SAP employee veteran for 15 years and one of CSR’s most passionate Volunteer Ambassadors, Deb Phillips, has always gone above and beyond in any task that she sets out to do, but this past year demonstrated what a true warrior is as she fought for her life and finally found her way back to SAP. I sat down with her to talk about her story in the middle of her favorite time of year – SAP Month of Service.
Me: You’ve been a strong supporter of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)@SAP for a long time – why?
Deb: I LOVE what CSR does. The employees at SAP are very blessed to have this program. The people who directly work for the CSR and the Ambassadors are a caring group of people. You couldn’t meet more civic minded people. We get so deep in the muck of working and in our own lives that it’s great to have the CSR to remind us there is an entire world out there that needs our support. Being part of this group motivates me to do more than I thought I could. I see charities that I didn’t know about. I see SAP employees come together as a huge team during October for Month of Service and that reaffirms my hope for humanity.
Me: Early this year, you were faced with some difficult personal challenges – can you tell us about them?
Deb: One of my enjoyments is a good workout. I like lifting weights very much. I was going to the gym 6 days a week and was getting very strong. In December I noticed that I just wasn’t feeling well. Nothing specific. I went to my family doctor and he would provide antibiotics. I’d feel okay for that duration then have to go back for more. By the middle of January I couldn’t do a clean and press with a 45lb bar so I knew something was wrong since I was doing at least 95lbs previously.
On Feb 4th I was told I had leukemia and was admitted to the hospital.
Me: What was the most difficult part?
Deb: I was so worried about my family, my friends and my job that I didn’t have time to digest what was actually happening to me. I still am deeply
concerned for my family. They were very scared and I know they still worry. It was also very difficult for me and my family to understand exactly what was
During my first round of chemo the medicine affected my liver, heart and eyesight. I woke up blind! I was in ICU and I don’t remember that week at all. The hardest physical part was the radiation. It is just debilitating to your body and here’s a crazy fact: when you have full body radiation you aren’t dressed!
Me: What did you learn? How do you feel?
Deb: I learned I don’t look terrible with a shaved head and modesty is overrated. I learned how much my SAP North America Marketing family loved me. I
learned that my right hand person at SAP, Darnell Engel, is stronger than she thought. I learned that my family would do anything for me unconditionally. I
learned that when you think you are done, you have so much more in you and you just need to reach for it. If you do 20 pushups and think you are dying, do 2 more. You can do anything. It’s true: the body will do what the mind tells it. I had the Commando’s Prayer taped to my wall and on my phone. I read
that every day.
Me: What got you through it?
Deb: I got through it knowing that I wasn’t ready to say goodbye yet! I have so many things I want to do. All of the prayers from my SAP, SWSF – my
nonprofit, friends and my family got me through the day to day. You have to have willpower. You have to have the resiliency to fight through the pain. It’s
only weakness leaving the body I’m told and I believed that.
Me: Tell us about your nonprofit, the Silent Warrior Scholarship Fund.
Deb: My son is a MARSOC Marine. While he was in Afghanistan as a Recon Marine his team lost 4 brothers. We established the non-profit 501c(3) The Silent Warrior Scholarship Fund in 2011 in their honor. We provide scholarships to applicants that have a 2.5 or better, a familial relationship with a Recon or MARSOC Marine & who completes a qualifying essay.
For the 2013-2014 school year we gave 10 scholarships of varying amounts for a total of $50,000. We have some great supporters. In January 2014 we will have our second annual Row-a-Thon in Chicago. April 17-18 we will have our 3rd annual golf outing along with an evening with Brian Shul – author, pilot & photographer. We have corporate sponsors for foursomes already lined up. We are also getting ready for our annual Hog Hunt January 29 to Feb 2 which benefits the Silent Warrior Scholarship Fund and the Green Bert Foundation. (Here’s a link to the 2013 fun! http://www.silentwarriorscholarshipfund.com/fundraisers/swsf-hog-hunt-fundraiser). We take no salary and have a 5 person board now. In fact, I am still donating our stamps and office supplies!
[Note: You can find more information at www.silentwarriorscholarshipfund.comand follow them on FB and on Twitter @SwScholarship.]
Me: What motivates you personally?
Deb: I would like to see anyone who wants an education getting an education. I struggled as a single mom putting myself through college. College payments and debt are hard on most Americans. I feel especially sensitive to the Armed Forces because they don’t earn as great a salary as they would in the private sector yet they will pay the same rate as anyone else. They make that sacrifice to protect our country. You don’t go into the Armed Forces for the money. I work for the Silent Warrior Scholarship Fund to help make it happen that some people will have that opportunity.
I also have a passion for animals especially dogs and the current plight of the elephants. My FB family would love to tell me to stop posting about it. And with 4 dogs and a guinea pig my husband would love to tell me to stop!
Me: Although you were actually working from the hospital for some time in the beginning, you were out of commission for the
greater part of the year especially after you lost your eyesight. How are you doing now?
Deb: I’m back to work!!!! But, I’m actually not even home yet because of the dogs bringing in bacteria from the outside. No hiking, no crowds, no planes, no
trains and no restaurant salad! Until you are a year free of any cancer or illness the possibilities of becoming sick again are very real. Cold and flu season is my next challenge. I am a nag about covering with your elbow.
But I’m getting stronger every day, my eyesight is back and I’m just happy to be with my SAP family again, and also happy I at least had a chance to participate in Month of Service through the virtual “Shoebox Recycling” project that was offered.
Me: What’s your favorite thing about working at SAP?
Deb: The CSR of course! SAP is great at adapting to the always changing environment. I’ve been with SAP 15 years and have seen many changes. The
management works to support change requests by employees as well as external changes. Diversity is a good example. We, the employees, wanted a more diverse workplace and SAP stepped up to the challenge.
Accountability, Professionalism, Trust, Teamwork, Success and Integrity – our SAP Core Values – can be summed up with 2 words: Deb Phillips. Thank you for your leadership and for reminding us what’s so great about this company. You’re an inspiration.