A while ago, I got sick of standing in line for the rental car pickup at the San Francisco airport and got myself the long overdue – admittedly – Gold membership of my preferred rental car company. Not something you have to go round the globe 4 times first. Simply sign up, tell them all your family secrets and file three certificated copies of your medical record with them, but then you immediately get it: your membership card. And from then on, when you arrive with your flight at the airport, an email awaits you to tell you where your rental car is waiting for you: brand, model, stall, license plate. Key inside. Just walk there and off you go. Nice! Life can be a pleasure at times.

Plus, as a good citizen who revealed all of his personal life to get a free membership card, I got an upgrade voucher for my next car rental with them. So I signed up for the upgrade and boosted my corporate standard economy class Kia Rio up to a compact Ford Fiesta. Boy, this was the best upgrade ever that I got. You won’t believe it. Take a look as I got into the city with the Ford via Bay Bridge and went up to Twin Peaks…

[DC Shoes: Ken Block’s Gymkhana Five: Ultimate Urban Playground; San Francisco]

OK, I admit, the CDW was included in the price… 😉

Tomorrow’s the day. The day of the race. The San Francisco Marathon 2013.

I am totally excited. I have been waiting for this day for months now. Preparing. Thinking about it. Getting myself ready. Running a marathon in the City. Finally.

This morning I went out for a last run to stretch a bit and see how I feel. A slow and easy run. Not far from my hotel, but taking me to where the start and finish line will be tomorrow. At Pier 1 on Embarcadero. Nothing to see so far of the preparation, but tomorrow morning at 5:30am, when tens of thousands will be eager to get over the start line at a chilly 12°C, everything will be ready.

Let’s see how the 26.2 miles passing through the 49 square miles surrounded by reality will feel like. I am sure it will be fun. A lot of fun actually. And an extra bit of fun when I reach Bay Bridge again and make it over the finish line 😉

The City. I love her. She again leaves a mark.

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“When I was a child growing up in Salinas we called San Francisco “the City”. Of course it was the only city we knew, but I still think of it as the City, and so does everyone else who has ever associated with it. A strange and exclusive word is “city”. Besides San Francisco, only small sections of London and Rome stay in the mind as the City. New Yorkers say they go to town. Paris has no title but Paris. Mexico City is the Capital.

San Francisco put on a show for me. I saw her across the bay, from the great road that bypasses Sausalito and enters the Golden Gate Bridge. The afternoon sun painted her white and gold rising on her hills like a noble city in a happy dream. A city on hills has it over flatland places. New York makes its own hills with craning buildings, but this gold and white acropolis rising wave on wave against the blue of the Pacific sky was a stunning thing, a painted thing like a picture of a medieval Italian city which can never have existed.

I stopped in a parking place to look at her and the necklace bridge over the entrance from the sea that led to her. Over the green higher hills to the south, the evening fog rolled like herds of sheep coming to cote in the golden city. I’ve never seen her more lovely. When I was a child and we were going to the City, I couldn’t sleep for several nights before, out of bursting excitement. She leaves a mark.”

FROM John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley, 1962


[Teton Gravity Research Aerial Reel – The Bay Area in 4K from Teton Gravity Research on Vimeo]
Tip: Maximize video to fullscreen! And don’t miss lighted Bay Bridge at around 2mins 45secs…

Today’s the day. As if the gods had known it and are for once supportive to me, the sun’s shining when I wake up. It’s still only 2°C outside, but boy, the sun is shining. Finally. Today we will have our first rendezvous this year. Like every year on April 1st. The day starts with an appropriate breakfast — pankakes, maple sirup, icecream, orange juice, and a cappucchino, to get into a mix of Californian and Italian feeling. Ready for our day.

It was a Monday as well. April 1st, 1996. A very remarkable day for me actually. It was my first day as an employee of SAP Labs LLC. At the time still in Metro Tower in Foster City, before SAP Labs moved to Palo Alto where it is still today. I had just finished my Computer Science studies at university and had been working on connecting the SAP R/3 system to the Internet as my diploma thesis, when this whole thing turned out to be the start of a development project at SAP: the Internet Transaction Server. It makes for too long a story, but I ended up having the opportunity to come to California and work on the project at SAP Labs for 3 fantastic years. 

When I open the garage, she’s still there. I am relieved. Sometimes you wonder how you would react if the door opened and she was gone. Just a small pile of red rust left on the floor. Where she had been before. But she’s still there. As I have left her last October. Hidden under a red cover. It’s almost a celebration to uncover her. Carefully pulling the cloth off and revealing her step by step. Till finally, she’s back in old beauty. A bit older, but who isn’t? Still in perfect shape and her eyes blinking in the sun… She’s my 1969 Alfa Romeo Spider 1750. A real beauty, I think.

