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Back to the Future: Happy 20th SAP Canada

This year, SAP is celebrating 20 years in Canada.   The Canadian operations were officially established in April 1989.


Memories… (cue music)

That same year,


  • the Berlin wall fell,
  • the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska’s Prince William Sound spilling millions of gallons of oil,
  • George H.W. Bush was inaugurated as the 41st U.S. President,
  • Bobby McFerrin topped the music charts with “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”,
  • “The Simpsons” made their network premiere,
  • the most popular films included Driving Miss Daisy, My Left Foot, When Harry Met Sally, Dead Poets Society and Back to the Future Part II,
  • Nintendo began selling the Game Boy in Japan,
  • Intel released the 486 series of microprocessors,
  • Microsoft launched its first version of the Microsoft Office Suite,
  • the SAP SAPPHIRE conference came to North America, and
  • SAP AG was named “Company of the year” (no doubt due to the opening of SAP Canada offices).


How was that for a trip down memory lane?


Humble Beginnings

After a few months in a temporary location, SAP Canada set up shop at 4120 Yonge Street in Toronto, which remains the Canadian headquarters to this day.  In contrast to today’s bustling 6th floor space, SAP’s first few employees were interviewed standing up in a big empty office… because there was no furniture. 


As Leslie Dafoe (employee #6) relayed to colleagues at a recent Town Hall meeting, there were two positions:  “The President”, and “Not The President”.  In the role “Not The President”, you wore many hats:  sales, training, implementation consultant, and indeed model for the company’s newspaper ads.  What a resume builder!


At that time, SAP’s only product offering was R/2 for the mainframe, complete with green-screen terminal access.  A white board on the office wall served as the team’s CRM and calendar systems.  A bookcase full of blue-bound binders was the forerunner of online help.


So that’s how we got started:  six employees, one product, no furniture.


We’ve Come a Long Way (Baby)

A twenty year retrospective reveals an incredible product evolution, partnership with many amazing Canadian customers, an expansive and valuable ecosystem, the addition of offices across the country, the introduction of SAP Labs to Canada, exponential growth in personnel …furniture.


But as Leslie relates to the team, no matter how much things have changed, two things have remained the same:  “we still have the best product, and we still have the best people”. Taking the risk of joining the company twenty years ago was the best decision she ever made. 


This year, SAP Canada was named one of the “50 Best Employers in Canada” by Hewitt Associates, in conjunction with The Globe and Mail Report on Business.


Mark Aboud, President and Managing Director, has only been here at SAP Canada for a little over one year, but he offered some very sanguine observations:  “It’s not about coming to work and hoping it’s a great place to work.  It’s about coming to work and MAKING it a great place to work.  All of us individually share the responsibility for making it a great place to work.  Once you figure that out, you’re very empowered.”  Indeed, this positive attitude is contagious.  


He also pointed out that, while it’s fun to look back, this is just a point in time; it’s not the end state.  We need to keep moving forward, evolving and improving.  I can’t wait to see what happens in the next 20 years.

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  • I started my SAP career in Canada in 1994 and worked with quite a few consultants from SAP Canada.

    I got my ABAP certification in the Toronto training centre on Yonge Street in 1996 and took at least one other course there after I joined Plaut US in 2001. I admit to a sentimental attachment to your office and company.

    Happy 20th … And may the next 20 be even more interesting.