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I was asked by  John Moy to answer a few questions in his Blog It Forward – John Moy post, for those of you interested I’m the better one out the two South Africans. Having read the blog from Joanna Chan just the day before I thought the Blog it Forward concept was a great idea.You get to learn more about the people you always used to read about. Now onto the good stuff.

Well I was born at very young age(Sorry I just love that line) on a farm in South Africa. Not much going on those days and the words hardware had a totally different meaning back then. My dad who is also a SAP consultant decided that the farm life wasn’t for him and he up ended us to the big city. My primary school days where spent playing sports, building ramps for the bike/skateboard/roller skates or basically anything with wheels and just seeing how much trouble I can possibly get into without being caught.

I had a friend with a Commodore64 and I can remember us putting the cassette in, pressing play and then going outside to play with a stopwatch so that we can know when the game was ready to play. Then our neighbors got a Nintendo system and we all thought life could not get better until… We received a brand new out of the box IBM XT with a whole 128Kb ram and internal hard drive with not one but two floppy disk drives. I had to go to Wikipedia to get the facts but ours also had a EGA display card.

My first game was Kings Quest and that would be where my love for troubleshooting came from. My first challenge was to learn English. As a born and bred South African you only get to learn English at school as a secondary subject so there was not much emphasis put on extending the vocabulary but rather just teaching the basics. The other scenario that gave me the drive was my dad saying to me “You can do anything you want on the computer, but it better be working by the time I get home”. In other words my DOS and BIOS troubleshooting skills started to come in very handy. I could very early on take a computer apart and put it back together again with a new VGA card and an extra 64Kb installed just so that I can play the new Space Quest.

Fast forward a couple of years and now the end of high school as I’m busy packing for the obligatory school vacation with a group of friends I was summoned into the dining room with the parents and we had the talk. Yes the “What are you going to do with your life?” talk. Even at the tender age of 18 I still had no idea what I wanted to do. So the ultimatum got laid before me Study or Work. There was no in between. That put a bit of a damper on the holidays but was quickly forgotten after a couple of cold ones. So once back home I was again asked what I have decided and still could not come up with a solid answer.Then one of the most life changing events happened.

My father was invited to a company golf day. He was teamed up with a guy that owned a small SAP consulting company at the time. My father made him a bet, if he wins the they will have to give me job and if the guy wins then my dad will pay him a lump sum of money(The final figure still to today is a bit cloudy). Up until today my dad will still says it is the best game of golf he ever played. I started at the company on the 5th of February 1996 (Funny how you remember important dates ). My first month was all training, starting at SAP01, BC100, BC400 and BC401. Now just remember I knew nothing of SAP and trust me at that point the training courses didn’t help much.

My first project was an upgrade from SAP R/2 to R/3 3.1H and I was tasked to write the conversion programs. I was extremely lucky to be seated next to an absolutely amazing individual called Gideon van Zyl who was a PM consultant at the time but was learning ABAP in his spare time and that man saved my bacon a lot of times.  From there my career just started to blossom and with those 3 letters behind my name (SAP) the world was my oyster. I have seen the world as part of what I call a paid holiday. Some of the most memorable was the two years I spent in Dubai just before the Y2K bug. I landed there 2 days before my 21st and made the most of what that country has to offer. I ended up sharing a penthouse with a guy from Iraq who had a marketing company and he was responsible for bringing all the artists into Dubai for live shows. Our penthouse is where most people would end up after the clubs close.

When that project in Dubai finished we got asked where would we like to go to next and the option for Australia came up. Out of 40 consultants only 3 of us said “yes”. As it turns out, that decision I made 12 years ago in a board room would change my life forever. I met my wife who was the company directors personal assistant at the time when I arrived in Australia. We got married in 2001 and now have 2 wonderful children aged 6 and 5. My 6 year old is also one of the reason why I will be in Las Vegas teched_2012 this year. You see she is turning 7 during that week and she wanted to have her birthday while being on a holiday. I might have coached her into convincing her mother but tickets are now bought and it’s too late .

One of the other reasons I feel so lucky is because I got to work with some of the best people in the business and for a short period of time they where all at the same place. I’m talking about John Moy, Sascha Wenninger, Alisdair Templeton and Tony de Thomasis. Now I am privileged enough to work with Matt Harding. Let me tell you each one of these Mentors brings a different dynamic to the Ecosystem that is SAP but they all share the same passion and having seen this first hand I count myself very lucky. 


Now onto the questions:

Share an interesting story about your life back in South Africa before you moved to Australia

You will notice I skipped the whole high school period and that was for good reason. I spent most of my time avoiding school at any possible way so the stories to share during that period is a different blog all by itself. I will now share the one with you.

