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Last week I attended SAPTechEd Madrid (and Innojam Madrid, just before TechEd). I’ll try to write another blog post about my experiences at the event (or you can tune in at SAP Inside Track Brussels next Friday Nov 23rd: SAP Community Network Wiki – Community Events – SAP Inside Track Belgium 2012 (Friday Nov. 23rd) to hear more about it), but in this blog I want to concentrate on some feedback I got when I got back in my hotel after Demo Jam and the subsequent eGeeks dinner.

Some observations

Some of my colleagues were still sitting at the bar of our hotel, so I joined them. The subject of Demo Jam came up, and the following ‘observations’ were made:

  1. It was odd/suspect that (once again) almost all entries had at least 1 person from either SAP or the SAP Mentors among them. The selection process of the Demo Jam entries was seriously questioned.
  2. The SAP Mentors are an incestuous bunch anyway, almost indistinguishable from SAP itself (see also the previous point).
  3. (To prove the previous point): They always hook up with each other at events, and are in general not nearly as approachable/open as they would like the (SAP-) ecosystem to believe.
  4. I’d only been admitted to this group by <censoring> paying lip service </censoring> to other SAP Mentors.

Analysis

Now, I know and respect my colleagues, and it’s far too easy to dismiss these allegations as coming from a bunch of uninformed idiots. Most of them have several years of experience in the SAP ecosystem, and have been to SAPTechEd’s for a number of years now.

So, let’s start to see how much is true of these allegations. Again, one by one:

  1. This one is kinda funny (if it wasn’t so sad): in recent years there has been a lot of criticism regarding the selection process and rules of Demo Jam. Especially the SAP Mentors(!) have been very vocal about this issue: see DemoJam – Innovation in Technology, Marketing or Both? by Matt Harding , On Genuine Demo Jam Awesomeness by Thorsten Franz , The gamification of Demo Jam by Twan van den Broek and what is wrong with SAP TechEd Demo Jam 2009? | Pixelbase by Michael Koch . This year’s entries had only 3 people from SAP among them (not counting the Regatta opening act, which wasn’t allowed to compete). Two of them came out of the Innojam contest. So from my point of view that problem is solved. Furthermore there were exactly 2 entries with SAP Mentors: the Garbage Collector (with the aforementioned Twan van den Broek) and SAPLink plugin for ABAP in Eclipse (with Gregor Wolf and Abdulbasit Gulsen). Of course we could count a third one as SAP Mentor and SAP employee Greg Chase came on stage as an Innojam winner. Still, 3 entries out of 8 doesn’t count as much in my book. Especially considering that the SAP Mentors are the most active members within the community anyway.
  2. This one is more serious, but we’ll have to split it in two pieces: the incestuous part, and the difference between SAP Mentors and SAP itself.
    1. Incestuous bunch: there might be some truth in this, as future SAP Mentors have to be nominated by the community, and the votes of the SAP Mentors are important in this process. Since they naturally tend to nominate their peers (at least, people they know), there is a risk that more and more people with a similar background, as well as more and more of ‘the incrowd’ will be made Mentor. That said, we’ve seen (more than once) people being selected that are definitely not to be considered as incrowd: examples include some analysts, the latest of which is Paula Rosenblum, and this fall a bunch of Powerbuilder experts like Bruce Armstrong , Yakov Werde and Sue Dunnell . I’m sure next time there will be people from Ariba among the newly chosen. So while it’s a fair point, I think Mark Finnern is already taking this into account.
    2. SAP Mentors are more or less equal to SAP (or are a part of SAP). This is definitely not true, as most of them work at a customer or a partner company. They’re also among the fiercest critics of SAP (example: Jarret Pazahanick with blog posts like The Real Truth about SAP and SuccessFactors Integration and SAP and SuccessFactors – “Proven” Integration is Hype ).
  3. This one is certainly true, though there is a good explanation: the SAP Mentors are a global representation of the community, and don’t see each other often. With some exceptions, the SAPTechEd season is the only time they get together, so it’s only natural to go and find each other and continue the online conversations. Still, the Mentors should (in myhumble opinion) be as open as possible to the wider community because they serve as a model to that community. In the past I’ve had the same uneasy feeling myself about this, and I really think the SAP Mentors should try everything to avoid making that impression.
  4. No need to go into this one here, methinks. Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion, but I beg to differ, and I can’t imagine Mark Finnern falling for that one.

Perception

So, while these allegations are either not true, or can be explained fairly well, we still have a problem. And the problem here is not whether it’s true or not, it’s the perception. As one of my colleagues already said: “If we already have this impression, how about the other thousands in the audience?”. And this is the main point of my blog post: as Dennis Howlett likes to say: “Perception is reality”.

Call to Action

That means we still have a lot of explaining to do. And while I can (and certainly will) try to educate my colleagues, I can’t do the same for all the other participants of SAPTechEd Madrid who might think the same. So I would really welcome any suggestions for improvement in the comments. Any other thoughts are of course equally welcome! 

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81 Comments

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  1. Tammy Powlas

    Wow Fred Verheul

    I didn’t know this is what people are saying

    But it is good to dispel the wrong notions

    Sadly, Dennis is right, perception is reality, as I learned that long ago in my previous career as an auditor.

    Hopefully minds will change!

    Great blog.

    Tammy

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  2. Luke Marson

    Hi Fred,

    I can relate to point 3 since I was largely ignored by many SAP Mentors – and I am a SAP Mentor. I certainly came away from TechEd with a disappointed and ashamed view of some of the SAP Mentors. I think it was the 4th or 5th SAP Mentor that I came into contact with that actually acknowledged me. I understand that some didn’t recognize me (despite standing out a bit?) – Leo didn’t initially didn’t but came to say “hi” later when he spotted me.

    Initially I thought this was just the fact that I was wearing an “old” SAP Mentors top, but I entered the SAP Mentor room and saw a load of people I had never met before – none of which made an effort to acknowledge me.

    So, while some SAP Mentors are great (and I can think of a lot) I can completely understand why some people find them unapproachable. Maybe it’s because the “techie” SAP Mentors were let loose here? It was my first TechEd and my previous 3 SAP conferences this year were mainly with “functional” or “business” folk and I didn’t get this response.

    Anyway, I’ll probably get slated by the SAP Mentors for this comment but I wanted to express my view. Maybe it was all a genuine mistake, but I certainly found some of the SAP Mentors to be an unwelcoming bunch.

    Best regards,

    Luke

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    1. Tom Van Doorslaer

      Hi Luke,

      I indeed had the impression that you felt a bit lost. I noticed you around here and there, but never in the company of other mentors. I’m happy I took the opportunity to say hi, even if it was for only 5 minutes before you scurried off to catch your airplane.

      I genuinely hope that you have a better experience in the future.

      cheers!

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      1. Luke Marson

        Hi Tom,

        Actually I had several things on my agenda, but I wasn’t as busy as usual. Usually I’m all over the place, but no so much this time. I particularly wasn’t when I arrived, which is when  a lot of people didn’t notice me. I guess we just need to get some shirts that help us stand out πŸ˜‰ .

        Usually I wouldn’t plan on attending TechEd and certainly I won’t be making an effort next time.

        Another thing that disappoints me is that I am very approachable and am more than happy for people to approach me, but I guess the fact people don’t is because of this reputation. I think the new font we have is very geeky and makes us less approachable, but that’s just a personal opinion and made that clear when the new design was being discussed.

        The problem is that the SAP Mentors were founded by techies but that’s not what we are any more. We are a mix of techies, functional consultants, thought leaders etc. With our geeky font and behavior at TechEd it doesn’t come across like that…

        Best regards,

        Luke

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    2. Matthias Steiner

      Surprised and sorry to read this Luke! Especially, since I recall witnessing the opposite in Orlando this year where we spend plenty of time together and had the feeling that the wolfpack welcomed you with open arms…

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      1. Luke Marson

        Yes, I remember HR2012 (both Vegas and Milan) and SAPPHIRE US being very different. But I also noticed that the audience from the SAP Mentor-side was largely different.

