Thomas Dulaney is the SCN member of the month for August 2012. He is a kind, generous man who dedicates some of his free time helping young SAP Consultants by giving them tips and advice to be successful in the SAP world, get experience and thrive. He confessed to me that he only needs 6 hours of sleep to feel refreshed in the morning; lucky him! And lucky us that he gets free time to blog on SCN.
Thomas, can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you live, who you work for, and other things you would like to share with the community (hobbies, fun facts)?
Most recently we live in Alexandria, Virginia (USA). I worked for SAP America for 12 years and my work led me to travel a lot. My family and I moved 8 times in 12 years! We settled own in Virginia and we like it here. I now work for iLuMiNa Solutions, Inc, a small SAP-focused company that specializes in the Federal space. I have three children under 13 years old, so my hobbies are Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Baseball, Cheerleading, Wrestling, and bedtime stories.
On your SCN Profile’s bio tab, you say that you have a “strong desire to mentor/guide folks who are just starting out on their SAP Career and work with Universities to bring real world perspective to academia.” You are also “actively working on mechanisms to educate Veterans (especially Wounded Warriors) as to how their military experience can lead to a rewarding career in SAP.” It is indeed remarkable work and you have established a strong reputation on SCN. We all noticed your contributions and several respected members of the community are huge fan of your work. Can you tell us more about how you connect with people on SCN and how you help them in their careers?
I read several forums on SCN, but I am most active in the Careers Forum, Training and Education Forum, and the Certifications forum. Once a day I check in to each of these discussion forums to see if any new questions have popped up. We see many variations on the same basic questions. By far the most common is “I’ve just graduate college. I’ve heard SAP can be a good career. I can’t get hired without experience, but I can’t get experience without getting hired. Help!“ I use the information given by the questioner to personalize an answer as much as possible, but some of the themes are so universal that I and others have created Frequently Asked Question guides for the basics. With a few gentle nudges, most folks get the information they need pretty quickly.
I also help folks who send me questions directly through email, although I prefer them to post questions in the forums since one answer can help more people that way. Also, there are many smart folks on SCN and forum posts allow all of them to weigh in on the conversation and provide other points of view.
I’ve also gotten a few phone calls from folks seeking advice. The most memorable one was on Father’s Day right as my kids were bringing me breakfast in bed. I felt bad asking him to call back later since he was calling from Australia, but we all got a good chuckle out of it and I think we got him squared away in the end. Fair exchange for a good story.
In addition to my work on SCN, I also do volunteer work at a couple of the local Universities which participate in the University Alliance. I’ve given guest lectures on SAP Basics and implementing SAP in a public sector environment. I really enjoy working with the faculty and students and find that work incredibly rewarding.
Although I’ve continued to actively work on mechanisms to educate Veterans about possible careers in SAP. Progress in this area has been frustrating and slow. Of all the volunteer work I do, this is the one I wish would be most successful, but the wheels of progress in this area seem to have only one speed. Hope springs eternal that eventually I’ll find the right combination of partners to bring something meaningful to life on this front. I work a little in this area every day and I’ve had some promising conversations recently, so I am still hopeful that I’ll be able to pull something together soon.
Note from Laure: One advice that Thomas gives to young professionals is that they should understand the business when they learn about SAP. It is necessary to know SAP’s products to implement them, but it is important to also understand the business needs to maximize the success of an implementation.
Do you hear back from the people you helped in their careers? Any success stories?
I do get thank you notes, but I haven’t heard back from these people yet, I don’t know what they are up to now. I guess that will come later, after all I just started doing this 5 months ago.
Note from Laure: For those who are still reading it would be nice if people who have engaged with Thomas and received help from him could comment to this blog and thank him this way. It would be great to hear your story.
