The Brave Ones

SAP CEO Bill McDermott on losing an eye: ‘My accident changed my life for the better’

Key Points
  • SAP CEO Bill McDermott lost an eye after falling down the stairs while carrying a glass at his brother's home in July 2015.
  • McDermott was in surgery for over nine hours the night of the accident, and had more than 10 operations in total.
  • He said it has helped him deal with the "chaos" of life.
Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
David A. Grogan | CNBC

SAP chief executive Bill McDermott has said that losing an eye in an accident in 2015 actually made his life better.

"I am living proof that vision is not just what you see. My accident has given me so much strength, so much resolve, so much passion," he told CNBC in an interview for series "The Brave Ones".

McDermott was walking down the stairs at his brother's house in July 2015, holding a glass of water. He slipped and fell, shattering the glass, and a shard went through his left eye.

He described how he managed to get up and out on to the street outside the house where he could call for help, in spite of being unable to see through the blood from his injuries.

"Basically, I wake up from the fall down the stairs. I was knocked unconscious. And I just remember bein' alone. Nobody could hear me…"

'Vision is not just what you see, it's what you feel': SAP CEO

"You gotta find a way to get up and get out and get on with it. But, you know, when you have, you know, a shard of glass go through your eye, it's pretty hard to save it. I lost the, that particular battle. But I won a bigger one."

He was in surgery for more than nine hours the night of his accident, and had "11 or 12 surgeries by the time it was all done," he said.

McDermott, who returned to work in fall 2015, added that the accident has helped him remain calm in spite of events around him.

"I think I'm the most brave under pressure. When everything is moving fast for everybody else, the field slows down for me. I see it in slow motion… like I can see past the situation and the chaos of the situation and how we're going to get through it.

"My accident changed my life for the better. You fall down stairs and get knocked unconscious and the glass hits all the wrong parts. You've got to find a way to get up. So I don't get rattled by the chaos. I get inspired by beating it back and finding out how gorgeous it is on the other side," he said.

SAP launched a Blockchain-as-a-Service product last month, available to clients in the SAP Cloud. First-quarter operating profit rose 8 percent to 1.198 billion euros ($1.3 billion), it announced in April.

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