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    3. Nathan Genez

      To build on that… I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of the Mentors are so geeked up about TechEd that they can’t stop themselves from constantly networking, catching up, talking new functionality (of which, there is a lot these days) and prepping for their sessions that don’t have as much time for anything else. If you could get past the excitement, then I think you could get ahold of a Mentor a lot easier.

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      1. Tom Van Doorslaer

        You might be on to something there. I as a regular attendee was suffering from the same problem. I sometimes must have looked like a rabbit on steroids which made me sometimes react quite abrupt an rush away to the next session. Simply because I was so excited and pumped up.

        could give a very wrong impression.

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        1. Frank Koehntopp

          Same here – was my first TechEd as a Mentor, and I was more than overwhelmed by all of the activities (Mark Finnern carpet bombing my calendar and basically invalidating my TechEd Agenda didn’t help πŸ™‚ ).

          I’m sure I haven’t spoken with all the Mentors, but that is just one of the things I haven’t managed to do due to lack of time. I have been approached by a few visitors which have asked me about the Mentors, but not as many as I thought. Not sure I’d take that as not being approachable enough, though…

          Frank.

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    4. Mark Finnern

      Hi Luke,

      Super bummed that you had that experience. 

      Note to all SAP Mentors, make sure you are there for the mentor reception, as we offer ample opportunity to mingle and introduce yourself to others. In Madrid there was so much joy and camaraderie in the room that evening, that I surprised, that it didn’t last until the next morning.

      As has been commented it may have been that the other mentors where busy prepping their next session. Still we will make sure to be more embracing next time around.

      Hope you will find your way to another TechEd again soon.

      All the best, Mark.

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      1. Mark Chalfen

        Hi Mark and Luke,

        I totally agree attending the first night is important. I am going to ensure I am there in Orlando for the opening night – it was my daughter’s b’day last year,

        I would also like to praise Mark for the way the Mentor community has grown. There are some great technical consultants (from SAP, customers and Partners) and there are also some great functionality consultants as well.

        Both sets need each other, but more than that have a debate or conversation with a varied group of mentors makes the conversation richer, new points are raised and everyone seems to learn something.

        However technical or functional everyone mentors the community in their own special way. It could be via SCN, or Inside Tracks, or working with Product development teams at SAP.

        I do a lot of work providing feedback from customers to the development teams. This acts as a barrier and all parties gain from this.

        All SAP Mentors I know have a door open sign, you can ask them anything, and I have gained from the detailed insight and knowledge that is within the group.

        I am looking forward to the next batch…

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      2. Christian GΓΌnther

        Hi All,

        I’d also like to comment on this. Although I am not an SAP Mentor anymore and did not get the chance to attend SAP TechEd this year – this new job of mine, really is not much fun πŸ™ – I did attend nearly every TechEd, DSAG and Sapphire since 2009. My own observation on how the Mentors and extended Wolfpack react to other and new people, was this:

        I was more then welcomed by nearly everyone when first attending SAP TechEd 2009 as a nominated Mentor. I actually didn’t know exactly what I was supposed to do, but felt ok and welcome. I also did make some “close” friends back then, and at every event since then, I always got back in touch with them. But, later in 2011, the feeling got quite different.

        I am not a developer, but rather a strategic consultant and technical adviser and that alone gave me the feeling to be a bit separated from the rest.

        It’s not like I disguise the Mentors – not at all. I was always very proud to be part of that community, but the notion that there is some elite thing about it, is to my own observation, true. Well must be true, because the whole idea of a group of people that get elected, makes them elite πŸ˜‰

        Nevertheless, the Mentors are a great bunch of people and they indeed do some very good things. I just think, they really should be more open.

        Anyway, I would love to see as much of you again in next year.

        Chris

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  3. Paula Rosenblum

    Hi Fred.  Thanks for the mention.  As a true outsider and a first time mentor person, let me give you a couple of thoughts or ideas that might ease some of the mis-perceptions.  They sound small, but they really are a big deal.

    1)  Lose the shirts.  Yes, I know that’s a hard one.  As I mentioned, I really can’t wear them at events anyway, since as an industry analyst my objectivity must remain beyond question or reproach.  But nothing says “Club” quite so much as a uniform.  As an experiment (to see if I wasn’t being hypersensitive) I wore one of my new shirts down to breakfast at my hotel one morning.  Another person on the elevator (also an attendee at the conference) asked me “So how long have your worked for SAP?”  That was all the validation I needed. I will happily wear my shirts in other environments, but not at an event.  Sorry.  It’s true.  The mentor designation on the badge is more than adequate.

    2)  Lose the clubhouse.  I understand there’s a need for a place to hold meetings, but “suits welcome” and “Wolfpack” have a feeling of exclusiveness (Marilyn would probably say “male exclusiveness” but I don’t even have to take it that far) that is off-putting.

    I can’t comment much on the Demojam/Innojam itself, since I wasn’t there, but it’s an incredibly cool idea and sounds like a lot of fun. What could be better than fostering innovation and RAD? So what’s my suggestion? Instead of wearing the mentor shirts for the jams, think about letting each jam team have its own shirt.  THOSE are the teams.  In or outside SAP.

    I looked hard within myself to make sure I wasn’t just being a “suit” (not like I ever wear them…but I understand the mindset) or otherwise old-fashioned.  I decided I was being fair.   I guess the point is that you don’t have to bludgeon people, but instead can seduce them.  It creates a whole other feeling.

    I somehow think I just stepped into sacred cow territory, but that’s why they call my company “the candid voice”.  Peace.

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    1. Ethan Jewett

      What a great and thought-provoking comment on a great and thought-provoking blog. I don’t agree completely with the suggestions (in Vegas, it seemed like the private “clubhouse” was more a meeting room than a real clubhouse where people hung out, which I think was perfect), but I think it’s worth strongly considering what needs to change as the mentor program continues to grow in size and visibility at these events.

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    2. Chris Kernaghan

      Paula – a great comment with a fair amount of bravery thrown in, although I have to disagree with your two points.

      I love being a SAP Mentor, as Mentors we have achieved something few people have – and the result of that achievement is a responsibility to represent the community faithfully. So yes, I like wearing a shirt that represents that achievement, connects me to my Mentor sisters and brothers, as well as reminds me that I represent the SAP community. For example – I have been asked to use my Mentor status by people for various reasons and I have always said no because it is not what I consider to be for the benefit of the community.  I completely understand your point of view in terms of objectivity and how it can affect how others see you, but you must also recognise that it is also your responsibility to educate the wider community on the Mentor Program – that we are a ‘candid voice’ with SAP. I wonder if you set the person in the elevator straight as to your actual relationship with SAP.

      As regards having the meeting room, for me that is pure logistics – with the level of meetings that we have with SAP, check out the Mentor calendar at Madrid, it is necessary to have these in a central and easy location to get to. Also we do discuss many issues which are not for immediate public consumption. I certainly did not ‘hang out’ there except for when we had meetings, I was busy out meeting and talking to community members on lots of more interesting subjects.

      I do not like the over-arching consequence of being exclusive is that by it’s nature it must exclude people – that is not the purpose of the Mentor program, I do not know anyone within the program who seeks to exclude. Although the capacity exists – Donnie Berkholtz did a great blog and presentation on “How ******** are ruining your project”, we have fine line to walk and a growing program. These are questions that need to be asked and we all have to be brave enough to ask the questions in order to maintain the integrity of the program for the community.

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      1. Paula Rosenblum

        Hi Chris. 

        I don’t think I was brave particularly.  Just honest. And I stand by what I said.

