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Podcast: Interview with Craig Cmehil on the SAP Community Path to Recognition

In the past few years, no one has influenced my thinking on SAP career paths more than SAP’s Craig Cmehil. I’m pleased to have a chance to share an in-depth podcast on Craig’s view of the “SAP community path to recognition” and how he has handled his own career changes. I also asked Craig about his Friday Morning Report live video show, now entering its third year, and how that project has impacted his own career growth.

This was one of my favorite podcasts, probably because Craig was incisive in his self-reflection, at a turning point in his own career, a few weeks into a new job role at SAP. Craig’s articulation of the community path to recognition signals a new era in SAP career growth, where expertise is tied as much to community involvement as the solo pursuit of knowledge. At the same time, I wanted to give Craig a chance to call “BS!” on social media hype, and give us an honest take on how much the rise of social networks really helps our careers and how much of it is, frankly, “happy talk.”

Before we go further and you check out the podcast, I want to let our readers know that Craig has a special 24 hour Friday Morning Report marathon show coming up on April 9, 2010 to benefit Doctors Without Borders. Click on the link to find out more on how to be involved in the show and make an online donation.

To listen to the podcast, which is number seven in my ERP Lounge podcast series, you can click (or right click) on the “download media” tab in the top right.

If that gives you any problems, or if you want to see my detailed text briefing of the podcast, check out the SAP community path to recognition podcast summery on

Since this podcast is 70 minutes long, you will probably want to have a timeline so you can move to the time you want. I’ll include that below. I assume anyone reading this knows who Craig Cmehil is by now, but for anyone who doesn’t, in addition to being an SAP Mentor Initiative, Enterprise Geek, and perennial SCN top contributor, Craig is the maestro of Demo Jam, arguably the high point of SAP’s TechEd conferences each fall. Without further ado, the podcast timeframe:

Podcast Highlights

I. (0:00) Opening Banter   

Jon is scared to pronounce Craig’s new job title, which Craig himself didn’t get quite right in his Enterprise Geeks interview on his job change. Craig still reports up the line to Mark Yolton of the SAP Community Network. Craig is back working with SAP Mentor Chief Herder Mark Finnern in the Standards Management and Solutions and Technology Standards Group, defining business use cases for new ideas coming down the pike. Craig’s official title: “Open Innovation Manager.”

(3:15) And yes, Craig will continue to do Demo Jam!

(4:45) Humorous sentimental aside: “Why was my page modified by Craig Cmehil?”

II. (5:45) Ice Breaker – Reader Questions and Comments

A tough question for Craig: “Does being active in the SAP community really help my career, or is it just happy talk?”

Craig: Yes, there’s “happy talk” on this subject because it’s hard to get specific data one way or the other. Craig shares some anecdotes on how community members have changed their careers via SAP Community Network participation. Craig has plenty of these stories – they are NOT isolated events. But there’s a catch: You have to go into the community in the right state of mind, with a desire to help the community and share knowledge.

(11:48) Another question for Craig, this one from Jon: You recently did an FMR show on handling change. What is your own career philosophy when it comes to making changes? What’s the difference between making bold changes and staying in our comfort zone? 

(15:30) Jon: shares a flashback to starting – he started it when he was comfortable in a different role…if he hadn’t gone the extra mile to build a career bridge with, where would he be now?

III. (18:00) Market Banter – Taking on the Social Media Hype

Question for Craig: “We throw around terms like Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, Social Media, but what are we really talking about? Does this stuff matter, and if so, why?”

Craig: I’ve been doing this stuff for 15 years – the only change is that the barriers to entry are lower so more people are participating.

“Should the Enterprise Be More like Facebook?”

(21:21) Jon asks Craig to put on his industry pundit hat to discuss the blogosphere blowup from Marc Benioff’s post The Facebook Imperative, where Mark argues that enterprise apps should be more like Facebook. Charles Zedlewski of SAP responded to Benioff’s post – Charles hadn’t posted in 18 months, but Benioff got him worked up enough to post this:

“I’m not so sure that ‘spend as much time on the site as possible’ is a useful design paradigm for the enterprise. So to ask ‘why isn’t all Enterprise software like Facebook’ is a bit like asking ‘why isn’t all Enterprise software like the final season of Lost.'”

Craig: “Does it make sense to integrate Twitter with your manufacturing plant? Probably not, because the people on the manufacturing plant floor are busy running the machines.” 

IV. (27:15) Into the Lounge, Feature Topic: The SAP Community Path to Recognition

“How do you start on the community path to recognition?”

Craig’s research led him to a blog series on the path to recognition. Folks didn’t know how to get started. The path of recognition is also a path to discovery as well as a professional pursuit. There are six levels: consumer, contributor,active contributors, top contributors, and community influencers. Now there’s a whole new level, the SAP Mentors, who are influencing SAP itself.

We’re up to Career Center is Now “Free of Charge” for All Employers to Post Job Openings, but the bottom line is the same: what works for you? How can you create quality content that resonates with other community members?   

