Had she been just six centimeters taller, life might have been different for Elisabeth Manik, who now has almost 20 years’ experience at SAP.
“My childhood dream was to become a stewardess,” she confesses. “I always wanted to travel. I dreamt about travelling, but I think it wasn’t meant to be because I’m not tall enough. I think at that time the minimum height requirement was 160 cm, but I’m only 154 cm. But of course we’re talking about when I was a little girl, and that’s exactly what I had in mind!
“A big influence on my life was my father, who passed away when I was fifteen years old. He was born on the island of Sumatra but then later he went to Java and Kalimantan, and that was where he met my mother. He was an elementary school teacher and spoke fluent Dutch and a bit of Japanese, and of course English as well. But I must admit that none of his linguistic skills passed down to me!
“He liked to do crosswords every morning and he used to tell me, this is a good way to learn things and keep up. He read a lot of books and he told me to just keep reading. That’s a habit that I still have. I was lucky because my father gave me lots of freedom. He said, ‘Whatever you want to do, just make sure you do it right and do it in the best way possible.’
“He guided me but he also gave me the freedom to create my own path. I still carry him in my heart. When he was alive, we used to go to bookstores almost every weekend. It really was father-and-daughter time. We used to spend an hour or two there and he used to allow me to pick one or two books. They weren’t always sophisticated or very serious books, but he would even allow me to buy comics or funny books. I try to pass on the same thing to my own sons, who are teenagers.
“My dad would have been so proud to know that I came to SAP. Actually, people outside Indonesia might not know this, but there are two other local companies here with the same name. One is a soft-drink company and the other one is a logistics and courier service. Back when I came to SAP, not many people in Indonesia knew that we were a huge software company but now, it’s completely different, of course. The SAP lanyard is something we all wear proudly every day.
“How I came to SAP is quite interesting. Before I came here, I worked in the logistics department for a conglomerate that was an early SAP adopter in Indonesia. I’ve actually used SAP since the R/3 days. That was my introduction – the ugly, grey screen!
“We had an SAP project that went live and one of our IT directors who was heading the project moved to SAP after that. About a year later she reached out to me and asked if I wanted to try something new in a completely different company. I said, okay, which company are you talking about? She said, SAP. My answer was, ‘You mean the SAP? The one that we implemented?’ I was very happy, but at the same time I wondered if they actually had an office in Jakarta. I had never heard of them here.
“She said, yes, they do have a Jakarta office. At the time, she was the consulting and training director for SAP Indonesia, but there were only about fifteen employees at that time. Back then, SAP had a tiny office in a different building on the same street where we are now! I joined in training operations, purely education.
“I learnt so much after I came here. By the time I was entering my second year, we actually rolled out the materials management model. So then Finance said, since you’ve used it in the past, we want you to go to Singapore for this training and share knowledge with the others when you come back. After that we started to use it for purchase orders and purchase requisitions. And I was so happy that I was finally using an SAP system!
“Going to Singapore was the first training I actually had on our own system, even though it was not directly related to my role. But then again, you have to remember that we were just a handful of people in the office at the time. In reality, it was as if I was working with my own family. Back then, if there were no people for specific roles that we needed as things progressed, we just covered for one another.
“We didn’t have a special purchasing department, we didn’t have a full IT department either. My role then was education operations, but I did all the asset purchases and I even did the renovation planning with the facilities team. Looking back on it now, it was all the fun stuff that was happening, and it was great that we could all be involved. The best part about it was that we were all growing together.
“We were all part of the growth and the members of the sales team were just like my brothers. Now, the most common response I get when new people find out I’ve been here a very long time, like a dinosaur, they say, ‘Well, it must be very comfortable now.’ But I can say truthfully that in those early days the greatest comfort was the people around me – my colleagues. Everything else has changed around us. Everything. I’m sure everyone else who was here back then would agree with me.
“It means a great deal to me that SAP has such a strong culture of purpose. I’m very proud of that. It’s really important that this organization doesn’t just focus on the business, but that we also focus on how best to provide impact. It’s such an important thing and it’s also good for us employees because it creates such an important bonding situation. It’s good for the company, it’s good for us personally and also because so many people benefit from our focus on purpose.”