        I understand mentors need a meeting space.  A space and a clubhouse have two very different feelings. I am sure that in a different facility it might have felt less clubhous-y but you just have to decide what you want to project, regardless of the facility. I am saying it projected clubhouse and with some effort, might have projected something else.  It’s a hard thing to do.  We all like to feel like there is one place where we ‘belong’. 

        We can wear the shirts.  We can wear them to softball games (soccer games? πŸ™‚ ), and community lunches, etc.  Not in a public forum.  Two different things. And, I do NOT represent the SAP community.  That’s the point really.  Of course I set the person straight. But I shouldn’t have to.

        Anyway, I understand this all probably feels a bit contrived.  It’s just my POV.

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    3. Mark Chalfen

      Paula

      Do you mean the Mentor room (6.2) or the whole clubhouse that was in a Hall.

      The Clubhouse is not the Mentor clubhouse but the SCN Clubhouse. Anyone is welcome. I spent a bit of time there, ran a couple of sessions there and it was a great place to network.

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      1. Paula Rosenblum

        The mentor room (6.2).  I mean the layout wasn’t ideal.  But the signage was a little strange.  Look, I’m just being an honest outside observer.  I gotta go to work now, but I’ve given you my POV.  Take it or leave it.

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        1. Abesh Bhattacharjee

          Hey Paula,

          I see you are a straight talker so I would like to be as straight as possible when I say that I do sense a bit of condescension in your replies.

          I’m sure in a community “Take it or leave it” does not exactly cut it most of the times. If you have made a point, however valid it might be, be prepared to be questioned or dragged into a conversation.

          Most of the guys here mean well and trust me when I say this, that I know them for a long time ! Sorry, but I for one, felt that your comment above was a little rude !

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          1. Paula Rosenblum

            Not intentional and if it came off that way I apologize.  I also meant well and I was in a hurry.

            My point was just that this was my observation and it could be accepted or rejected. 

            Again, my apologies. 

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        2. Frank Koehntopp

          AH, ok – that one I’ll have to disagree. I don’t think _any_ of the visitors even had a chance to find this room other than by accident, so I wouldn’t hold that against the Mentors…

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    4. Matthias Steiner

      Another person on the elevator (also an attendee at the conference) asked me “So how long have your worked for SAP?”  That was all the validation I needed. I will happily wear my shirts in other environments, but not at an event.

      Hi Paula,

      reading this I cannot help but think “missed opportunity!

      I mean, the way I see it this is one of the good things about the shirts. They give people a reason to approach us. “Where did you get this shirt?” is one of the questions we all hear many, many times…

      I tend to believe that anyone who wears it somewhat identifies with the program and so it would have been a great opportunity to tell the person about SCN, the community and the idea behind the SAP Mentors program. Giving them the elevator pitch if you will.

      The way you put it makes me question if you identify with the program and its values – sorry if that sounds overly harsh. Guess I’m just playing the devil’s advocate here…

      Cheers,

      Matthias

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      1. Paula Rosenblum

        Harsh?  No, it’s not harsh.  It doesn’t acknowledge that a) this was my first experience with the mentors, b) I don’t work for SAP, c) I am not remotely ready to evangelize something I am just learning about. 

        I gave you an outsider’s point of view that essentially echoed what the original post said outsiders’ perceptions are.  And gave you a couple of suggestions of how to change that perception.  Straight-forwardly (if that’s a word).  Whether you choose to hear them or not is really on you.  I’m sure not in a place or position or mood to argue with you.

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        1. Matthias Steiner

          OK. Now that makes more sense then!

          If you (still) feel like an outsider, then I guess it is totally right and understandable to not wear the shirt until you feel comfortable wearing it and you can identify. I mean, I would not wear any shirt promoting something I do not believe in or I cannot explain or comment on…

          I’m sure not in a place or position or mood to argue with you.

                             

          Don’t get what you mean with a) and b) but c) is something I do understand and as such I push back…

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    5. Mark Finnern

      Hi Paula,

      1) Loosing the shirt? No way. It is the most important thing that connects us mentors and enables conversations. One of the biggest complains of SAP Mentors about the program is, that not enough people know about it.

      The shirt gives you ample opportunity to make others aware of the initiative and educate them about who we are. Which you did. Without shirt, that person in the elevator may have seen your badge saying SAP Mentors, but would never had asked you about it.

      As an Analyst your reputation of independence is very important. I see it as a bit fluid. Depending on the situation and the meeting you may want to be there as an SAP Mentor or as an Analyst.  Jon Reed solves that problem by throwing the mentor shirt over his shirt and tie when he sees fit. Every mentor has to find the right balance.  

      2) Thank you so much for that comment. I don’t like us mentors being tucked away in a room back a dark alley up the stairs past some utility pipes.

      As others have posted, it is essential to have a dedicated room, otherwise the scheduling would break down.

      Hopefully these comments will be the lever that makes my dream come true to have the SAP Mentor room on the show floor next to the SCN Clubhouse and the Networking lounges. Have row of glass doors that we can shut when we have the non public meetings, but otherwise wide open for everyone to come up and engage. That would make the space much more fluid and happening. Jam Band practice could also be there during the night and not disturb anyone πŸ˜‰ 

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      1. Luke Marson

        have the SAP Mentor room on the show floor

        This is what we really need to help get some awareness. One of the reasons I didn’t spend much time in our hidden room (apart from no-one talking to me πŸ˜‰ ) was that it was too far away from the “action”. At least at SAPPHIRE Orlando we had the GC room nearby, although that’s still separate from the main area.

        What can we do to lobby for this in the next round of conferences next year? No doubt we can make it a success, as long as we get the platform.

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        1. Nigel James

          At the UK&I User group meeting a few years ago (perhaps 2011) the mentors booked some floorspace to great success. I think this would be a great idea at teched’s and sapphires.

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      2. Frank Koehntopp

        If it is on the show floor it needs to have something that invites non-Mentors to visit, like the SCN booth, coffee, and seats and/or power sockets πŸ˜‰

        Don’t know about others, but nothing says “closed group” as much as a room does, so I’d see the room as the place for meetings, and the outside as the place where people mingle and meet Mentors.

        But we do need to come up with an atraction, and it should also be clearly visible as a part of SCN, one (huge) pillar of the community.

        Frank.

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      3. Tom Cenens

        Fred Verheul great blog post! Thanks for putting this out there.

        Mark Finnern I love the idea of having the SAP Mentor room or area in the actual showfloor area. I wasn’t around much on the showfloor this time around since I attended nearly all SAP Mentor meetings. Not being around can also create the perception of not being approachable.

        I like Tom’s idea on creating a place where people can hang out with the SAP Mentors.

        Best regards

        Tom

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  4. Tom Van Doorslaer

    Hi Fred,

    I can see how many people do not consider the SAP Mentors as “approachable”.

    You only get to see them once a year and there is some sort of threshold. The mentors are considered to be “the gurus”. Imagine you are a newbie in SAP, would you directly step up to “the guru” and ask him your questions?

    Or put differently, as a new joiner in a company, would you immediately walk up to the CEO to say Hi?

    A first step is to realize that, the Mentors are not Gods. They may not even be guru’s, but just people with a broad knowledge and the ability to broadcast their message in an understandable way.

    If you consider them like that, heck, walk up to them and say Hi.

    That’s how it went for me at least. 4 years ago, my knees were trembling when I approached Thomas Jung to ask a WebDynpro question. It took me 2 months to recover (just kidding)

    So part of being open for the Mentors, is by simply showing that they’re human. (that should be easy, for most πŸ™‚ )

    and on the perception part:

    perception is that mentors are not very approachable, I think the openness on SCN and the massive amounts of kowledge the mentors spread in the community, and the help they offer, certainly qualifies as “open”

    but it’s true: perception is everything πŸ˜‰

    so next year, we need a lounge area with a bar, where people can hang out with mentors

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    1. Matthias Steiner

      Hm, I’d really like to hear from the people who attended InnoJam how they perceived the event and if the SAP Mentors were approachable or not… I think there were some in (almost) every group, right?

