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Valuable Lessons to Make the Most of your SAP Career

When I first started my SAP HCM consulting career in 1998 my goal was very simple, work hard and hope the market stayed “hot” for another year as I thought I had gotten in on the tail end of the SAP HR boom. As you can see my skills at predicting the future were not very good. Like so many others my first experience with SAP was at the five week Partner Academy and I remember wondering if I was cut out for the career change as my previous experience in the grocery business did not quite prepare me for learning Human Resources as well as SAP at the same time. I passed the Partner Academy and was now a certified R/3 HR consultant about to start on my first payroll project.  I learned several valuable lessons on that first implementation that stick with me today even after 35 successful projects.

1. Hard Work – Nothing can replace the ability in any career, including SAP, of being willing to put in the time to be successful. Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers sums it up very well when he says the difference between success and non-success, genius and mediocrity is practice. Anyone from the Beatles to Bill Gates who has succeeded has done so on the back of at least 10,000 hours of practice. I wanted to be good at my SAP career and the fact that I loved my job made it easy to put in the hours it took to be successful, which continues to this day. SAP is competitive industry and if you are not willing to put in the effort someone else will.


2.Information – I realized early on that there was a lot of information available and half the battle was being able to find it. I made a pledge that I would build up a knowledge base of information and would document everything that I worked on or could find that related to SAP. Some of my friends have nicknamed my data repository “The Library” and they are glad to have a card to access it. Make no mistake, this is a very time consuming process and one that I have spent several hours a day on for the last 19+ years. I am now sitting on a database of 120,000 organized SAP and SuccessFactors documents with a good portion of them being specific to Human Capital Management. These documents have turned into a security blanket and allowed me to make the jump to an independent consultant and later to opening my consulting company. With SAP Help, SAP Community Network, User Conferences, IT Toolbox, ASUG, there is a wealth of information to help you learn and grow in your career.


3. Adaptability – When I graduated from the Partner Academy all I knew was that I didn’t want to do SAP payroll as it seemed to difficult. Of course when I found out my first assignment was going to be a large Fortune 500 SAP payroll project I got a crash course in being adaptable. After doing many payroll implementations I had a chance to start working in other areas of HCM such as the Employee Interaction Center, Enterprise Compensation and SuccessFactors each of which had a steep learning curve but I wanted to continue to adapt and grow my SAP career. I believe it is very important to take advantage of the opportunities you are given in your SAP career as you never know where they are going to take you.


4. Networking – I read the other day that SCN has over 2 million members but make no mistake the SAP world can be very small. I have made a point to keep in touch with as many people in the industry as possible which takes effort and a time commitment. I have helped many people over the years by sharing knowledge, answering SAP questions or helping people find jobs and in return I have been helped when I needed it.  It is easy to network with your SAP peers on projects or via Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook etc and it is something that you should do from day 1 of your SAP career.


5. Knowledge Transfer – We all know individuals in the industry that try to hoard their knowledge thinking it will make them more valuable. There used to be a lot more of these folks before the SAP Community Network was formed and sharing became more fashionable. I still remember during my first month of consulting an individual who had 1 year of experience (that was lot in early 1998 for US Payroll) who would not explain or provide any help to either his fellow consultants or client resources. He confided in me one day at lunch that the client would never let him go because he had “all the knowledge”. The interesting thing is that he was the first one to roll off the implementation and yours truly stayed as although I had very little knowledge at the time I was more than willing to share it with everyone. I learned very early that the more I shared, and the more questions I got, the more I learned.  If you want to continually learn and become an expert in your area share all your knowledge as you will get way more back in return.


If you work towards those five key areas above it does not guarantee that you are going to be successful but it will put you on the right path. We are all very fortune to be working in the SAP ecosystem and the fact that you are reading this article shows that you are doing some of the items discussed about above.

I would like to hear from each person reading this blog on some of their most valuable lessons for making the most of their SAP career.

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  • Thanks for this great blog.

    In your point number 2, you talked about a need to build a knowledge base.

    What would you suggest a beginner like me to use to store important information? In excel sheet? in my own blog?

    Please advise with some good examples.


    • I had my own “Vault” I created and kept up through my early years. I found the best/easiest was to use an Access database. I could make categories of info, have a free form field to paste it in….even have a field(s) to cite sources and other fields to link external documents/URLs/etc. It was AMAZINGLY helpful in the early years (especially when the internetz was younger and not much info was around!)

      A bit later, I made a web site (ABAP Central…which later became “SAP Wired”) where I simple dumped all that info (and more) out into simple web pages (helped me learn  web development too! haha)

      Soooo….you have many options….and many more today with so much free apps and such around. Good luck with it!

  • Hi Jarret,

    Thanks a lot for your article…. it is really helpful to me and the people who have a dream of successful carrier in SAP… should follow your steps.

