People Story - Brian Rice
At SAP, we believe that when you bring everything you are, you can become everything you want.
My name is Brian Rice, and family matters most to me!
I joined SAP at the start of 2010, working as a contractor in North America Field Marketing and by the end of the year, I transitioned into a role on the Global Social Media Team as a full-time employee. From the very beginning, I felt inspired by my colleagues and was proud of the work we were achieving together, but it wasn’t until 2013 that I truly understood the heart of SAP.
At the end of 2012, my wife, Geri, and I announced that we were expecting our first child in June of 2013. We had just purchased a new home near the NSQ campus and were excited to grow our family. During the 20-week ultrasound, we found out that we would be having a baby boy, however the technician had trouble getting a clear picture of his heart. After going to a specialist, it was confirmed that our son’s heart did not develop properly and he would be born with only half a heart. The official diagnosis was Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), which is a very rare, deadly and incurable disease. Prior to 1980, the only “treatment” was comfort care until the infant passed away peacefully, however in the past couple of decades there has been significant progress and now there is a series of three open heart surgeries that help manage this horrible disease. Even with all this progress, we were told that our son had a 25% of surviving beyond his first 30 days of life.
As we wrapped our heads around the uncertainty of our family’s future, one of my concerns was how could I continue to keep up with the demands of my job while being there for my family. I spoke with my manager, Brian Ellefritz, and he assured me that I had his complete support to find a way to manage the workload and that my focus should be on my family. The remainder of my wife’s pregnancy was very challenging, resulting in an emergency C-section at Paoli Hospital in Pennsylvania and then our son, Matthew, was immediately transported to A.I. duPont Hospital in Delaware before my wife even had a chance to hold him. Matthew’s condition was worse than they had expected and within his first 12 hours of life, he had his first operation to help stabilize his heart. For the next week, I spent my time commuting back and forth between the two hospitals.
The ability to work remotely and adjust my schedule around my family’s needs, helped reduce the stress. For the next four months, I stayed with my wife and son in the intensive care unit and worked from whatever quiet spot in the hospital I could find. During our son’s first two years of life, roughly 75% of it was spent in long stretches of time in the hospital as he had over a dozen surgeries. At the time, I was responsible for rolling out our social listening practice globally so my focus was on providing training to teams in all the regions, and providing social media support for our large events like SAPPHIRE NOW. The entire time, I worked remotely so that I could be there for my son during the critical moments while not skipping a beat at work. While my son’s condition is currently stable, we still average about six emergency room visits a year so having a flexible work environment is crucial.
My family is forever indebted to SAP for the compassion and support that we continue to receive, we feel so blessed. We consider my SAP colleagues to be an extension of our family, as we know we could not have done this without them. It shows a lot about the character of the people at SAP, that they were there for us to lean on in our time of need. The generosity that we have received will never be forgotten. There are countless examples but these are some of the ones that standout. When we first entered our hospital room, we were greeted with a gift certificate to the hospital cafeteria from my former team in North America so we didn’t have to worry about meals. One colleague, Mark Peters, came and visited with me so that I wouldn’t feel isolated from the world. Finally, another colleague, Schalk Viljoen, sent Matthew a Curious George stuffed animal, which quickly became his “lovey”. This stuffed animal has become so much more than just a gift. It has been with Matthew in the operating room for every one of his open-heart surgeries, when we couldn’t visit Matthew because of his unstable condition, Curious George was there to watch over him and it has served as a constant reminder that we are never alone – our SAP family is always there to lift us up.
Last year, Matthew was also diagnosed with autism so it makes me very proud to work for a company that is making huge strides to provide opportunities for all individuals. Matthew is non-verbal and sensitive to sensory overload but he has been making a lot of progress communicating through picture cards and adjusting to unfamiliar environments. SAP was a big part of two fun milestones for Matthew. We went to the SAP carnival where he took a spin on the carousel for his first amusement ride and later in the year I was excited to take him Trick or Treating around the NSQ offices, he loved the Wizard of Oz display.
Prior to SAP, I had never been a part of an organization that had empathy as part of its core DNA. I believe that the success of SAP can be measured by the sum of our individuality. It is impossible to reach your full potential by hiding parts of who you are – you need to be all in. Our diversity is what makes us so great and every day we can learn something new from one another if we just take the time to listen and share. When I think about the innovation that we are creating across so many industries, especially in healthcare, it gives my family hope.