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      1. Tom Van Doorslaer

        hmmm, on the other hand, the audience for Innojam is more select. So you can’t talk to 5 people without accidently talking to a mentor.

        I think InnoJam is actually a great event to get in touch with the mentors (just like codeJam as well) But generally, the audience on such events is also much more confident.

        On a mass event like TechEd, it’s easy to drown and get overwhelmed.

        So how can we get small events with close-contact coöperation with mentors, with a low threshold?

        Knowing that a lot of people are already reluctant to attend a presentation at their local SAP office, it’ll be difficult to do good for all.

        (just tossing ideas around)

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  5. Matthias Steiner

    Interesting blog and some thought-provoking topics for sure! I like the way you picked these topics up and mostly agree with your reasoning:

    1) Little to add. The rules have changed to only allow nominations that have customers or partners in the team. As you stated, the SAP Mentors have been among the most active promoters for this change. The fact, that we usually see SAP Mentors in the line-up is simple (to me): because they are among the most passionate and active community members. And among the early adopters of emerging tech…

    2) Oh well… as you stated, Fred, everybody can nominate community members twice a year. How many times have the people who complain nominated someone? I guess the same rules apply as for elections – if you did not vote/nominate, you are not entitled to complain. πŸ˜‰

    Having said that, it may be interesting for the people to know that the setup of the program is always discussed – especially within the SAP Mentors group! Yet, so far I have to say that most of the newly nominated Mentors have definitely deserved it. Guess, Fred is the perfect example…

    3) Yeap, I heard that one before. We all have! Guess I see both sides of the coin. I recall discussing this with you in Madrid a few days back and you wrote it down perfectly. The SAP Mentors work together as a virtual group all year long – on a voluntary basis (!!!) – and we do only get to see each other once or twice a year. Of course, we are eager to meet in person and hang out for a limited amount of time. But that’s not exclusive… if you see a SAP Mentor or several of them and have something to say/ask – approach them!!! I’ve yet to hear a story about SAP Mentors rejecting a community member!

    4) Hm, all I can say about this one is that it’s not the group as a whole who makes the decision on who’s in or not. And from what I recall Mark got Dennis Howlett to become a SAP Mentor. Oh, and there are plenty of other examples… Jarret compiled a “Troublemaker” list a while back and there were plenty of people who are as far from lip service as can be: John Appleby, Vijay Vijaysankar and Thorsten Franz would be top of my list. I call BS on that one!

    Cheers,

    Matthias

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    1. Matthias Steiner

      Maybe that did get out sounding a bit too harsh. So, let me try to put it in other words…

      I’m not saying the nomination and selection process is perfect. I do know we are having constants debates about this internally as well, BUT… (and of course there has to be a but)

      Still, I feel those people who complain about the selection process at least should nominate whom they feel have deserved it (more!).

      All I wanted to convey is the following: complaining about something rarely helps improving the situation for the better. If you feel things are going the wrong way, and you feel strongly about it, do something to improve the status quo. That – for me – is the essence of the SAP Mentors program…

      Cheers,

      Matthias

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  6. Susan Keohan

    Hi Fred,

    Thanks for blogging on this topic.  I’d like to comment on items 2 and 3.

    ‘The SAP Mentors are an incestuous bunch anyway, almost indistinguishable from SAP itself’  – IMHO this is absolutely not true – although many Mentors are drawn from within the ranks of SAP.  SAPMentors represent customers, partners, and people from SAP.  But our opinions are all our own.  We are not given any scripts to follow, we are not obligated in any way to push SAP’s agenda.  Our goal is to give SAP honest feedback about what is going on in the real world, and to represent SAP customers and partners.

    ‘They always hook up with each other at events’ – This has been mentioned before, and as you said, we don’t see each other in person except for semi-annual events, so it’s natural that we want to catch up with each other.  Of course, I know about the perception that we cling together, but I also know that I spend my ‘free’ time at these events seeking out attendees (in the dining halls, the corridors, and even in the elevator) to generate some conversations.  This has always been one of my favorite parts of ASUG Annual Conference (conveniently co-located with Sapphire) and of SAPTechEd! 

    I think part of Mark’s goal in the ‘daily wrap-up’ is to encourage anyone (not just the SAPMentors) to speak up about what they heard, saw or learned that day.   Certainly at the Drum Circle in LV, there was such a great feeling of community that I doubt anyone cared what shirt a person wore.

    Your point is well taken, though – and I hope the community will weigh in.  We can all learn by having an open discussion on this topic. 

    Cheers,
    Sue

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  7. Stephen Johannes

    Fred,

    Having floated over to the alumni side these concerns seem like a broken record for me.  I think these issues were discussed privately every year I attended teched as a SAP Mentor and there was always a discussion post-teched on how to resolve the issues. The one that always concerned me the post was the accessiblity issues or hanging out in packs issues.

    That being said last year my course of action to avoid this issue was the following:

    1) Purposely not sit at tables with other SAP Mentors present during the breakfast/lunch to try to meet other people unless I was walking in with someone I knew.  That being said if there was someone I hadn’t see in a long while I would try to say hi.

    2) Attend the public non-VIP networking dinner session instead of the “other one”.  I felt that it was important that SAP Mentors were present instead of being at an exclusive event. 

    3) Hold a clubhouse networking lounge session to meet people and talk about a topic.  The session I did in 2011 was great as there were about 10 to 20 people talking about SAP CRM and I was the only SAP Mentor in that session.  It was a good ratio.

    That being said I didnt’ go and try to avoid SAP Mentor activities, but I did try to make an effort within reason to meet new people who aren’t SAP Mentors and talk with them.  However I’m not an extrovert so I’m not going to walk through the convention floor at Teched wearing a sandwich placard saying talk to a SAP Mentor.

    Where I would be concerned is if people said they tried to talk to SAP Mentor and the person purposely ignored them or told them to go away.  Perhaps for SAPPHIRE and Teched next year, Mark needs to provide each SAP Mentor with large “TALK to ME, I’LL LISTEN” buttons or something similar.  If that doesn’t work then wear a chicken hat and people will talk to you. 

    Take care,

    Stephen

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  8. Mark Chalfen

    Hey Fred,

    Great meeting you last week and great blog with good comments.

    I enjoy being a mentor. I wear my shirt with pride and I love answering people’s questions.

    I meet a lot of new mentors in Madrid, as well as ones that I had not met before at previous events.

    In terms of Mentors being approachable, I think it is hard to generalise but I have never had any negative experiences. In terms of saying hi or joining in a convo it is a two way street.

    I think one of the key points that I want to make is everyone has their own agenda for an event. I am not a TechEd person – I sit in the Sapphire halls attending or running micro forums around fun things like Finance and RDS. Some of the sessions I had to attend clashed with good Mentor content. I think earlier this year the GC event was a great way for the Mentors to work together and socialise. If you come late of miss the Mentor evening sessions it would be hard. I missed the one this year due to client commitments. Working for a Partner it can be hard to get the balance between client commitments and Mentor fun….

    The wolfpack room is essential. There are some really great sessions that get run and having different types of mentors and interesting speakers really makes a difference.

    I loved Ann’s session with the students and professors, and was disappointed in a couple of others as I felt people highjacked them for self promotion (non Mentors)

    One of the main reason for being a Mentor is to give back to the community. This is a given. We give via SCN, blogs, working with product teams, or customers. This does not stop during these events.

    It was great coming into the wolfpack and having chats with fellow mentors around different subjects. It is clear there is a passion between the Mentors for knowledge and respected debate.

    Looking forward to seeing some Mentors tomorrow at the SAP UK User Group conference !!

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  9. Pratik Talwar

    I am moved a little after reading the blog and some of the comments here.