Alfa Romeo Spider 1750

I can still remember how exciting it was to arrive in California and start living and working there. Everything was a new experience and needed to be explored. I only knew San Francisco from the movies or stories I had heard and now being there, visiting the City in all its beauty, absorbing the buzz and the new impressions was for sure worth an experience. That’s when my love for the City got started. Love at first sight. She really left a mark with me.

Some careful wipes with a soft cloth to get the last signs of winter off — some dust here and there. We need some checks of fluids and the battery — still fine. So I carefully take a seat behind the steering wheel. Insert the car keys, send a prayer to heaven and turn the ignition. The engine gives it a try, but only for a split second. We try it a second time. Nothing. Hey, we’ll need some time together again, as it seems. Lot’s of talking. Begging. And finally, I’ll get her started… Not very smooth yet, but we’ll get there. As every year…

Alfa Romeo Spider 1750

We worked in a small team. Just four guys and a mission: Get the product ready in no time. I can remember how we worked like crazy: Thomas G did the development and benchmarking tools, Michael B did the R/3 specific protocol adaptations, I did the server core and the installer and Michael H took care of all the rest, including our travel itineries to Germany and back every few months. Some days we worked through all night, just to get the next milestone done or reach yet another looming deadline. It was the best team I ever worked in. The most influential project that I ever had the opportunity to be part of. Lot’s of hard work, but also lots and lots of fun! 

So finally, after some time getting warm with each other, we can take off… Leaving town behind us. Driving through the open fields. The cold wind blowing around my head, the wooden steering wheel feeling nice and soft in my hands, the sun above, the heating slowly getting warmer from below. It’s that very special feeling again. The one that makes her so unique. And she’s getting into it as well. Her engine gets warmer and runs smoother and smoother with every mile that we pass. She’s back to life. Finally. I think we’re getting into it again this year. It’s all memories and nostalgia about previous summers we’ve spent together. It will take some time, but we’ll get there again. We’ll have a great time together.

The three years passed like nothing. For some or the other reason the decision was taken to go back to Germany and not stay in California. It’s difficult to tell in retrospective what set the trigger. Many reasons coming together. But I guess you have to loose something first to really learn to appreciate what you had. Till today I wonder from time to time why I didn’t stay in California? How would my life have been since then? How would it be today? What opportunities did I miss? Was it right to go back to Germany? But then, in the end, I tell myself that it doesn’t matter. Decisions were taken differently at the time. Even though it was one of the best times in my life, it’s the past. And so things are as they are. What does it help to speculate about what could have been? It’s all memories by now. The only thing one can influence is the future.

Me and herSo Maybe this will be my year

San Francisco. The City. I love her.

Heading back from SFO to Germany after four days of packed schedule with colleagues in our SAP Labs in Palo Alto. I always enjoy being there. Taking a deep breath of Pacific Ocean breeze and Silicon Valley buzz. Trying to inhale as much as possible. Filling lungs and mind. Then eagerly holding my breath to preserve impressions and insights for “back home” in corporate headquarter.

What particularly sticks with me this time and keeps me thinking is our SAP developer ecosystem. I had a meeting with our Developer Community colleagues discussing how we can extend the reach of our technology platform offering beyond our current developer community? Is our Open Source and open standards driven approach these days paying off? How can we take our existing 2 million developers ecosystem with us into the new technologies like HANA, Cloud and Mobile? What are the new skills we need to help developers to acquire step by step? What do we need to learn from them? How can we become attractive for the “scripting kids” and their main ask: “What’s your API”?

For a company that made almost half of its new software license revenue last year – a roughly 2.1 billion euro business – in technology related products, we should be better known for them. For with more than 60% of the world’s business transactions running through SAP solutions, the underlying technology of those solutions is obviously highly strategic for a vibrant partner ecosystem and constantly growing customer base.

It’s time that the world recognizes that we’re meanwhile much more than just an ERP company. And with SAP HANA and our offerings in Analytics, Cloud and Mobile that should be obvious. We’ve come a long way. It’s not that same SAP from the past any more. It’s a new SAP. For sure inside. For sure for our customers and partners. And we need to turn this into a new SAP for developers as well…

While the flight info system suggests that LH455 hangs somewhere in the air at 30.000 feet over the Atlantic, I am still hanging on to San Francisco in my mind. Haven’t really left the City yet as it seems. She always leaves a mark…

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