The Day Job
Most of us have to do routine activities at work. But what is “routine”? In my opinion you are the one who decides what routine is. Let me give an example: doing software logistics for an ABAP development isn’t that challenging at the first sight. You learn how to scan objects in transports, to resolve conflicts and to deal with co- and datafiles. After a some time you’ll be a very specialized expert and your work gets routine. At this moment it is your decision whether want to take the chance to improve:
- Become an expert: learn about the user exits of the transport system. Develop your own tools that will help to you to do your job more efficiently.
- Process automation: you can manage even huge system landscape very quickly by creating scripts and use SAP scripting do automate software logistics.
- Process optimization: try to get in contacts with people in other companies that have the same job. Broaden your horizon, ask them how they do their job and how they cope with problems you have.
- Learn about the needs of other stakeholders: software logistics isn’t an art for its own sake. It’s a necessary service for development units and in fact ABAP software logistics has a tremendous influence on software development. So try to find out how you can help your collegues to improve their processes and software quality.
- Keep your knowledge up to date. Learn about SAP’s new tools like CTS+, their strengths and weaknesses. Get in contact with other experts and exchange your knowledge.
I think this advise applies to most daily tasks. It is your decision whether you keep your level or advance. But please be aware that keeping your level means regression because technology as well as methods how to use them will advance and will leave you behind.
Usually the work in IT departments is highly collaborative. There are quality management processes that will give us feedback about our work. And last but not least our customers will report errors and missing features in our software products. I think this situation can be compared to a strategy game: We do moves and get responses. If our moves are proper and solid we will have success – we will win the game. But there is always the chance that our decision will turn out to be fatal and we will get into serious trouble.
When you are playing strategy games like chess or the Japanese game of Go you know how to get stronger: You will start reading books about tactics & strategy of the game and you will start to discuss your games afterwards. The community of the game of Go even offers a service of commenting games by stronger players online.
In my opinion this principle of getting feedback from players who are comparable to you or even much stronger applies to other areas: We need to discuss what went well and what went wrong to learn and to arrive at the right conclusions.
I’m convinced that at certain time everyone will need the advice of a “stronger player” to become better.
Getting advice from peers and from a mentor will give you inspiration. But there are even more sources of inspiration. Learn new computer languages, or try out new frameworks. Perhaps “Ruby On Rails” will inspire you to create rapid and pragmatic solutions.
It can be inspiring to get in contact with experts from completely different areas. For me ideas from computer science in the health care area has proven helpful because they have to solve challenging integration problems. Later I learned there are even more inspiring things f.i. to deal with complex knowledge like medical classifications.
Why is inspiration important? Even if you want to become an expert in a very specialized area you will get to the point where pure experience won’t help you. This is due to the fact that best practices rely on experience made in the past – and this is completely different from innovation which has yet to be proven to be successful.
Do not always blame others
I know lots of people who consider themselves as the center of the universe. They don’t seek for inspiration or innovation because in their mind there is a single thought: “There is a problem – whom can I blame?”
Those people think they are always right and the others – foremost SAP of course – are always wrong. If their projects fail they will spend most of their energy and time to blame others. In case of the simplest problems they will open OSS messages even if they caused the problem themselves. Perhaps this attitude will help you in top management positions (I doubt that) but it won’t help you get deeper knowledge.
I hope you are not disappointed because I didn’t offer you simple advises or “exercises” how to become a top specialist: In my opinion becoming an expert is always hard work.