    First and foremost thing, I have seen most of the Mentors approachable not only through emails, blogs, discussions but for a face to face talk. Infact I met Marilyn at TechEd for the first time, who connected me to Mrinal on a particular topic, which we discussed for a long period even post event. This happened in India, where there are no networking sessions on the Agenda and even the clubhouse has no seats… There are several more examples tant I can quote here which I have experienced in last 4 years even before I was nominated in the group.

    I feel people need to practice some ice breakers / conversation starters etc etc

    Second to that, I also remember Mark Yolton’s words at one of the opening talks at one of the TechEd events, where he mentioned that apart from all the education sessions, the event presents a tremendous opportunity to meet and network with professionals. What is needed is just the right attitude.

    I also particularly didn’t like the use of the word ‘techie’. I am not embarrassed about it, but I never like to be typecasted. The mentor group has many people with non development background, as an example I have seen people like Somnath, who are from a non technical background, having high amount of interest to learn stuff about SAP and Non SAP based development platforms. So again it’s how you see and perceive about the group and the people that I believe has come out as this post and comments rather than experiencing the same.

    Each one of the people I believe in the group are wonderful, and as this program evolves over a period of time in future, so will the culture and practices and I believe those will change the perceptions to  delightful experiences.

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  10. Aiaz Kazi

    Fred:

    Am glad I clicked on the link in my Twitter feed to read this…you’ve brought up some very good points.  This is something I’ve been meaning to chat with Finnern about as well…I do think that the hooking up at events is only natural but the other perceptions are egregious and should be actively corrected. 

    Here’s a couple of things on my wish-list of what I’d like to see in addition (keep in mind that I’m one of the biggest fans of the SAP Mentor program and Finnern and most of you who know me know that)

    1. SAP Mentors actually “mentor” – which means they play that role actively in customer and partner organization projects and then share what can be publicly shared about their mentoring projects with other mentors and the larger community.  Maybe this is already happening…and I just haven’t seen it.  This could also include a mentor day along the lines of a local meet-up – organized by the mentor and their sponsoring company for sharing insignts on specific topics…record and/or stream these for even more value to the community

    2. Work with the SAP TechEd folks to ensure that Mentors can vote on topic submissions  for what matters to the TechEd attendees…again this one has the danger of giving the Mentors the power to game the system and pick Mentor submitted topics…but its better to add value at the front of the process than to just be a consumer and come up with an agenda after the fact of what might make sense for Mentors to attend…again if this is already happening then another item is off my wishlist.

    There are definitely other items on the list..but this is best covered in a discussion with current and alumni mentors.   Up for a call next week – who’s volunteering to set it up? Finnern?

    A

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    1. Tammy Powlas

      Aiaz Kazi

      Aiaz Kazi wrote:

                             

      1. SAP Mentors actually “mentor” – which means they play that role actively in customer and partner organization projects and then share what can be publicly shared about their mentoring projects with other mentors and the larger community.  Maybe this is already happening…and I just haven’t seen it.  This could also include a mentor day along the lines of a local meet-up – organized by the mentor and their sponsoring company for sharing insignts on specific topics…record and/or stream these for even more value to the community

      A

                         

      #1 happens a great deal already with local SAP Inside Tracks which are organized and run by SAP Mentors  – this year I’ve personally attended SAP Inside Track Chicago, New York, virtually attended Sao Paolo and I plan to attend SAP Inside Track DC (organized by SAP Mentor John Astill

      There was even an article written about this a few months ago on SCN  – A Tale of Two Inside Tracks Mentor Style

      Thanks to the efforts of Marilyn Pratt Inside Track New York was recorded here.

      Is there something different you are looking for?

      Tammy


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  11. Dennis Howlett

    OK  – I’ll chip in.

    The SAP Mentor programme has always had the problem of not really knowing what it stands for. Different people have different objectives and that shows in the different ways people describe their experience. It is hardly a surprise then that these topics emerge as a symptom of other issues. 

    The concern that Mentors are perceived as unapproachable is sometimes well founded but irrational. Those who take this position as reality need to understand that working on SAP, whether as employee, partner or customer is not the same as being in the Boy/Girl Scouts. This isn’t kiddie school. There is ONE thing that could be done to change perceptions: emphasise that Mentors are about community and mentoring, not necessarily about being an uber geek. Why? Many of the smartest people I know are ********. They may be gr8 at what they do but are about as socially adept as my psychotic cat. I can be like that and we should all recognise that reality.

    The Club Thing. I’m with Paula. You don’t need a shirt to prove who you are. That is for the Boy/Girl Scouts who want to be part of a club. Put another way – if my reputation depends on my membership of a ‘club’ then the SAP Mentor program has failed.

    Finnern might wish to think about the fact SAP Mentors are approx 80% drawn from SAP employees and SIs. Where is the balance with customers? I can attest to the fact that most customers I meet have never heard of the program.

    There are two things I don’t see with SAP Mentors that represents a gaping void:

    1. In @JonERP and my video work on SAP start ups, we see very little representation from SAP Mentors, or for that matter, knowledge the Mentor program exists.
    2. Success is rarely celebrated outside the ‘walls’ of the SAP Mentor community in a way that is attractive to others. Much of the progress made on licensing matters is down to efforts by members of the Mentor community. The broad ecosystem needs to know that being a Mentor can mean contributing to positive difference.

    Last words – those of you who watch the JD-OD Daily Wrap shows will know that virtually all shows are stuffed with Mentors. Why? Apart from deep knowledge, they have strong opinions that are fact based and which reflect wider concerns inside the SAP ecosystem. But like all shows, we know that having the same old faces every time is a recipe for complacency. That’s why I was glad that Vijay and Appleby couldn’t make it this year in Madrid. It made Jon/I work harder to find voices that don’t always get heard in broader formats. In other words, JD-OD is a revolving door. It’s a lesson the Mentor program might wish to consider as ensuring it remains fresh and vibrant. Because if it’s not then it’s ossifying.

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    1. Luke Marson

      I really don’t like the over-balance of “uber geek” Mentors, but that’s where the origins are. Luckily in the SAP HCM space none of us, as far as I am aware, are known as “uber geek” or “techie” or whatnot. But as a whole I think that’s how the Mentors are perceived.

      I made a point before, maybe not so blatantly, but using geeky lettering on your shirts tells people that you’re a geeky bunch. I opposed the font when it was suggested because of the message it gives out. No surprises that lots of Mentors loved it.

      There’s nothing wrong with geeks/techies/whatever, but we’re not all like that and some of us make a contribution to SAP in ways that Dennis has partially mentioned. SAP Mentors can have a bigger impact if we’re seen as a diverse group of experts, opinion-makers, thought leaders and influencers – not just a group of geeks/techies/coders.

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        1. Mark Finnern

          Rollerball has currently a little renaissance here in the US πŸ˜‰

          Good design evokes emotions, creates conversations, you either like it or you hate it, there is no middle ground. We nailed it with as it will always been known now the Tron Shirt πŸ˜‰

          Next year we will come up with something new and fresh and I can’t wait for your suggestions πŸ˜‰

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          1. Tammy Powlas

            I am not knocking the design, but simply impressed by the reference to the movie and recall.  I am sure I haven’t seen the movie since the 70’s πŸ™‚

            (0) 
          2. Andy Silvey

            I’ll put my head above the parapet here, I’m wearing a bullet proof vest

            6 months or so ago, Mark wrote a nice blog inviting nominations and also self nominations for Mentors

            I audaciously replied to Mark with a self nomination and cc’d a colleague from SAP who is in Max Attention (as a seconder) because as a senior Basis Admin mentoring is part of my raison d’etre, and I would like to contribute more to the eco system and mentoring for me would be a way to achieve that

            I never recieved a reply to the email I sent to Mark or the PM I sent πŸ™   – one could argue, if one needs to ask

            As I pointed out to Mark in the self nomination correspondance I already have the ‘old’ Mentor T’Shirt from when we met all those years ago at the apple wine place in Frankfurt

            Remember everyone, discussion such as this is only healthy and stimulates continuous self improvement

            All the best,

            Andy

            Giving back to SAP what SAP has given me…

            http://wiki.sdn.sap.com/wiki/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=309461179

            (0) 
            1. Mark Finnern

              Hi Andi,

              That one hurt. I admit I dropped the ball by not responding to your nomination. Please except my sincere apology. It is always tough and very time consuming to add new SAP Mentors and on-boarding them in time for Sapphire or an upcoming TechEds.event. To thank people for their nominations especially when they were not selected should have been done and I will do it next time around.

