Documenting an Unfolding Story: Blogging, SCN, and Community
True. I’ve only been blogging on SCN since September. True. Before that, I only wrote four white papers about SAP XI in 2005 and 2006. Also true … I’ve gotten points for only a handful of forum responses, although I have responded to more than a few questions and issues.
So how does this qualify me to write about the joys of being an active contributor? And how can I speculate on how it’s benefited me and even changed my life?
Well, if you want the truth, it doesn’t. I could point to my other blog on another IT portal where I’ve been writing regularly about SAP, IDocs, XI/PI, EDI, and Sterling’s GIS middleware and say that that has been a richly rewarding experience that helped me pitch and sell a book to SAP Press.
Or I could point to that book, Architecting EDI with SAP IDocs, that was just published by SAP Press in July and say that the nearly 18 months spent pitching and writing it were among the most difficult and fascinating months of my life, a defining period in my SAP career.
I could also point to my SAP career with its dozen projects in four countries and three continents since 1994 and version 2.2. Too many years, perhaps, to want to easly admit to, but years that I wouldn’t trade for all the money lost by Wall Street in the recent economic meltdown.
My New Beginning
And what a ride that career has been. How can I forget my first SAP project? It was at a beverage manufacturer near Pearson International airport in Toronto in June 1994. I was hired for a three week contract to manage some Excel spreadsheets. I showed up to work on my first day and found a crew of young Austrian, French, and British consultants working with a handful of Canadian and American freelancers and staff. In those heady days SAP consultants were very few and far between.
How could I have known that my life was about to be changed forever on that first morning trying to decipher the heavily accented English I heard all around me? My son had just been born and my mother would die two months later, the two critical life events that book-ended the beginning of my SAP career. But my three weeks were extended to 18 months and I became the data conversion master and knew that I had found my true home, the work of a lifetime.
And then there was that other critical moment in 1996 after I graduated from a six-week course at SAP Partner Academy in Toronto and got my ABAP certification. It was my first job with a consulting company. I stood on the street outside the subway, not far from SAP’s offices and training center. It was characteristically cloudy and a little cool but inside I was calm and confident. I knew that I had just crossed an important threshold and that a whole new world lay before me. I could sense the promise of exploration and discovery, of continual learning, intellectual challenge, and new friends and opportunities that would carry me into the future.
So What’s In It For Me?
Still, as interesting as this may be, it doesn’t answer the question of what do I get out of being an active contributor on SCN? It doesn’t change the reality that so far my contributions can be counted on two hands, at least as far as the production of blogs and white papers go.
And maybe that’s the whole point. Everytime you sit down to write, it’s like you’ve never written before, no matter how many times you’ve covered a topic. Each time you’ll discover something new. I learned that lesson writing my book. As much as I thought I knew when I began, I discovered how little I actually knew and how much I had to learn. Writing the book helped me fill a lot of gaps.
But now having finished the book, I’ve identified even more gaps in my understanding and things that I could have done better. So the exploration and the quest for understanding of fundamental processes continue. And this is what the blogging — and the work — is all about: sharing that process of exploration and discovery with all those other SCN community members around the world who may find it useful in their own work or even in their lives.
And what about the reward? How can you possibly define that? It’s about learning and teaching, sharing discoveries. Writing is an extension of my personality, an expression of my wonder at the way it all works together … how logic, pure and rational, can be applied to solve real problems and help provide more value to the work that people do everyday.
In more concrete terms, it’s the email that I once got from a young man in India who told me that he wanted to get into SAP and EDI because of what he read in my blogs.
For me, it all boils down to this: SCN, its contributors, and the community that it provides, is a work in progress, a story that’s unfolding everyday through each of its contributors, each of its readers, and all of the people and organizations behind it. You can talk about professional exposure or showcasing your skills or any of the other career advancing reasons that some may consider but the real quality of your contribution is in the exploration and the discovery that you bring to the community. Each of your contributions is a new sentence or paragraph or page in the on-going narrative of that developing story, uniquely you but shared and part of the fabric of the whole community.