    Thanks again….

  • Hi Jarret,

         Its really a good blog meant to enlighten people who are like one of your senior in your beginning of career. I could still see a more of such people who still think that they are being valued by the client because they have knowledge.

       Though I have very little knowledge on SAP HCM, I still follow the way you used to follow in the beginning of your career. But I want to ask a suggestion on how deal with those consultants who are obviously seniors to you and even if you work hard, they highlight to the customer or superiors that they have done all the work and get appraisals. Which naturally delimits your ease to share your knowledge and some times even limit to look into those many critical issues.

    Awaiting for your response.



    • Hi Uday

      It’s a question that only can be answered in a context. There are a huge cultural differences in play here. Some actions would be a good idea in one country or one company but a complete no-go in another. If you don’t like the work-culture where you are maybe you should find another employeer?

      With Kind Regards


      • Hi Kristian,

                I do agree that if my present work culture doesn’t suit me, then I have the option to go to another employer. What if same situation would arise there as well? I was looking for a solution which would actually change those kind of narrow minded professionals to actually start contributing to the team development rather than hoarding their knowledge to themselves.

           I feel that they actually need counseling on how team working concept works and how their positive contribution could help the team perform better by sharing their knowledge and not loosing anything. Infact, we have to make them realize that they would get an opportunity to enhance their knowledge by encountering questions from juniors which could motivate him to do more research on those questions. We have to make them realize that healthy work environment can only be created by sharing knowledge rather than being reserved and keeping upto them.

           This is only my point of view. However, more insight on this is welcomed.



        • Hi Uday

          I understand and I agree. But it’s very hard for you or me to change how other people act. Often it’s not a personality thing but a question of what kind of behaviour business environment awards. So if you want a change you must convince somebody to change e.g. bonus systems to be more group oriented. Also promotion strategies may have to changed. Or you could look for a company to work for that up front can convince you that they award team spirit etc.

          With Kind Regards


  • WOW! 6 pages of comments! Great post Jarret!

    If anyone is looking to create their own “library”, I recommend using Microsoft one note. It has great organization and search capabilities, you can save the notebook on a shared drive so your entire team can access it, it’s really easy to save text and images from the web and will also paste the originating link!

    • Thanks Brian as I have several SAP colleagues who are big fans of Microsoft OneNote. I my case I stuck with a cataloging system I started with as you know that saying about “cant teach old dogs new tricks” 🙂

  • Hi Jarret

    Thanks, a jolly good read.  I’ve been in SAP about a year now and have already seen the importance of sharing knowledge as, like you say, you normally end up learning a lot more via the questions and different opinions coming back.



    • Thanks for the comment Ian and great to see that you already have the sharing knowledge bug. Lets just say it took me about 10 years to realize it (guess I am a slow learner) 🙂 but in my defense there werent great platforms like SCN when I started.

  • Hi Jarret,

    Many thanks for such a wonderful blog, your advice applies to both work and life in general. Loving what you do and hard work will always result in a successful career, building your knowledge and sharing prior learnings with your project team can only strenghten our field.

    I always enjoy reading your blogs and this is a favourite.

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.



  • Great Post Jarret.  Knowledge sharing in and of itself is a great teaching tool.  The best marketing of yourself you could ever do is to be able to speak knowledgeably about the subject matter you “specialize in”.  Sharing knowledge doesn’t nothing but enhance that.

    • Thanks Meezy as it took me awhile to come around to the fact that sharing knowledge was not only the right thing to do but helped me become more knowledgable at the same time.

        • At the core for me TW is that each time I explain or write about something the research/questions help me get a deeper understanding of the topic area. A perfect example would be SuccessFactors which was a company I knew very little about 1 year ago prior to SAP buying them but after 10+ blogs, video interviews, presentations I am a lot more knowledgeable and everyone one of those involved sharing knowledge with the community.

  • Hey Stranger!

    I have read this more times than I can remember and I have never previously had the time to comment! So here I am… commenting!

    These are great points to maximise your SAP career and as a relatively new addition to SAP, I stick to these like glue.

    Thanks for your help and advice Jarret!


    Will Jackson

    • Great to hear from you Will and thanks for the kind words as this was one of the first non-technical articles I ever wrote and it seemed to have resonated with people which make me happy.

  • Hi Jarret,

    Am just going to enroll for the SAP course now and this article is a great motivational factor for everyone who would want to enter the world of SAP.


    • Thank for the kind words Shital and good luck with your upcoming SAP Course though I would do some in-depth reading on SAP certification so that have clear expectations on what to expect as many believe that will open quite a few more doors than it actually does.

  • Hi Jarret,

    I am so glad, after reading your blog post.

    I personally believe in ‘hard work to succeed’ theory, and I try to walk that extra-mile to get the needful done. However your other 4 points are also very important as well, and they are basically what one needs to do to have a successfull career.