              You write:

              > Giving back to SAP what SAP has given me…

              http://wiki.sdn.sap.com/wiki/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=309461179

              Quite an impressive Basis Netweaver OSS Notes list you collected/curated. 609 edits and all from you. Just out of curiosity, do people ping you when there is a note that they think should be added? After all it is a wiki, does no one dare to touch it?

              Thanks for all your contributions, Mark.    

              (0) 
              1. Andy Silvey

                Hi Mark,

                thanks for the feedback.

                What was the reason for not meeting the selection criteria ?

                Regarding the, Wiki,

                http://wiki.sdn.sap.com/wiki/display/Community/Andy+Silvey's…….SAP+NetWeaver+Basis+Administrator’s+Toolbox…

                > Just out of curiosity, do people ping you when there is a note that they think should be added? After all it is a wiki, does no one dare to touch it?

                So far I’m the only contributor, it is simply an ongoing compendium of the most useful doco and OSS Notes I come across each day while doing 3rd Line and Projects SAP Basis Administration.

                The Wiki is updated every day, every day I learn new things as does everybody in the SAP world.

                What was I working on today, what was added, some material I used to solve a problem I had when Kerberos/SPNego stopped working on a 7.02 Portal following the SAPJVM4 upgrade, what else from today, Java tuning to get more umph out of a Prod 7.11 PI system, what else today, Process Desk configuration on the Dev CE system in the Project Track, what else, why the Portal On Device logon is erroring out after bringing the new 7.31 Portal to SP05 etc etc, all in a days work in Basis Administration.

                As a contractor with 13 years contracting behind me, collecting doco is in my dna, daily scanning the SCN Blogs, the SCN Library for the latest doco on the most interesting subjects in my technical orbit, this is part and parcel of being a freelancer. And this year I got to the time in life when it’s really time to start sharing without reservation or prejudice all of these gems with others who work in the same area – hence the Wiki.

                As Seniors, in our capacity in our organisations as mentors to the Juniors, part of our added value is sharing knowledge without reservation or prejudice, teaching and leading and mentoring others without reservation or prejudice.

                 

                Something I like about the Wiki is, I use it myself, it is faster to look in the Wiki than in my hard disk, I know I’ve worked on something, I know I’ve seen an OSS Note or an SCN Blog for a problem and it is faster to keyword search the Wiki than my hard disk. My goal is that others will have the same result.

                The Wiki is unlocked and everybody is welcome to contribute their gems to it.

                All the best,

                Andy.

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              2. Andy Silvey

                Hi Mark,

                back to my question, and I put it here because email and private messages were unsuccessful, to which I know you apologised and I graciously accept without reservation your apology.

                In June this year, you submitted this blog, http://scn.sap.com/community/sap-mentors/blog/2012/06/26/join-sap-mentors-this-fall
                where you invited and solicited both nominations for SCN Mentors and self nominations, in your words,

                ‘ please nominate them and we are happy to give them a bigger megaphone to mentor more people especially product folks within SAP. You may have to nudge them a bit. Please do so. It is OK to nominate yourself, but it counts slightly more if someone else nominates you.’

                I made a solicited application and including a SAP Employee as a referee and subsequent communication which went unanswered, and I would still like to know, in the spirit of continuous improvement and lessons learned under what criteria was the application unsuccessful ? What needs to be improved to ensure that next time around the application will be successful ?

                I am happy to discuss this openly because I think the whole community and especially the silent majority can benefit from this learning opportunity and from clarification to the following:

                If a third party is interested to nominate somebody for SCN Mentor, or alternatively, if somebody is interested and motivated to audaciously nominate themselves for SCN Mentor, then…

                What is the candidate criteria to be eligible for consideration as an SCN Mentor, what qualities are required of candidates for them to eligible for the SCN Mentor Programme ?

                What does the SCN Mentor Programme require of potential candidates, what are the goals and objectives ?

                These questions could be the foundation for a very interesting blog.

                Looking forward to your feedback, thank you for your time, and as ever, all the best,

                Andy.

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            2. Gregory Misiorek

              Hi Andy,

              i’m glad that you brought up wiki as a source for your documentation. wiki.sdn is a bit disorganized and not monitored as much as the rest of the scn is, but i think it serves its purpose. you can even get a bit creative as the wiki’s page title becomes a part of URL, so it’s good to think how it affects the search engines, etc. wiki also has a nice page structure tool to it, so splitting one long page into subpages creates a bit of metadata and shows how you would organize the subject matter which may be different and complementing the official SAP documentation.

              good luck with your mentor nomination process.

              best regards,

              greg

              (0) 
              1. Andy Silvey

                Hi Greg,

                thank you for the Wiki tips.

                As you can probably see I am new to the Wiki formatting and this effort is a work in progress which has no reverse gear.

                At the moment I am continuously adding to the Wiki using the process already described.

                Your insight into Sub-Pages is very useful, and for sure, I am going to have to examine that

                and simply take the sections and put them into sub sections – so I will take this as version 2.0

                project to sub-sectionise the Wiki.

                Thank you for the good luck, a little luck never goes amiss in life πŸ™‚

                All the best,

                Andy.

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      1. Chris Kernaghan

        Sorry but have you met Jarret – he is one of the most prolific HCM people I have ever met and I am sure a lot of people would call him an Uber Geek in the field of HCM – but do you know what, he has accomplished a hell of a lot and gained the respect of a lot of people. I do not see that being a geek is a particular problem, I do see an issue if it is seen as a barrier to people coming to talk to me – I can talk the hind legs off a donkey given half a chance.

        There are things that we can do better, there always are – this thread highlights it quite effectively but lets stop moaning and do something about it. Both Aaiz and Jarret make good suggestions about how to make the Mentors more visible, show the value we do actually add and make the community more aware of what we do.

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    2. Jarret Pazahanick

      Some great points Dennis and one thing that is NOT being said is for SAP Mentors to get more exposure among customers they have to be shown to be influencer of change on their behalf(or at least trying) and often that is counter to the strategic direction SAP has plotted especially when it comes to licensing. Some folks within the SAP Executive team are smart enough to see the value that ears on the ground can bring to both SAP and Customers but I don’t see that flowing throughout the SAP organization so the “positive story” often does not get the proper exposure. Perfect example is Graham Robinson helped champion the issues around Gateway licensing (which several other Mentors & others were vocally about as well) but unless you are REALLY following SAP you do not tie those together. 

      Having a critical voice as a SAP Mentor is not frowned upon but in no way is it supported either (even if it turns out to be right) and on a side I think the SAP Mentor shirts are a great conversation starter though cannot fully comment on the new one as it has not been sent to me yet (hint/hint) πŸ™‚

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  12. Jelena Perfiljeva

    Fred, thank you for this blog.

    As I’m reading the comments, I feel like I’m just getting more and more confused about the whole purpose of the SAP Mentor program. Are there really some events or areas at the SAP events that are exclusive to Mentors only? This just doesn’t sound very “mentory”… Someone might be confusing mentors with masons.

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    1. Gregory Misiorek

      since this thread is starting to show the vital signs of going viral, what the heck, i have an opinion, too.

      1. i agree some mentors may form a kind of exclusive club, especially when they “know” each other, but haven’t “seen” each other recently (mas).

