Q&A – Understanding the SAP Returnship experience and it’s impact

“We appreciate the skills, perspective and contributions Returners bring to SAP. Since 2018 our Returnship has provided SAP access to an untapped, diverse, highly educated, and motivated talent pool.”
-Genya Murray, Director, Talent Attraction

The above quote comes from the SAP employee who first advocated to bring a Returnship program to SAP in 2018. The sentiment perfectly represents the SAP Returnship Program as focusing on appreciating our Returners and their overall impact to make the world run better and improve people’s lives. Former Returner Shehneela Arshi, experienced this appreciation first-hand during her 2021 cohort. After shining throughout the Returnship program, Shehneela joined SAP full-time and credits the “constant support” and “appreciation” from her team as a key component to her overall success and confidence needed to make her return to work.

That support system for Shehneela came primarily from her direct manager, Nicolle Gurule Sternberger. Nicolle is among one of our many passionate managers who consistently advocate for our program’s mission: to help empower and instill confidence in professionals as they make their return to work.

We asked both Shehneela and Nicolle to participate in a brief Q&A session to highlight the unique perspectives of both a former Returner and Returnship hiring manager. We invite you to not only learn more about Shehneela and Nicolle, but also better understand the program’s impact and how it can be the perfect platform to restart your career.

Q: Can you briefly describe your role at SAP?

Shehneela: I started my Returnship as an Enablement Lead in the SAP SuccessFactors Global GTM team and was later offered a full-time position as the GTM Operations Lead on the same team, which is now my current role.

Nicolle: And I lead the global GTM team at SuccessFactors.

Q: What was the most exciting or gratifying part of the Returnship experience at SAP?

Shehneela: I was lucky to be part of a fast-paced, super successful, high-energy team. It was exhilarating being surrounded by a group of people who loved what they were doing and were great at it. While most team meetings are stereotyped as dull and unnecessary, our team meetings were very productive and always provided me with opportunities to learn. The biggest satisfaction was being able to get back on track and re-launch my professional career with a team where I felt very much at home.

Nicolle: One of my favorite parts of my job is being able to work with incredible early career talent via SAPs robust internship program. Over the years some of the most inspiring and successful people I have had the pleasure to work with have come through our intern program.  The energy, fresh ideas and perspectives has always been something that we have relied upon and ultimately enriched our business results. When I first heard about this new Returnship opportunity to bring in incredible professional talent in this new way – I knew we had to participate.

Q: What did you find most helpful about being a part of the SAP Returnship Program?

Shehneela: Getting the opportunity to be a part of the Returnship program at a global company that is a market leader in enterprise application software and has won numerous awards for being an ideal workplace, was undeniably fantastic and provided the perfect platform for restarting my career.

During my first two weeks on the job, I went back and forth between feeling great about the value I was bringing to my new team, and then feeling a lot of self-doubt. This was mainly because I was returning to work after a break of nearly five years and the amount of information coming my way was sometimes overwhelming. What helped me through this and allowed me to settle down, learn, grow and shine was the constant support I received from my team and the HR team. All my doubts and questions were answered in time, and I was pointed in the right direction, which allowed me to feel more comfortable in my role and feel like a part of the amazing SuccessFactors GTM family.

Nicolle: I needed to make a new hire because we had a critical gap at a crucial time in our planning cycle. From the moment I met Shehneela over zoom I knew she had a spark but had no idea the extent to which she would throw herself into the incredibly challenging task at hand. In a very short time, she built trust with a cross functional and global team and was able to ensure our critical milestones to enable our global sales teams were met. We were excited about the new gear we were executing with and knew right away we wanted to find Shehneela a long-term home as a full-time employee on our team. We are incredibly thrilled that we were able to do so.

Q: Any challenges and/or surprises that you faced during your experience?

Shehneela: I loved the comprehensive onboarding process, which provided me with all the information and equipped me with all the tools I needed to perform my day-to-day tasks.

The biggest surprise was the immense amount of support I received from every member of the GTM team. I could always count on reaching out to any member no matter what level of organizational hierarchy and get the answers I needed to help me grow in my role.

I can honestly say that in my 15+ years of professional experience I have never been appreciated as much as I was during my return, and it was this appreciation that gave me the courage to spread my wings and give my very best to the team.

Nicolle: Shehneela had a large and very meaningful impact in a very short time. 20 weeks can pass quickly. She didn’t let a second of that go to waste. I was so grateful that Shehneela chose SAP and SuccessFactors and hope she will inspire others to take the leap. Diversity in thought, talent and experience are vital for us and I am so happy that it can now come from these nontraditional places. Thank you Shehneela!

Q: If you only had to use one word to describe your experience with Path Forward Returnship at SAP, what would it be?

Shehneela: Rewarding – whether it was remuneration, benefits, learning, culture, work environment, and above all the team interactions, it was a rewarding experience, to say the least.

Nicolle: AMAZING!

The unique experiences shared by Shehneela, and Nicolle paint the perfect picture of how the Returnship program can be impactful for both a participant and hiring manager. Creating a strong support system and comfortable work environment were both frequently mentioned in the Q&A. These components are ingrained in the very fabric of our program through the help of passionate managers like Nicolle and outstanding participants like Shehneela.

If you enjoyed learning about the Returnship program, feel free to leave any feedback, thoughts or questions in the comment section. We are excited to share more content about the Returnship program to the SAP community and encourage you all to reach out if you are curious to find out more about the program.

Follow my profile for more upcoming content about the Returnship program as well. Feel free to also post and answer any questions onto the SAP Community Careers page and read similar content on the Careers topic page, the links are added below for reference.

https://answers.sap.com/tags/724690177700823984208969627109459
https://blogs.sap.com/tags/724690177700823984208969627109459/