Susan Moran, SAP

Global Director, Customer Interaction Centre, SAP

Degree subject BA French and Sociology, NUI Maynooth; Postgraduate course in Information Systems, Business French, Communications and Marketing, LSB College (now Dublin Business School); Postgraduate course in Business German and IT, Tallaght
Job title Global Director, Customer Interaction Centre
Employer SAP

At university I’d developed a network of people who helped me to identify that I could make a successful career out of something I enjoyed doing very much, which was working with languages, so when I started my IT career I took a role as a Customer Service Representative with French. I was working in Dublin but using my French every day with French-speaking customers. I was also fortunate to have the opportunity to travel frequently to Informix Software’s offices in Paris.

My first appointment to a management position was a big highlight in my career, as being trusted to lead a team of professionals is a great honour and comes with enormous responsibility. Even now, after 12 years, I never forget that the decisions I make have an impact on customers around the world and the people I lead.

Managing a successful global organisation ranks as one of my biggest achievements. My team is spread across the world, speaking to customers in 27 languages, and I am ultimately responsible for the company’s first contact with customers who have technical challenges. The fact that I lead this team of very talented individuals gives me a huge sense of pride and achievement.

Also I’m very proud of my role in coordinating the Ireland university programme. I’m passionate about education and the need to develop partnerships between academia and industry to ensure our country gradually comes out of this current economic downturn.

My colleagues might say I’m visionary but with a strong focus on detail. I encourage open communication and idea-sharing, but with a practical plan for how things can be executed. As Thomas Edison said, ‘Vision without execution is hallucination.’

This skill is partly innate and partly learned; I have always been curious and determined. Throughout my career great leaders and mentors have shared their vision with me, listened to my ideas and inspired me to act on them and make them a reality using smart strategies and achievable goals. I apply this skill in my professional environment all the time for the benefit of customers and teams. Outside of the workplace I’m involved with some not-for-profit charitable organisations and being visionary also serves its purpose very well in this environment.

My job incorporates setting the strategy and direction for my team. I also am responsible for communications with internal and external stakeholders, employee development, customer management and representing the company externally. I constantly have to juggle and prioritise my time, depending on the situations presented to me every day. The upside is that this is what makes my job so rewarding and fulfilling.

Advice for graduates

Stand out from the crowd. Ask lots of questions: often new opportunities and great ideas are born by simply asking them. Build and develop a brand for yourself: often the valuable competencies we exhibit and the things we do are not written in a job description. Finally, while it’s not necessary to have an IT qualification to do my job, it is essential to have a high level of understanding of the technology that my company uses. It’s also critical to keep up with technology in general and how this can impact on customers.

Be open to feedback and willing to learn from others: leadership is a steep learning curve and is perfected by everyday experience. Successful leaders must also have an open and collaborative communication style, be innovative and possess integrity. The ability to adapt quickly and embrace change is crucial, particularly in the IT industry as technology is moving at an incredible pace. Finally, there is a huge gap for fluent language skills in Ireland, and many experts have to be hired from abroad, so language skills are a definite bonus.

Use every opportunity to develop your skills. In Ireland there is an increasing demand for proficiency in a second language, so if you have an opportunity to improve your competence or learn a new language I would strongly encourage you to do so. Also, make the most of internships and lend your skills voluntarily. Employers like to see candidates who have used opportunities to build on their experience in different ways. And you just never know what could come out of these opportunities.

Susan was interviewed for Ireland's 100 leading graduate employers 2012/13