      2. mentors may be hard to approach as they are much more visible than the rest of the ecosystem and they stay focused on remaining visible for one reason or another.

      3. wearing a shirt doesn’t make one “whatever” just like having a certification or diploma doesn’t make one smarter, just more knowledgeable about something very specific.

      4. i don’t think any mentors want to be called gurus, even though the terms are somewhat related.

      5. i’m not aware of any sap mentor exclusive events, but they do serve their purpose of connecting SAP with the rest of the ecosystem in a non-obligatory fashion.

      my 2 cents…

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    2. Sascha Wenninger

      Hi Jelena,

      Yes, there is a meeting room at TechEd and Sapphire events which is used for private meetings with SAP execs, etc. However this isn’t a strange place full of secret handshakes and initiation ceremonies but is simply used to have frank and open discussions with SAP execs. Mostly these sessions are an opportunity to represent the community and float ideas, and sometimes these discussions are not quite ready for he public domain. Yes, it’s not totally transparent and I make no excuses for that; I think this sort of thing is pretty standard practice with companies of any size – except that these sorts of things are otherwise normally done at the C-level of an organisation without the community involvement channeled through the Mentors.

      A good example of the benefits of this setup are the changes to licensing we have seen recently for developers, which were vigorously lobbied for by several mentors in those facilities.

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  13. Thomas Wailgum

    Oh well, when in Rome… A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away I, too, was a bit put off by the mentors, their uniformed attire and their exclusivity. Then, lo and behold, I started introducing myself to them, engaging them in (gasp!) conversations and following their exploits on Twitter. (“Mentors…they’re just like me!”) I’ve found that they are some of the smartest, most helpful people in the greater SAP community. And, for the most part, they tell it like it is. Plus, they also like to have a ton of fun (see that recent “come as you are” Jam Band concert at TechEd). I will say that the confusion surrounding what it is the mentors actually do is definitely something that I’ve heard from others in the community. Not a huge problem, though. Just part of the deal.

    -Commenter 51

    btw: Who says the mentors are exclusive?! https://twitter.com/i/#!/twailgum/media/slideshow?url=http%3A%2F%2Ftwitgoo.com%2F4imog8

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  14. Fred Verheul Post author

    Hi all,

    First of all: thank you all for your comments. I really appreciate all the feedback, good thinking and the suggestions for improvement.

    I won’t go into all of them one by one, which I normally do, because there are too many of them already πŸ™‚ . Besides I need more time to fully digest everything that’s been said.

    @ Chris + Sue: I really had no clue about this can of worms, but having read through the comments I’m glad I opened it πŸ˜‰ .

    We’ve had some email traffic internally as well as a result of this blog post, and I want to make clear that the opinions voiced in the post are not the general consensus among my colleagues at the bar, or among my colleagues in general. Still, all these things have been said (I’m not backing out) and when extrapolating to the whole SAPTechEd audience, it’s clear you can’t (and shouldn’t) ignore them.

    @ Luke: I’m sorry to hear it. I haven’t seen you, or I’d certainly have said hi. Let’s connect on Friday instead at sitbru .

    @ Paula: your response stands out for me, and I think it’s very valuable to have people on the Mentor Program that still have that outsider view.

    Having a session (preferably an open for all, Mentor Monday?) to follow up on all the good suggestions looks like a great idea. Mark?

    That’s all for now! Hope to be able to follow up later in more detail.

    Cheers, Fred

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    1. Luke Marson

      Hi Fred,

      Sure thing – see you on Friday πŸ™‚

      FYI – it wasn’t all of the Mentors that were like this, so not all should be offended (well, hopefully no-one will be offended).

      Best regards,

      Luke

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  15. Kevin Grove

    Fred

    Great post and quite a lively commentary section as well. My unofficial tally has only 2 non-mentors and 2 mentor alumni contributing comments. Is this because only SAP mentors are active on SCN or because the topic is not interesting enough to the rest of the SCN community? I do have a few observations of my own.

    • I have not yet met a mentor — or mentor alumni — who was unapproachable. In fact my experience is just the opposite. On SCN, at TechEd or on Twitter, there is a fantastic spirit of community and inclusion for outsiders.
    • Innojam — I felt that the number of SAP employees and mentors overwhelmed the rest of us mere mortals. I attribute this to 2 things: 1) Lack of awareness about Innojam in the SAP community as a whole and 2) The mentors know what a great opportunity Innojam is and make extra efforts to attend.
    • Sorry Stephen the chicken hat idea is good, but not original. I am positive I saw Chris Kernaghan wearing a hat like that on at least 2 occasions in Las Vegas this year. πŸ˜‰

    The SAP mentor program is the oil that keeps the SCN community in motion and, at the same time, the squeaky wheel that has a marvelous platform to affect change with the SAP ecosystem — as evidenced by the new initiatives around building the developer ecosystem.

    Best regards,

    Kevin

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  16. Twan van den Broek

    He Fred, good that you started this lively discussion.

    1) DemoJam selection process – You know I like to add more gamification, please SAP open up who all entered for a place on stage. Let the community do their voting on the entries and let a jury decide on specific KPI’s who is on the final 6 list. Be open, be clear!

    To my personal belief this years DemoJam was great. Not showing off some ready to market solutions, but SAP ‘fans’ that think of innovative ways to make use of SAP Technology. I really liked the spirit of that. What I still missed though is the presence of a jury who shares their opinion right after the act. That might help in identifying business cases, innovative use of technology and other aspects that matter to the DemoJam bosses.

    2) Sorry can’t agree on this one. Shirts are there to be recognizable, approachable. Lot of mentors share their thoughts with expert networking sessions. Join those sessions to listen to opinions, visions and thoughts and get to know the man/woman behind a number. Next to this we are asked to support hands-on sessions, another great opportunity to get to know mentors.

    3) Hooking up is natural behavior when like wise minded people only meet each other once or twice a year. Big concern is a full mentor program on a separate location – as mentor you could hide the whole event in that room. Now that’s is not a good thing. Personally I try to find the balance between mentor sessions, join/host expert sessions, supporting hands-on sessions, attend roadmap lectures and meeting up with old and new friends (not necessarily mentors). Which is quite a challenging job πŸ˜‰

    How to improve visibility / being approachable.

    • Stop thinking that mentors are some sort of super heroes – we are just normal people who like to stand up for our opinions and try to improve our daily SAP lives.
    • Hang out in our community clubhouse in stead of hiding in the ‘batcave’
    • Host expert sessions, support hands-on sessions at events
    • Organize local SAP Inside Tracks
    • Consider a pre or after event for mentors to get together with SAP product managers so that we get out more during the event itself

    Kind regards

    Twan

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  17. Tobias Hofmann

    It takes at least 2 to make a contact: if you do not approach me, why should I approach you? I cannot read minds, so if someone is standing/sitting beside me and does not make some strong “talk with me” indications like “hey, can I talk to you?” …

    After a break out session people normally are fast in leaving the room, and in case I am not the speaker, it never ever happened that an attendee approached me to get in contact, talk about the session, etc.

    On the other hand, I made several contact at TechEd LV by just walking around. Maybe we need a 2hs social “Get in contact with the SAP Mentors” session at SAP events, spiced up with some gamification.

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  18. Frank Koehntopp

    Let me add one more thing: as weird as it may sound, one of the reasons people may not relate to Mentors with the same spirit of community as we would like to might be that they’re not an active part of the SCN community yet.

    As I told Jonathan in the executive meeting, even in our department only a few people actively use SCN, some of them don’t even know SCN. Whether we like it or not, the Mentors are wired to the Community, and their effectiveness is directly linked to the success of SCN as a community.

    People who don’t ‘get’ SCN will also not get the Mentors. maybe the Mentor shirts should more clearly link to SCN?

    In any case, if the perception of mentors really is “exclusive club” instead of “example for community” we have lots of work to do…

    Frank.

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    1. Luke Marson

      maybe the Mentor shirts should more clearly link to SCN?