I saw the LinkedIn profile of the company you work for, iLuMinA, and I have to ask you about it. It says:
“iLuMinA Solutions Inc. is a small, minority, woman-owned firm that focuses on serving the comprehensive needs of businesses in the full range of the software development life cycle. We are dedicated to providing our clients honest, sound, and purposeful advice in preparing and executing their enterprise integration and enterprise systems projects.:”
I’m currently reading this book giving tips to women who want to build their own business, it seems that in the USA the majority of small and midsize businesses are created by women. The book also talks about the difference in management style. What is your experience, working for a “woman-owned firm”. And, actually, does it matter who owns the business?
Via the various roles I had when I worked for SAP America (12 years) I’ve worked with hundreds of companies over my career. iLuMiNa has a real family and community focus which resonates strongly with me. Whether iLuMiNA being small and minority, woman-owned is responsible for that or whether it’s just the mix of folks involved, I’m not sure I can say, but I’m very happy where I am right now. iLuMiNA is a perfect case study for “doing well while still doing good”.
When did you become a member of SCN and what brought you to this community?
I’ve been a member of SCN since the very beginning, but since I’ve moved from customer to customer and my S-number has changed, my profile doesn’t reflect his. I’ve only become very active on SCN in the last 5 months or so.
When I was at SAP I was often the most senior (or only) experienced Basis person on a project. Consequently, a large part of my duties involved mentoring/training folks new to SAP. In my current role, which I’ve had for about 1.5 years, I perform more of an oversight role, with little chance to mentor/train. Coincidentally, with no mentoring/training outlet, my activities on SCN and with the Universities in the University Alliance have ramped up significantly in the last year. Initially I was blogging on another site, but when SCN switched over to the new layout in March, I switched almost exclusively to SCN. I’ve found the blogging interface on SCN to be extremely easy and efficient to use, which make my limited blogging time more productive.
I don’t know what the incentive systems were like before, and it may seem a little silly, but the point system seems to be a pretty big motivator for me as well. I guess I’m just a gamer at heart. I love seeing my point total hit the major milestones. I hope at some point that points will be awarded for views and bookmarks in addition to just ratings since so many folks forget to rate the content they like, but that’s just a nit. I’m really very happy with how things work since the changeover.
Note from Laure: Happy to hear that! It seems that we gained a valuable contributor on SCN J The point system hasn’t changed much in the new SCN but we’re working on a series of enhancements that I’ll be blogging about. I know the point system is very controversial but for someone who also blogs or contributes with documents, points are seen as validation of hard work and it’s good to see people react to your content and see points accrue, I think Thomas can take pride in that. I think it’s important to remind everyone how a like, a follow, a comment can encourage someone to continue writing good content. Don’t forget the impact you can make in someone’s life – read more below about Thomas’ story in particular.
Points for bookmark, or at least some recognition for content that has been bookmarked a lot, is currently being discussed. I can tell you now that points/recognition for views cannot work because it’s not single views.
How does SCN help you in your daily activities?
I use SCN to keep my knowledge of the current trends and developments in SAP fresh. Without SCN, it would be easy to get stuck in the same rut of doing the same things, the same way, year after year. That’s kind of a trap. I’ve seen some folks that implement SAP the same way today as if they were working on R/3 version 3.1H. SCN helps me keep up with the latest, greatest ways of doing things and with all the newest functionality, which in turn keeps my skills sharp.
Note from Laure: Here after digging a little further Thomas explained that the kind of stuff he is looking for on SCN is general, practical content that will help him in his work. He likes, for instance, what Jansi has been sharing in the Solution Manager area on SCN, that’s the kind of stuff he likes to read. FYI Jansi was the Member of the Month in July.
An area Thomas is interested in learning about is Accelerated SAP methodology. It relates to an upcoming project and he wants to learn and later contribute to this topic.
How do you find the time to contribute to SCN?
