a seasoned sales leader, Kamolika has a strong work ethic grounded in three principles: “Passion for your job, because I believe that is key to everything we undertake; discipline in your approach, because consistency is the bedrock of great performance; and having empathy in your interactions with people, whether they are customers or employees.”

Here, Kamolika reflects on being a woman in sales, what keeps her motivated and driven, and how she strikes a balance.

Sales is an excellent career for young women because…
At a fundamental level, it’s all about understanding and dealing with people, which women can excel in. Some of the best sales people I have met in the course of my career have been women, although I will admit they have been few and far between.

There is a prevalent myth that men are more attuned to a sales role; I have found that to be not always the case. Women in sales roles have a stronger focus on relationships, on working as a team, and are better negotiators, too. On a lighter note, we actually learn the fine art of negotiation as little girls, seeing our mothers and grandmothers drive fierce bargains in the market!

The only way to attract more women is…
To build business careers is to bring the brightest and most diverse workforce into the organization, particularly at entry level. This is where it starts. The next step is to support a woman in her major life events – pregnancy, caring for parents, adoption etc. – so that she is supported through these milestones. The last and final step is to help her become a leader, through stretch assignments, mentoring, and P&L responsibility that is necessary to get there.

My advice to the women I mentor is…
To take a risk, jump off the deep end, and chase a few outlandish ideas. You will find it more rewarding than you think and the learning will be tremendous!

The woman I really admire and respect is…
Indra Nooyi, chairman and CEO of Pepsico. At a time when diversity or inclusion programs were unheard of, Indra managed to rise through the ranks of the corporate world in the U.S. and establish herself as one of the most powerful business leaders of the world. And home, she is the mother to two children, with all the pressures and balancing that it entails. My favorite quote from Indra is, “You have to bring your head, heart, and hands to the job.”

The business trend I’m most excited about is…
The rise of the new technologies — Internet of Things, machine learning, artificial intelligence — exemplified in the launch of SAP Leonardo. These technologies have the power to significantly impact our lives, but what interests me most is that it completely changes the paradigm as far as selling to our customers is concerned.

SAP Leonardo completely changes the paradigm of selling to customers

The new technologies require a deeper understanding of our customers’ businesses and the specific application of this technology toolbox. Every customer conversation will be a different one and as sellers we will need to change our perspective and our approach accordingly.

My motivation for taking up a leadership position is…
To be in a position where my ideas and my perspective can make a difference. Having a diverse workforce is great, but to be effective we should have a diverse point of view right at the leadership level, and organizations that encourage and embrace this will reap the true benefits of diversity.

What’s amazing about SAP is…
The empowerment that I have as a sales leader and the principles of meritocracy under which we operate — performance is key!

Achieving work life balance is about…
Managing your time like the precious resource it is. To plan ahead and to make those hours you spend at work or at home count is absolutely fundamental to balancing your life. I focus on three things when it comes to finding my balance: first, to make those hours you spend with your family count; second, to prioritize as a family, not an individual, because you’re not in the race alone; and third, to make time for myself, to learn a new skill or participate in giving back to society, because that is how I renew myself.

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