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How my skillset expanded with SAP Portals technology

There are so many software developers out there, the majority visual basic, or C++ programmers. But, how many software developers are developers for the SAP Portal technology ? I’m sure the answer to that question is only a few hundred. It sure is nice to be elite, and for being bestowed such an honor, I feel the world should know how I got such a wonderful opportunity.

In 1999, I started in TransAlta, and my focus was primarily Visual Basic and VBA development. I remained in this area until January of 2001. This period was full of ups and downs, dealing with the pains of building applications that constantly faced DLL conflict issues, version incompatabilities and a software deployment process that was always hit-and-miss. This wasn’t always rewarding, because you often encountered end users who believed they knew more than you, considering the technology and language are so… BASIC!

In January of 2001, I joined the Lotus Notes development team. This was an exciting departure from the often frustrating Visual Basic programming days. For one, this was an even more rapid application development environment, where you don’t have to build a special install package, register a series of DLLs on users desktops and apply a serious of registry changes. And, furthermore, you got to work with a whole grab-bag of technologies to provide your users with an effective solution, like LotusScript, JavaScript, Java, and so forth. This was tremendously rewarding and having the privilege of supporting TransAlta’s outward facing website, which is run on Lotus Notes technology, I had a renewed love for software development, especially for the web.

Finally, in July of 2001, I was taken out of my Lotus Notes development and support role to join the elite TransAlta portal team. For our first evaluation, we attempted a deployment using Yahoo! Portal Builder. Although this was a great product for scraping web sites, doing XML transformations, connecting to back end enterprise databases, it lacked some serious functionality that was critical for TransAlta. Those features included single sign-on and true SAP R/3 integration using either ITS or Java using JCo (excuse me if my use of words are incorrect – I’m by no means an SAP R/3 or ITS expert). That’s where the SAP Portal product came into the portal vision of TransAlta.

The SAP Portal product not only gave us the ability to leverage all the features and functionality that Yahoo! Portal Builder provided, but a whole lot more – which is itself an understatement. I was really excited to be part of the FCS or First CustomerShip team, and even more importantly, being among one of the first in the world to evaluate and build a skillset around a very superior product that had the potential of really improving the way we work and collaborate in the workplace.

Now, after nearly 2 years of living in the Portal realm, I’m convinced this is likely where I’ll stay. Not because I love to program for the web, or because I like creating flashy graphics that look cool on the Internet, but because I’ve got a great product to give me that feeling of accomplishment, and allow me to be extremely innovative, creative and provide real cost saving solutions to the business. Thank you to SAP for not just changing the way we deliver solutions to our business users at TransAlta, but changing my life. I hope I have the privilege of spending years and years developing for the SAP Portal – ’cause my resume has never looked so good!

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