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Elsa's Story

At SAP, we believe that when you bring everything you are, you can become everything you want.

SAP is a company that allows each individual to pave their own career, while also acknowledging the past and the stories that each employee might have to tell.

Elsa Huynh

The Vietnam War changed everything for Hugh Huynh.

It also condemned him to the debilitating and unusual fate of not knowing exactly where he was, even though he was still in the country of his birth.

He grew up in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) in the late Fifties and Sixties, living what was deemed to be a somewhat lavish life in the southern city. The French colonial flavor was very much a part of Saigon, where one of the major landmarks was – and still is – the 19th century neo-Romanesque Notre Dame Cathedral.

His parents were considered wealthy and were able to afford a premium lifestyle for themselves and their children. Hugh’s ambition was to move to Paris to pursue a university degree, following in the footsteps of other fellow students whom he knew. As things turned out, he never did make it to the French capital.

In his final year of high school, the Vietnam War was at its peak. He was unable to finish school as he was forced to join the South Vietnam Army due to the general mobilization of their army cadets. Given the rank of an officer, the teenager found it extremely challenging to adapt to his new role. Not only had Hugh lost the opportunity to attend university in Paris, but he was also leading a vastly different lifestyle from the one to which he was accustomed.

He served in the military for four years before being detained in a prisoner of war camp in 1975. As a PoW, he was unaware of where exactly he was incarcerated, if he would survive, and whether his family was still alive on the outside. He saw some of his friends slain for “disobedience” and he joined others who scrambled to eat the food that was being served to the animals, so as not to go hungry.

On 30 April 1978, Hugh was finally released from the PoW camp. Eventually, he found out that his parents and siblings had survived the war.

In telling his story, Hugh’s daughter Elsa says: "Saigon had changed into a place that didn’t feel like home anymore. Many people were fleeing the city by any means possible so as not to be ruled by a regime they didn’t believe in. Dad met Mum and together, in 1980, without any plans or any money, they fled by boat – all in the hope of finding freedom."

"The treacherous journey involved dodging pirates, sharing a small timber boat with 99 others and not knowing when – or indeed if – they would see land again. Eventually, they did come ashore. They were held in a refugee camp in Malaysia for three months before they were transferred, arriving in Sydney in April 1981 with just the clothes on their bodies. They were placed at the East Hills Hostel for a few months until they completed their health checks and a ten-week English course.

"You can tell, however, from what I have told you so far, that my parents are not quitters. For years, they toiled away, cleaning toilets, washing dishes, doing the local newspaper run, until they scraped together enough money to send themselves to university and buy their first home. They taped their lectures on a cassette recorder and re-played them over and over, not only to learn the content but also to learn English, which was a totally foreign language to them at the time.

"In the year 2000, when Sydney hosted the Olympics, Dad began his journey with SAP. An advertisement in The Sydney Morning Herald for an IT financial accounting position caught his eye and after succeeding in the interview process, he was overjoyed that he had clinched the role and that he would be working for such a prestigious organization.

"After all his hardships, he had finally found a company that allowed him to succeed and to build his career despite his past. He has seen the company grow and transform over the years and has been lucky enough to hold a few different positions within the finance team. Much later, I would follow him and become an SAP employee too.

"The 30-year anniversary of SAP APJ is a significant milestone. It is one that makes me reflect and think about how grateful my Dad and I are to work for such a diverse, welcoming, and accepting company. It is a company that allows each individual to pave their own career, while also acknowledging the past and the stories that each employee might have to tell.

"This is our story. Dad is my hero. Some might think this is cliched but let me tell you why. This year marks Dad’s 19th year at SAP. It also marks my fourth. While it’s an achievement in itself to have spent 19 years working for the same company, everything that happened in the lead-up to it makes it all the more significant.

"In 2015, Dad officially introduced me to the world of SAP and I haven’t looked back. Through my own experiences, I can clearly see why he has never wanted to leave. Over the past three years, I have had the privilege of working in three different teams and meeting a multitude of amazing people who have all helped me along the way.

"My parents’ story has taught me to be resilient, to always try hard and never to take anything for granted – and these are all values that I see being upheld every day at SAP. I admire what Dad has been through and the career he has built within SAP and I can only aspire to do the same.

"Thank you, SAP, for allowing my Dad and me to go on this journey together."

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