(36:15) Craig has found his comfort zone with community involvement through the Friday Morning Report. Jon asks Craig what he has taken from the experience. 

Craig: We’re now in year three of FMR. Craig shares some history of how FMR started and evolved and lessons learned along the learning curve. It’s the audience that is the reason the show has gone on for three years. People paid attention.

(43:10) Zoli Erdos, fellow Enterprise Irregular and friend of Craig’s posted on video as a crock and mentioned FMR as a reason not to do video. But Craig’s FMR audience responded in defense of the show – illustrating the impact of the show and why the audience’s reaction to your work is a key sign on whether you are on the right path.

(47:27) Jon wrote a major two part white paper series on SAP careers and the intersection of careers and community for SCN. Craig’s work on the path to recognition was a key part of the second white paper. Jon reads Craig an excerpt from the paper and asks for his response.

(54:44) Jon: Social media can amplify this problem, because if you haven’t solved these riddles of identify, you often end up broadcasting without adding any context. What are Craig’s how not-tos to avoid getting unfollowed or zapped by SCN moderators?

Craig: one mistake is following everyone, repeating what others are saying because it’s working well for them. Mindless following. Craig hasn’t been as active on Twitter lately – he explains why. People lose sight of the context, and start instantly following thousands of people because everyone else is. Where’s the personality? Where’s the engagement? When you’re just repeating what others blogged about, you’re just adding to the noise. Don’t go on Twitter because everyone else is doing it – there are too many tools and options…you have to find your own value. 

(1:02:35) Craig has pointed out the distinction between top contributors and SAP Mentors. So what exactly is that distinction? Craig’s take: SAP is actually influenced by the Mentors, and as such, Mentors do not need to be on SCN – they could have established themselves in other realms (blogging, speaking, trade shows). Top contributors, by definition, are active within SCN. Everyone should aspire to be a top contributor and an SAP Mentor, but they are not the same, and achieving one doesn’t necessarily lead to the other.

Jon closes with a rant about the importance of internal motivation rather than focusing on external recognition. 

Craig closes by reminding listeners about his special 24 hour FMR marathon show coming up on April 9, 2010 to benefit Doctors Without Borders. Again, click on the link to find out more on how to be involved in the show and make an online donation.

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  • Your statement there about this being one of your favorites, A big thank you for that, you have a very impressive collection of podcasts so that statement alone will go in my book of high honors received!

    Was a blast doing and I look forward to hearing what others have to say about it!

    • Thanks Craig – It was a great one for me as you’ve influenced my thinking on these matters so much up to this point.

      Mark Finnern Tweeted that he liked our discussion clarifying the distinction between SAP Mentors and Top Contributors, so maybe that’s one of the good takeaways from this discussion.

      I’m glad we could issue this building up to your FMR 24 hour mega-show/fundraiser and I hope the SCN peeps reading this will make a point of being a part of that…I know I plan to donate some missed sleep to the cause and stay up to see it go down and what surprises you have in store!

      – Jon

      • I’m really delighted to see this blog content and yep, getting such star rating from Jon is indeed special and especially deserved.  Craig’s line up for his signature marathon event and his guest list will be pretty impressive.  I’m imagining the cheering onlookers and participants will be even more expansive than last year.  Hats off to you both for finding such an engaging way to highlight the “real” path to recognition and thanks to you Jon, for using this medium for  recognizing the momentous work of Craig, who is and will continue to be a truly unique role model to our community.
        And miss the marathon at “your risk”.
  • Nice blog, Jon!
    Thanks for posting a  brief transcript BTW, I haven’t taken the 70 minutes to listen to the podcast yet 😉
    An additional clarification about Top Contributors: they contribute on SCN about their area of expertise. Those who are the top 3 contributors in an area (via forums, but also blogs and wikis etc) get to be recognized as an SCN top contributor in August each year. So you may not have loads of points, but you can still be considered a top contributor in an area that is not generating lots of content on SCN yet, but where you have shown a certain level of knowledge and been willing to help fellow SCN members.
    Hope this is helpful.
    • Laure – thank you for your clarification about top contributors, which I knew but we did not cover in the podcast itself. This goes back to a point I made late in the 70 minute podcast, for those who make it to the end. 🙂 Basically, the point is: go where you find a soulful and sustaining personal connection, and worry less about the formal recognition. It comes, in time, in many forms, but is simply a byproduct, an occasional bonus perhaps.

      In terms of your point: you can be a very active contributor in an area on SCN that just so happens to have a lot of high volume contributors. So you don’t become a top contributor just yet. Doesn’t mean you aren’t making a huge impact. Find your own zone, your own means of expression. No one taught me how to podcast, I just started doing it. Same with Craig and FMR. I think most of us embraced that learning curve in the same way.

      Appreciate the comment.

      – Jon

  • Jon,

    i only now had a chance to listen to this podcast in its entirety and it was well worth it. audio is how i get a lot of content these days and your selection of guests is truly commendable as you can see a bit more of personality behind the names. moderation is not too shabby, either.