My Last Day at SAP

In case anyone noticed, I have been 1) blogging less these last few weeks, and 2) increasingly difficult to get in touch with. The reason is that I resigned from SAP a couple of weeks ago and Thursday will be my last official day as an employee of the company; I’ve been busy cleaning up loose ends and decompressing.

I do have a new gig, one that I can’t wait to tell you about, but this post is dedicated to saying goodbye to a company that I have been proud to be associated with for 9 years (damn, 1 more year of service and I would have received a crystal lamp… really).

There will be some things about SAP that I won’t miss but this post is not about that, it is about reflecting on the things that I have been privileged to be a part of and to express my gratitude to a company who gave me a great opportunity in the most productive part of my career and also gave me a lot of latitude to do things that interested me simply on my word that it would be productive.

I’ll never forget the time I sat down in Hasso Plattner’s office to interview for the SAP Ventures position that Howard Lau recruited me for, making me the #2 person in Ventures. Hasso sat me down and without the benefit of a resume asked me a couple of questions about me and what I was all about, which was the first 5 minutes of the interview, the remaining 45 minutes was consumed talking about surfing in South Africa, sailing, and what my favorite windsurfing spots in the Bay were. It was only some time later that I realized he wasn’t’ assessing my capabilities but rather my character. He concluded with a rather terse “I’ll support you in this role” and off I went to figure out how to be a VC. Plattner was always supportive, making time when I asked for it and displaying both a breadth of knowledge and command of detail that to this day leaves me convinced he is one of the smartest people in this business. Loyalty… I’ll always have it for Hasso but I also understand that leaving SAP means I am violating it in his eyes.

SAP Ventures was a phenomenal experience that left me with two “life marks” that I will carry forward professionally everywhere I go. The first being that I developed the confidence that I really knew what the hell I was talking about; confidence that was born out of having to argue and debate with Howard and everyone else at SAP Labs at a time when we really did value heated debates. The second learning I experienced was really a maturation process that gave me the right perspective and attitude to sit side-by-side with experienced investors and entrepreneurs. Without my time at SAP I am quite positive that I would not have developed into what I have become. Gratitude, serious gratitude.

I wrote earlier that SAP also gave me a lot of latitude, allow me to explain. When I started blogging over 4 years ago there were no other bloggers inside of SAP, except maybe Mark, to model myself on. So I wrote about what interested me, what I was seeing, and why I thought things that seemed important were so. In the process I really pissed off some people in our marketing and communications groups who saw my activities as a usurping of their authority. I am quite sure that were it not for a couple of key executives (and you know who you are) there would have been the dreaded cease-and-desist-or-find-a-new-job email, but that never happened and eventually those same people who resisted what I was doing embraced it and we now have bloggers at SAPPHIRE and more recently at TechEd (jeez, we even had Scoble vcasting the event).

My last year in Apollo has been extraordinary and I’m grateful for it. I’ve managed a great team, had the opportunity to deploy some technologies that I am an ardent believer in, and once again been exposed to some amazingly smart people at all levels of the company. One of the best qualities of SAP is that we have a knack for hiring extraordinary people.

A year ago I wrote a post about my leaving SAP Ventures to go back to the operations side of the business. A lot of people asked me what the hell I was doing… the answer will be revealed when I write about what I am doing next. This next step on my path would not have been possible were it not for the last year spent doing my Apollo business, but you’ll have to wait a few weeks before I am ready to talk about it. Needless to say, this is something really really exciting and right in the sweet spot for the things that I find interesting and exciting about enterprise software (and consumer for that matter).

Thanks for 9 great years (and I’m really going to miss the espresso machine, my 12 minute commute, and all the friends I have worked with here… but not in that order). I no longer have sap.com email, so if you want to ping me please email me at my jnolan@gmail.com address.