I was a part time bouncer at a heavy metal club in Johannesburg. As I was performing my duties at the front door inspection I “patted” down a very tall and muscular individual before he could enter the club. When I asked him to turn around I noticed he had gun strapped to his back. Calmly I reminded him that guns are not allowed in the club but we can store it for him and upon exit he can have it back. He agreed to the proposition with no fuss. What he pulled out was an Uzi http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uzi. Now as you can well imagine I could not resist but ask the question as to “Why would you carry that around?” and the answer I got in a very calm voice was “You never know what goes on in these clubs”. He handed me the gun and strolled straight in. He spent the night sitting at the back of the club drinking orange juice and when he left picked up his gun and thank us all for a very lovely evening. The whole experience was sureal.


What is your personal life dream?

To become president of a small country . Just kidding. I have my dream unfolding in front of me everyday and that is my kids. I really wish I can give them all the opportunities in the world and watch them grow into the success I know they will be. Also and this one is a bit cruel but to get at least one of them having to fix my code when they get older. A little bit of payback.

What do you enjoy most in your work and why?

The fact that my job changes with every new client I go to. It is something personal I know but I can not see myself working for the same company day in and day out. My job gives me the opportunity to learn new industries, functionality and it always keeps me on my toes. My work is ever changing and with all the new changes coming and clients willing to adopt to it the future is bright. Always know that if you are unhappy in your job go find one that makes you happy. It’s a very simple formula that requires a lot of hard work. Do not just sit back and do the same thing over and over again. Challenge yourself and especially your mind. It will pay off in the long run.

I’d like to Blog It Forward to these guys:

Both of them are exceptional people with a thirst for knowledge. I have had the pleasure of working with both of them on two different projects and I can tell you they both saved the projects from huge disasters. Both of them don’t back down in a challenge and when the pressure is on during a go live they are both as calm a cucumbers. These are the kind of people you want on your projects as they make the tough seem easy and not only that but they share with the rest of the team. It’s never a case of it’s my idea and you can’t have it, it’s more a case of I have this idea what do you think and how can we improve.

They are:


Brad Pokroy

Chris BISHOP

I would like to as them these questions:

1. What is the most extreme experience you have ever had?

2. If you had the option to redo a project deliverable which one would you do and why?

You can also choose to pick up questions from the original Blog it Forward challenge.

I’m looking forward to reading more Blog It Forward posts from the community!


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  1. Matt Harding

    Hi Andre,

    It’s good to know you’ll take it in your stride when I carry an Uzi into work each day just in case; as you never know what’s going to happen on a project 😉

    I also love the story of how you entered the SAP world…Maybe we can use the game of golf to bargain on scope in the future too…

    And from early indications; I think all of those mentioned (including me) are lucky to be working with you but thanks for the mention!

    Matt

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    1. Andre Olivier Post author

      Hi Matt,

      Throw in a couple of beers with the golf game and we can completly change the scope. Just remember you have to let me win.

      Cheers,

      Andre

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  2. xMoshe Naveh (Old Acct)

    Hi Andre,

    It is so nice that thanks to #blogItForward I get to know so many interesting stories and people.

    It’s funny where and how life takes us.

    Thank you for a blog I really enjoyed reading!

    Moshe

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  3. John Moy

    Hi Andre,

    Thanks for a great blog!  Funny, after working with you for several years, there are still things I have learned about you in this blog.  I don’t recall you ever mentioning the golf story – although maybe you did, and I was simply ignoring you and staring at code on my screen 😉 .

    Good job.

    John

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    1. Andre Olivier Post author

      Hi John,

      Yes, your Zen like ability to ignore everyone around and focus on the task at hand should be seen as a super power of some sorts.

      Cheers,

      Andre

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  4. Tammy Powlas

    Very interesting and entertaining blog.

    You can do anything you want on the computer, but it better be working by the time I get home”. In other words my DOS and BIOS troubleshooting skills started to come in very handy.

    I couldn’t stop laughing at this.  My second or third job I did this – assembling PC’s and even putting in the memory chips by hand.  That hurt. 

    The bouncer story was great too.

    I look forward to reading more SCN blogs from you.

    Tammy

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  5. Marilyn Pratt

    Welcome to blogging and the community Andre.  There are a number of your country people (men and women) here.  Julius von dem Bussche Clint Vosloo zimkhita buwa to name a few 🙂

    Having lived in Israel for 25 years it isn’t the Uzi part I found surreal in your story (most unfortunately too familiar) but the Dubai adventures sound like they might just qualify.  I guess it’s all about what is familiar. 

    I too loved playing quest games on Commodore and taking things apart although I didn’t have the excuse that I was a child (I was 33 when that began).  Also loved playing Snoopy.  Anyone remember that addiction?

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  6. Suseelan Hari

    Hi Andre,

    Good Day!

    Thanks for sharing your moving experience from South Africa to Australia!

    Nice and very interesting to read your blog. Keep up the good work!

    I appreciate.

    Have a fantabulous day! 🙂

    Regards,

    Hari Suseelan

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