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SAPPHIRE NOW- From the Eyes of a Teenager

The distance from the Earth to the Sun is 15 000 000 km. Having told you this, you may nod your head, reel back in awe, or gaffaw in astonishment but you, nor anyone, can truly comprehend such a distance. It is merely a disambiguated number with some shock value. This reaction is much like the one I had when told that there would be 20 000 people at the conference, or that the convention center had an area of 2 000 000 sq. ft. You can imagine, then, that when I finally reached SAPPHIRE, it took me quite a bit of time to process the magnitude of what was going on around me.

    Why was I at the convention, you may ask? I came as part of a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program at my school, Templeton Secondary in Vancouver, British Columbia, which is supported by SAP. I came, partly, to gain insight into the company and its employees. I also had the opportunity to interview SAP’s equivalent of hockey’s Team Canada, whose starting lineup included Cindy Fagen, Torie Clark, Joel Bernstein, Denise Broady, Chris Burton, Bob Elliott, and Brian Reaves. Now, when an SAP employee looks at this list, they see stats and positions instead of names. Having only discovered SAP this year, I knew very little about these amazing people before the interview, which basically meant that I had no intention to start asking about the scope of their job now. Rather, I focused on their lives- their accomplishments, their failures, and their greatest life lessons. After 7 inspiring interviews, I have amalgamated their knowledge and advice into a definitive “cheat sheet” for success.

  1. Communication will get you 90% of the way. This may not be a huge shocker, but as a teenager, I dread those oral presentations more than immunizations. Just about everyone mentioned that being able to communicate your ideas was an imperative skill to have. This makes total sense. You can’t possibly sell a genius product if you can’t explain why it’s so ingenious. Now the stakes are much higher when I hear “presentation” in class now. Not just my grade, my future depends on it!
  2. Work hard. Don’t scoff at me! This is a legitimate point on this list. Brian Reaves mentioned how “you have to earn the right to do something, and then keep earning the right to continue.” This seems incredibly true. Also, after hearing Denise Broady talk about how she arrived in USA as a Vietnamese refugee and worked 3 jobs to support her education, I realized that even though I work pretty hard- I can always work harder. Sadly, that means no excuses for that calculus homework.
  3. Experiences are everything. Cindy Fagen and toured Europe on three separate occasions, Torie Clark who went from her passion in horse riding to studying organic chemistry, and Bob Elliott sky-dives (that wasn’t discussed in the interview, it was on his Twitter account). Whether it’s an internship, a co-op, a vacation or just picking up the newspaper from time to time, having a comprehensive knowledge of any aspect of the world is beneficial and broadens perspective. Plus, your Instagram followers will burn with envy as they double tap your photos.
  4. Have a purpose. “How can I affect change?” and “How can I make a difference?” and “What problem am I trying to solve?” are just a few questions that you better be able to answer while working…  or checking SCN blog posts.
  5. Life is wacky. Few people I spoke to knew that they would end up at SAP. o don’t sweat the details. As long as you do the above 4, you’ll do fine!

    Well, there you have it! This cheat sheet must bring back fond high-school memories in science class. Sadly, I don’t have coordinates to any fountain of success. All I have is some incredibly inspirational stories and lessons to carry with me every time I’m handed a new homework assignment.

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  • Hi Arjun,

    All good observations. I’m glad you so enjoyed your first SAPPHIRE. It was my first time there, too. Was your group there as part of the University Alliance? If so, I saw a lot of you running around in those cool t-shirts.

    One minor correction: the Sun is 150 million kilometers away, not 150 thousand. 😉

    Cheers from your immediate southern neighbor (Seattle),


  • Hi Matt,

    I was there as part of my high school program, STEM, at Templeton Secondary. We are supported by SAP.

    Also, thanks for catching my mistake! I definitely saw 1 million when I Googled it, but I guess I forgot some zeros..