      Some Mentors don’t contribute to SCN and it’s not a prerequisite of being a Mentor. Sure it helps and sure I think we should help promote SCN, but it’s not something Mentors should link to IMHO.

      Maybe, though, at the conferences next year we could have a SAP Mentors booth right next to an SCN booth? That would indicate a link between the two without actually specifying it’s a definitive link.

      Just my 2-Euro-cents.

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  19. Roel van den Berge

    Excellent blog Fred. As a non-Mentor I will give you my 2 cents as well.

    1. I though DemoJam was a delight this year. Very cool demo’s and no SAP-only entries. SAP Mentors <> SAP Employees so I don’t get the criticism on this.

    2. You explained this very well.

    3. I wholeheartedly disagree on this one. This TechEd I approached a lot of SAP Mentors and not a single one turned me down or showed a cocky attitude. Especially during InnoJam. Everyone was willing to help, no matter how tired or busy they were. I do get the point made by Tom van Doorslaer about being afraid to approach a (perceived) “guru”, but that should by no means be a reason to say that they are not that approachable. They really are. At least every single one I met…

    Oh yeah, there were a variety of reasons why I approached these Mentors (either this or previous years). Some have specific knowledge on a subject I was interested about. Some I wanted to shake hands because they’ve been an inspiration for me (some for a long time). Some had written blogs I had questions/comments about. Some gave some really nice presentations on subjects that I wanted to learn more about. Some ran a specific program that I was interested in. Some I wanted to catch up after a long time no see. Some I didn’t know and seemed lonely πŸ˜‰ .

    But most of all I wanted to connect to them because 9/10 times they are really passionate about what they do and this passion is often contagious. Especially when you already know a bit about their subject a conversation can really sparkle. I came back from SAP TechEd fully energized. Because of the good sessions but mostly because of the good connections I made. For me that simply is what TechEd is all about.

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  20. Prateek Raj Srivastava

    Very interesting observations Fred!

    I enjoyed your analysis on all the points except the 3rd one. In fact, I had a very different experience while attending my first TechEd as a Mentor this year in Vegas. I hanged out with tons of people, most of them were not SAP Mentors. Many attendees asked me about the SAP Mentor program and unfortunately most of them were only interested in the advantages of being SAP Mentor and the short cuts to get in. 😐 I attended a lots of sessions and most of the time I was all by myself. This provided me opportunity to talk to other attendees and them to approach SAP Mentors.

    When I look back now, the worthies discussions, knowledge exchange and best time I had (casinos excluded πŸ˜‰ ) were with the SAP Mentors. This makes me obviously inclined towards spending more time with SAP Mentors in future events. I am pretty sure other attendees who got to talk to SAP Mentors have a similar opinion.

    Luke Marson I am surprised and sorry you had such a different experience. May be “Vegas” made people more friendly than Madrid. πŸ™‚ Cheers!

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  21. Nigel James

    I might be a little late to this but thanks for writing this up Fred. I would say to anyone who thinks that mentors are being unapproachable  – “It’s all in your head”

    With apologies to Luke Marson , being new to a crowd like the mentors can be intimidating and I am sorry that was your experience.

    I think that the mentors are the most passionate part of the SAP community and having them in T-shirts makes them easy to identify so that you can approach us and ask us about stuff or discuss your slant on the newest feature in product “Silver Bullet” released by the SAP Vapourware Department. We love to talk about this stuff and for the most part it is why we are mentors and organise ‘SAP Inside Track’ events all around the world.

    When I am at events I am always striking up conversations with people waiting in lines for meals or meetings or anywhere really. If you think we are being unapproachable and don’t approach us then how have you proved your thesis? It became self fulfulling prophesy didn’t it! Next time if you think we are unapproachable, use the scientific method and attempt to prove your theory. I suspect you will find that is simply not the case. If you ever find an SAP Mentor at an event that you find unapproachable after using this method then I will gladly eat a bar of chocolate.  (I am trying to cut down on chocolate!) I will be the guy wearing the blue shirt with the number 7 on my back.

    In response to SAP and Mentors being the same thing I also disagree. I told Mark Finnern when he first invited me to be a mentor that I would not be SAP’s stooge. Many of the Mentors put SAP’s hand to the fire all the time and both parties would not have it any other way. We are as SAP Mentor Alumnus @darren.hague says “A pain in the neck in the most positive way” [not an exact quote mind you]

    Thanks again Fred for writing this up and for everyone who has commented. Let’s keep moving the conversation forward – we are up for the constructive criticism to make the mentors better all the time.

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    1. Luke Marson

      Hi Nigel,

      I’m not new enough to the Mentors that I have no met them before and I wasn’t by any means intimidated, especially since this was my fourth event as a Mentor. The fact is that many of the Mentors (but not all!) that attended just didn’t really represent what I expected from the Mentors and their attitude towards me was as if I wasn’t wearing a SAP Mentor jersey. I was quite astonished. However, I am going to put this down to it being the techy Mentors because usually I am exposed to Mentors from a techno-functional background.

      Best regards,

      Luke

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      1. Nigel James

        Hey Luke, techy mentors (myself included at times) can be a little too over excited by the tech to the point where they forget about the people (the most important part of any endeavor). As SCN developed from SDN and a lot of the initial mentors are more tech focused please excuse our bad manners.

        For others though please come up and say hi – the shirt is not a superhero cloak it is an invitation for discussion.

        Cheers,

        Nigel

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  22. Thorsten Franz

    Just to share two experiences with SAP Mentors from the time before I was named a Mentor:

    1) Meeting Anne Petterøe for the first time at TechEd Berlin 2008 – she came right up to me and said, “hey, isn’t this a familiar face from twitter?” I was so shy I practically ran away – but this was certainly not Anne’s fault. The next time I met Anne, I overcame my shyness and had a fantastic conversation with her. She was a great Mentor and I hope to see her back in the program one day.

    2) Meeting Gregor Wolf, who will forever be one of my top five model Mentors. Gregor is the ultimate in approachability, genuine kindness and helpfulness. He is always ready to make any issue you bring to him his own and go to great troubles to help you. He is also a brilliant technologist and if anyone has enough merits to be haughty then it’s him, but anyone who has met Gregor will agree that he is the most genuinely humble and open person one could imagine.

    So, my first encounters with Mentors were with super-approachable people. I have since found this to be generally the case, and being a Mentor myself now, I hope very much that the folks I meet would also perceive me as approachable. Being open, communicative, and ready to meet everyone, from CEO to the lowest ranks, at eye level, is in my opinion crucial to being an SAP Mentor.

    Cheers,

    Thorsten

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  23. R. Eijpe

    Hi All,

    I’m a first year mentor and didn’t have the same experience as Luc has.

    When I arrived at Monday at 15.00 pm in Berlin, the room was not that full and had a little talk to everyone. So I directly feel save being a mentor.

    After the welcomes reception I know most of the new mentors, but also had time to talk to existing mentors. During the event I was very busy. In front of the TechEd, I ask my SAP contact, if they need assistance for their workshops. As a result I participate in three different workshops on Tuesday and Thursday. I meet other assistants from SAP and have even lunch with them.

    I agree with others that Mark sends us a lot of invitations. But be honest, we don’t have to visit them all and I see it’s just an big opportunity for me to have value for SAP and the community. The possibility to ask questions to Bernd, Bjorn, Kazi and Ingrid was added value for me. And I liked the offline discussion with Jochen and DJ Adams about UI5.

    Beside this I was very busy, because I also did an interview with Thomas Jung for SAPTV and present two mentor networking sessions about Fiori Extensions and Open UI5.

    I’m fully agree with the statements of Twan. For me a SAP mentor must be visible and approachable. Mark, his team and other mentors can only facilitate me in this, but the work must be done by myself.

    So in my opinion,  we are self responsible to change the perception


    Cheers,


    Robert

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