I read through the forums about once per day and try to answer the easy ones that just require a quick pointer right away. I roll the rest of them around in my head for a while and formulate what I want to say as a background process while I’m taking care of business during the day. After I put the kids to bed, I generally bang out any of the responses that take a little more text. Once every couple of weeks, I try to put together a blog on a topic whose themes I’ve been seeing in several questions either directly or indirectly for a while. Since I’ve been drafting in my head for a while, you’d be surprised how quickly I can put out a blog. My biggest problem is not how long it takes to put together a blog, it’s editing my blogs down to a point that anyone will have the time to read them. After I publish a blog, I continue to tune it over time as I get comments from readers. I love it when folks point out something I missed or a different viewpoint on something I’ve written. It makes the whole effort feel more like a community endeavor.
What do you like most about the community in general?
The folks on SCN are incredibly supportive and positive. The comments and feedback I receive are so motivating for me. Sometimes a message will get me going again and write a new blog – people are waiting to hear from me!
Other than Career Center, Basis and Solution Manager, are there areas of SCN that you follow and like to get updates from?
I follow many of the related areas pretty closely: Certifications, University Alliances, Training and Education, Accelerated SAP, Transports, Portal, etc. I check in on a few other areas fromtime to time as the need or mood strikes. I post mostly in the career center and certification forums, though. I do have a Solution Manager/ASAP series planned, but those are going to require screen shots and take a great deal longer to craft.
If a new member came to you and asked for your advice on how to be an active and respected member of SCN, what would you say?
I’d give them the same advice I give most of the folks new to SAP. Follow your passion. Find something you love and start writing about it! I am very aware that SAP has given me a great deal and I definitely believe in the old adage, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Educating folks on SAP and helping them get started in their careers is just my way of giving back. I truly believe that there is always room in the SAP space for folks who are willing to work hard and have a passion for their subject matter, regardless of economic ups and downs or twists and turns. By following your passion, your career, blogging, your day-to-day activities become a joy and not a chore. Once you get started, you’ll find the biggest problem is actually drawing a line limiting how much time you spend contributing. At least, that’s been my experience.
What are the first steps you think a new SCN members should do on SCN (think of an onboarding challenge)
As a first step, I think a new user should familiarize him/herself with the various forums and areas on SCN. There is so much information there, spending a few minutes to check out every branch on the tree can really pay dividends later. And I’d recommend people to, of course, search before they post a question, and when they do post a question make it open-ended. Also, there is a lot of tutorials out there so take the time to listen to them and learn.
Is there an SCN member you admire (OK… you can name a few)?
I’d like to give my first mention to someone I’ve never met and probably doesn’t know how important he’s been to my blogging. timothy polc was the first person to ever follow me after reading one of my blogs. All of the kind words and comments I’ve received have a hard time measuring up to the motivation I got the very first time someone cared enough about something I wrote to communicate that they’d like me to write more by clicking the follow button. Tim was the first. Thanks Tim!
As for SCN members I admire: Jarret Pazahanick (@SAP_Jarret on Twitter) springs to mind first. Jarrett’s been incredibly generous with his suggestions and helpful hints. He’s mentioned a few of my blogs on his twitterstream and that’s really helped folks find my blogs. Not to mention, I really enjoy reading his blogs, even if HR is a bit out of my lane.
Kevin Grove (@kgrovetx) was also instrumental with his support when I was just starting out and has an extremely well written piece that occupies a well deserved slot on the must-read career blog list. I should also mention Martin English (@martin_english). He’s incredibly generous with his support in the Basis world and several of his blogs are keystones to some of the more widely read FAQ blogs I’ve put together. Also, I would be remiss no to mention my cohort in the Certification forum, Ravi Sankar Venna. His blogs form a cornerstone in the certification FAQ.
I know I’m skipping over tons and tons of folks, but the list is virtually endless. The SCN blogger community is incredibly generous and I feel I’m “standing on the shoulders of giants”.
Easy question: Mac or Windows?
Windows (and Linux).
Are you on Twitter?
I’m still a Twitter novice, but Jarret and Kevin Grove are bringing me along. I am @thomas_dulaney on Twitter.
Every month, a member of the SAP Community Network is recognized for exemplary behavior: sharing knowledge with peers, being helpful and taking on additional tasks to support community engagement. See the list of previous SCN Members of the Month.