Life has already come full circle for Gerard Duong. The Paris-born child of migrants from Asia, he spent time working in Singapore, where his maternal grandmother was born, before returning to France for his next role.
“My parents were raised in Asia, but they moved abroad after they got married,” he says. “My oldest sister was born in Vietnam but they subsequently moved to Paris, where my younger sister and I were born.
“It’s interesting to think that my parents are Asian, and while they naturally feel very Asian because they grew up there, they have three children who grew up with a really mixed culture. My parents worked seven days a week to put all three of us through private school in Paris, which is very expensive. My siblings and I all have good careers thanks to the fact they did everything to give us the best possible education.
“When I was 13, I started to travel with my parents in Asia to meet my grandfather, who was living in Hong Kong. I really enjoyed that because it was my first long trip, much longer than travelling in Europe. It was also important to me because I was learning more about my family heritage. When you’re a teenager, you don’t actually think about moving overseas because you’re just excited about the holiday. But later, when I started working, the first thing I wanted to do was work outside France. I love France, I was born and raised there, but I really wanted to spend some time working abroad.
“In May 2012 I joined SAP EMEA in Barcelona as a sales executive covering General Business for France. Thanks to the support of my colleagues and peers, I attended the Winners’ Circle in 2013, 2014 and 2016 and won every time. Reaching the Winners’ Circle is a huge achievement and while it’s the pinnacle of sales, I have to say I had a lot of coaching and I had a very good partner as well. The thing I love about that event is that each of us can bring one person of our choice. For me that was very meaningful. I took my younger sister with me in 2013 – she was about 23 at the time and was studying and working in the UK.
“I still get emotional talking about it now, even though my first Winners’ Circle was seven years ago. It was a great experience for me. I was really nervous at the time. The target was 140 per cent then, and I had made 142 per cent, so winning it was certainly not a foregone conclusion. Even getting to the target of 140 per cent took every ounce of effect and I think my last deal was signed on 27 or 28 December. This of course meant I received a very late invitation. A lot of my colleagues had already received their invitations because they had made the target earlier.
“I was nervous, I was not sure. You just never know. As I was only just above the cut-off point, I had no reason at all to be confident. I received my invitation a few days before FKOM. I was not surprised because I knew I had made it, but I was certainly nervous. My manager was more confident than I was. It was my first year at SAP, so it really gave me a lot of motivation.
“It was a really nice moment and it gave me a lot of energy because you have some very tough moments sometimes. When all your KPIs are good and on green, it’s easy. But if you’re struggling with your numbers, with your demand generation, and with escalation, when I have those times – and I’ve had a lot – I try to remember this moment. Staying strong is easy to say but hard to do. And when I have these moments, I remember two things – my family and the Winners’ Circle. It was certainly the foundation of my success today, because it really gave me something special since it was my first year.
“As I tell myself every morning, SAP changed my life and I believe in our great corporate culture, in our strategy and most importantly in our people.”