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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.

Mentorship

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.

Go board

I’m convinced that at certain time everyone will need the advice of a “stronger player” to become better.

Getting Inspiration

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.

Summary

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.

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13 Comments

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  1. Thorsten Franz
    Tobias,
    I agree 100%. There’s no routine for an inquiring mind. If things work smoothly, you can always peek and poke and change them. The least that will happen is that you break them and enjoy the fun of putting them back together while learning a lot. In the best case, you come up with an entirely new way of connecting things and solving the task at hand plus a few more nobody thought you could solve.
    The most important thing IMHO is your attitude towards the job. This wonderful cartoon by gapingvoid.com says it all: http://www.gapingvoid.com/quality005jpeg.jpg
    (Needless to say, you did it again.)
    Cheers,
    Thorsten
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  2. Arun Varadarajan
    One of the things that works for me is to always go with the thought that “you are not the only person facing an issue – someone somewhere has faced this problem and has resolved it – it is only that you have not searched in the right places ” – “if you honestly think that you are very good and that you are the only person facing this issue – you should be able to solve the problem or atleast give enough information for the person you think is rightly suited to solve the same “

    this has worked for me till date.. but then some dark days do happen!!!!

    My 0.02
    Arun

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  3. John Howard
    Hi,

    It’s amazing how simple, common sense facts can apply to many aspects of life. I guess the simpler the facts are the more profound the impact is. I can apply several aspects of the game of Go to my SAP life as well as my internet business http://www.woohooflowers.com . ( just a litte commercial 🙂 )

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    1. Tobias Trapp Post author
      That’s quite a good point. I always planned to write a blog about so valled Go proverbs applied to ABAP programming. There are indeed challenging aspects:
      * Sabaki and agile development
      * Best practices & solid moves
      * Probes, Tesuji

      Best Regards
      Tobias

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  4. Gajendra Moond
    Well, everything boils down to self-motivation. If you are self-motivated, your mind is like a sponge then and you are ever-ready to soak more and more.
    I have had some real tough months where it felt as if all doors are closed. Such time just works as an impetus for me and I come out with something. If you are self-motivated, you can make everything fall into the right block.

    I feel the blog is also inkling towards the same. Correct me if I am wrong.

    Regards
    Gajendra

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    1. Tobias Trapp Post author
      Yes, you are right – it’s all about motivation and self motivation. In my opinion the best project leaders are the ones who motivate the team. They plan the project so that the team members see the progress. And I made the experience that most people are motivated if they master challenges and their projects are successful.

      Of course we can’t have success all time: If all our projects would be successful this would mean that we would do routine only. But in times of global competition you have to do outstanding work and often this means to take risks. And even with offensive risk management this will mean that some of your projects will fail.

      When I wrote the blog I thought about people who are stuck in routine activities. Usually these people are successful but stuck in their career. They are quite experienced but have problems getting skills they need to get promoted or to get new and perhaps more challenging tasks. I hope especially those people will get some inspiration how to improve. And I made the experience that when you are willing to learn and to collaborate with other people suddenly new opportunities will occur.

      Best Regards,
      Tobias

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  5. Witalij Rudnicki
    Good points overall. Seems you are encouraging feedback, so let me provide some.

    It is written too “American” English. By this I mean all those “be the best” and “see you at the top”. And then advises like “read professional magazines”.

    What I would expect from you is rather a blog “3 Exercises that helped me to become an SAP Top Technical Specialist in 7 Days and here is how I did it” and then your real-life story. For me such stories are always more inspirational then just statements. May this is because I was born in Soviet Union, where I was told “Build communism with us!”, but I haven’t seen anyone around really doing it?

    Regards,
    -Vitaliy

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    1. Thorsten Franz
      Hi Vitaliy,
      I’m quite sure that in the part that you found irritating, Tobias was being ironic and satirizing a certain type of American self-improvement culture (which you identified correctly). I suppose humour doesn’t always translate well into other cultures, especially when it lives from a cultural reference such as these “How to become a creative genius with three simple gymnastic exercises” trainings. 🙂
      (I just stepped in because it’s always difficult to explain one’s one jokes – it’s easier when somebody else does it IMHO.)
      Cheers,
      Thorsten
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    2. Tobias Trapp Post author
      Thorsten Franz’ answer is absolutely right: I made a joke about an “self-improvement culture” which propably had its origin within the US and is very popular in germany, too.

      You made a very good point by asking about a
      real-life story. Well, if you are interested about SAP Mentors, our discussions, private and professional interests, opinions about SAP strategy and technology and much more then I recommend to follow us on Twitter.

      Best Regards,
      Tobias

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  6. Martin English
    This reminded me of one of my favourite quotes, from Larry Wall (perl ‘inventor’):
    “The three chief virtues of a programmer are: Laziness, Impatience and Hubris.”

    It makes a good guide to work:
    * repetitive stuff is for computers
    * learn about it as you do it / use it
    * the easiest way to get me to do something is to tell me it’s impossible or is not allowed

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