    Great Post!

    Looking forward to more such blogs.

    Have a nice day!

    • Thanks for the kind words Akshay and glad you enjoyed this article.  I have followed the 5 tips for the past 15 years and continue to do so to this day.

  • Hi Jarret.
    Really its a introduction lesson for all SAP beginners….and Iam happy I got  a chance to learn this lesson  very early in my career …………

    Thanks for posting……

  • Dear Jarret,

    Its truly inspiring blog to read for anyone who is keen to build a career path in SAP. Similar to you I come from different background and after 14 years of career in the service industry providing consultation to customers on optimising their business process I am now trying to explore career opportunities in SAP HCM. I  am not SAP certified yet however before taking this leap and making a career switch wanted to understand views of some of the SAP gurus like you if making a career switch and starting a fresh after 14 years of work experience in a different background would be advisable and worth taking a risk or no??

    Please advice and look forward for your constructive suggestions.

    Thank you

  • Very nice summary. Wish I should have read it in on the same day you posted..

    I joined in this SAP world three years back as a fresher and without practice I’m still a fresher. Hereafter will learn a lot and develop myself.

    Though I have the interest to learn, I was not aware of the options. Just came to know few things and started to work upon.

  • Hi Jarret,

    It was really awesome article man that will really help us for freshers like me.

    You rocks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂



  • very good article, kudos. But there is a point I would like, with your permission, to add and maybe hear others experiences.

    When working for a consulting company, these companies tend of course to sell the consultants as having expertise that they actually do not have! that means that if one is not a senior consultant in HR, he is just not and as much as one can get a crash course, I still think that it lacks a certain ethics….being the junior consultant together with the senior, according to me, is the right thing to do.

    Second: as much as it is true, one must work hard to get somewhere, it is also true that consulting companies are filled with divorced consultants and parents that hardly see their children! flying distances and being in 4 different countries in 5 days, having to fly often in week ends, seems to be the norm for some companies (I worked for one of these): Family is important, I personally think that feeling forced to have this kind of life otherwise someone else will, is unhealthy! and nobody should put up with this. Of course, projects have stressing periods: but it should be the exception, not the rule!

  • Totally agree on sharing the knowledge part as when you share you will yourself find out the thngs you may have missed out or never thought about in the first place.

    After every design i explain the design to my teammates(both business and IT) and when two way communication occurs that’s where the real learing begins.

    Great article and thanks for spreading the “sharing the knowledge” word as it a very good quality to develop and at the same time makes you a very good and likeable team player.

  • Hi Jarret,

    Appreciate your time and effort on writing this, i guess the reason i am able to connect what you wrote, is due to the simplicity of the content, which strikes the chord!

    Perfectly written.



  • Hi Jarret,

    I have 3 years of SAP experience and that also as core team member. I am learning SAP FICO & MM. I have domain experience of 12 years in the field of Accounts & Finance.

    I am still unable to decide the career in SAP though I love to work in SAP environment. Hope you can help me somewhat way in my career  building.



    • Stick with what you have business domain expertise in would be my recommendation and FI will be going through a lot of transformation with the new Simple FI offering.

  • Hi Jarret,

    I have been in the SAP arena since 1997, and your advice is very true. If there has been one area that has kept me around, it is knowledge transfer. I want my customers to know and understand the system, and when they do they are much more accepting of change.

    Great article!



  • Hi Jarret,

    Seems like I’m almost 4 years late to even comment on this; but as they say “Better late than never”. I’ve recently joined the SAP family; part of the SAP HCM team in my organization and this is the 1st discussion I came across. Starting my 1st ever project 2 days later and I couldn’t have asked for a better and more motivating beginning.

    Thank you for sparing time  from your busy schedule to inspire so many people like me.

    Look forward to keeping in touch with you.

    Thank you, AGAIN! 🙂

  • Respected Sir,

    I have read your blog and it has totally amazed me. I can really see your effort in this blog to help a freshers like me. I am hunting for a break as an Abap Developer. Its difficult but i wont loose hope. Glad to be in an environment where we have an amazing helpful personalities like you.


    Hadi Ahmed.

  • Greetings Sir,

    The best thing about Sap Community is that it has such an Inspiring Personalities like you. I am striving for a start as a Sap Abap Consultant and everytime I loose patience I find an amazing and helpful blogs like yours.

    Thanks a lot sir, fortunate to be a part of this community.


    Hadi Ahmed.

  • Jarret,

    This blog post is great! It gave me the ambition to make my first comment in the SAP Blog space and helped reassure me that I am moving my career in the correct direction. I have a mere 3 years of experience in the SAP ecosystem and I am excited to gain more experience each day. This blog post will definitely be kept in my own knowledge base.

    Thank you!