Sap Women

Lead with Passion

Yulia Kocheshkova’s career goal is to make the world better, help customers become faster, and make their jobs simpler. As Senior Project Manager at SAP in Moscow, Russia, she has channeled her passion into becoming a successful leader and praises the increase in female leadership in Russia

by Natascha Zeljko | 01 Jul, 2021

You have a background in Computer Science. What inspired you to enter this field?

The technology industry is one of the fastest-paced and there is always something new going on. In Russia, it's not so common to go into technical sciences: My university cohort was made up of only fifteen people, three of whom were women. But I was always very passionate about IT, math, everything that had to do with computers. I started looking for information very young, at fifteen or sixteen; then I enrolled at the National University of Science and Technology MISiS, one of the most difficult in the country. I would go to the library and borrow the heaviest books, just to see what it was all about. Luckily, I always had my parents’ full support and patient professors who gave me so much energy as well as knowledge. 

How did your career at SAP start?

I first tried SAP solutions in 2012, and I was impressed. “Wow,” I thought, “I want to be a part of this.” When I started as an intern in 2014, I was hungry for knowledge and projects. I was amazed by how much our systems can help customers become better, faster, and make their jobs simpler. I saw how happy they were after implementation – that’s still in my heart, something I can hold on to in the low moments. This became the goal of my career: To make the world better.

Having studied and worked in Russia for many years, what is your take on gender diversity there?

First of all, it's good to see that in the last couple of years, the call for female leadership has been clearly heard in Russia and Moscow. Ten years ago, it was rare to find female managers – perhaps there were some in multinational companies, but not Russian ones. Now we are going into a new era where women are starting to be part of management and design thinking groups, which are generally involved in decision-making. For example, I had a project with the biggest bank in Russia, Sberbank, which has around three hundred thousand employees. The Chief Human Resources Officer is a woman and, incidentally, is a pleasure to work with. In our country, large and global corporations are starting to believe that both genders must have a role in business. I think every major company has women in top or middle management. And they show great results because equality and diversity lead to different points of view. I’m glad that we now have a real opportunity to build our careers, gain visibility and be part of these environments.

Every major company has women in top or middle management. And they show great results because equality and diversity lead to different points of view.

What are the most important issues and projects you’re dealing with at the moment?

My main project now is with a metal and mining company with a complete geological, mining and gold processing cycle. My main focus is the business processes: any issues, gaps or problems that the customers may have. My main purpose is to help them improve through our ERP system S/4HANA. We started this project from green field implementation: The customer didn’t have any SAP system before ours. Last year, we carried out the fastest implementation ever and we’re going into the second phase now. Every day, I get feedback from directors and managers thanking us for our work. My main objective now is to finish the second implementation and integrate our solution with the customer’s whole IT landscape. It’s difficult, but I have an award-winning team – mostly guys – behind me. I’m very proud of us.

Sounds like you’ve got a knack for team leading. What are the most important skills for this?

Let’s try to narrow it down to the top three. First, there’s communication, because as a project manager or team leader, you have to find the right words every minute. Sometimes to convince, sometimes to find solutions, and sometimes just to have a conversation with members of your team, C-Level or external collaborators. Without this skill, you can do nothing. The second element is the ability to know customers’ business processes. Because all of them would like to deal with professionals who can speak their language and understand the tricky things about their day-to-day procedures. Unfortunately, I have met many specialists who don’t know these processes at all. It’s quite sad: They have the hard skills and the social adeptness, but they still struggle. Lastly, you need leadership to be a leader. There are some qualities that you just cannot train for. You can improve, definitely, but it has to be inside you. Especially if you’re a woman and you’re playing a big game.

You’re still quite young as a professional, but you already have a senior role. How has your job changed in recent years?

My career has been very fast-paced. I began as an intern in Human Consulting, and after three years, I began to work as a team leader. To be honest it was hard, because I was young – very young. I had to broaden my mind: I started to look at each situation differently. I couldn’t think like a good consultant but as a team leader. I also had some projects as architect, which I accepted because it was a good learning opportunity for me, but I soon realized it was too technical. I wanted to focus on developing as a leader, as I understood that that was one of my biggest strengths. And then, of course, my life changed quickly. I had to adopt new points of view again, understand how to use budgets, resources. My god, it was really difficult: last year my team included around sixty employees in different time zones, who spoke different languages. The main thing that I learned was that you should be flexible, and mix your own knowledge with other perspectives. 

My team is my inspiration. When they show me what they can do, I feel something warm inside me. I would like to be and do my best for them.

Where do you find inspiring perspectives?

My team is my inspiration. When they show me what they can do, I feel something warm inside me. I would like to be and do my best for them. And our customers, too, how they handle the difficult processes and hard situations we face together. COVID, for one: People carried on, broke boundaries inside their companies and showed results. 

Finally, do you have any advice for younger talents?

I often tell them: “You should be brave. Do what you think is right, and if you don’t know how you should proceed, ask your colleagues.” It’s a great environment for young professionals, in this city and this company. You can drop people an email for help whenever you like, even the Head of Consulting. The second thing is passion. You should have sparkly eyes! Everyone has these qualities, but somehow, they often get lost. You should hold onto them throughout your career.



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