It is a tweet, a few weeks ago, that brought my attention to a jewel in the Web Dynpro ABAP space: Amy King . Amy has been an SCN member forever (2004!) and she shares her experience mostly in the discussion forums, but also in documents. Her posts are very thorough and she is motivated by one and only goal: helping fellow community members. I called her this afternoon to find out more, she was kind enough to share her story with me after a (probably long) day of work.
Amy, can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you live, who you work for, and other things you would like to share with the community (hobbies, fun facts)?
I live just outside of Boston, Massachusetts and work for MIT Lincoln Laboratory, a federally funded research and development center located in Lexington, Massachusetts. I started my SAP developer career in 2000 at MIT campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts and in 2007 left to come work for MIT Lincoln Laboratory. When I’m not programming, I’m often in the great outdoors, sometimes hiking with friends and sometimes with the Appalachian Mountain Club of which I’m a member. I have a slight obsession with nature photography, and I’m always straggling in the back of a group because I stop to take so many photos.
Not many people know that I’m a phillumenist! I started collecting match-books when I was maybe seven years old and my family drove across the country one summer from Massachusetts to California. Back then smoking in restaurants and hotels wasn’t restricted so every restaurant and hotel had its own match-books. Over the years I kept collecting whenever I would travel. Of course now that smoking isn’t permitted anymore in restaurants or hotels in most US states, I only ever get to expand my collection when I travel abroad.
Note from Laure: As you will read later in this interview, Amy hasn’t published a Blog It Forward post yet, and it’s not because she hasn’t been BIF’ed! So I told her that when she finally writes her post she should put a picture of the match box she’s most proud of!
You work in the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, a US Department of Defense research and development center. Do you sometimes have to refrain from sharing content on SCN due to security issues related to your industry?
When I post to SCN, I do take care not to post any information that is specific to the Laboratory. In fact, in one of our systems I have several local objects—a report, a Web Dynpro component, etc.—that I use for experimentation and writing sample code. When I post a code snippet, I always make sure the code is a sample created for the express purpose of posting to SCN and not copied from any actual project. When I post a screen capture, I either create a local, dummy object in one of my experimentation spaces or I ensure the objects shown are standard SAP objects and nothing custom. I also make sure to modify any screen captures to remove my user ID, system information, etc.
You’re not the only SCN member I know that works for MIT, there’s also Susan Keohan and probably others 🙂 Do you know each other? Virtually and in person as well?
The Workflow Goddess! She sits just a couple of cubicles away from me. I first met Sue in 2000 when I took my first SAP programming job at MIT campus where she was already working. At some point she left to go work for MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and in 2007 I followed her. It was Sue who encouraged me last year to become more active in SCN—in fact I believe I still owe her a “Blog it Forward” because she BiF’ed me last summer.
Note from Laure: Sue is truly a goddess! An SCN Ambassador, she shares her enthusiasm with the rest of the world and seems to be everywhere. I don’t know how she finds the time, but I see her read and comment on blogs all the time, she really encourages people. She must be one of these people who has achieved a great level of knowledge by reading and contributing so much.
I did a little bit of research about you and found out that you studied Geology (and a minor in French!) and that 16 years later you completed a Master in Information Technology at Harvard. I can imagine that a work opportunity made you switch to developing, are you willing to share your story? Personally, I think it is remarkable to hear about such career changes and I’d like to hear your advice for people who are planning a change.
My path to SAP is even more winding than that. After graduating with my bachelor degree in Geology, I spent three years trying to get accepted into veterinary school, working in a research laboratory at MIT and taking continuing education courses in the evenings to fulfill my missing prerequisites. I only ever got as close as the wait list though, so I decided to investigate what other career paths might interest me. While taking some Java programming courses, I discovered I really enjoyed the challenge and creativity of programming so in 2000 when an opportunity to learn ABAP as an entry-level programmer presented itself at MIT, I took it. When I was sure I had found my niche, I wanted to give myself a better foundation in computer science so I enrolled in the Master of Information Technology program at Harvard’s Extension school. It took quite a few years to complete while working a full-time job, but I finally graduated in 2010.
Though I took rather a long and wandering path to find my career, I have no regrets. I love to learn, and I learned a lot of varied and interesting things along the way from Geology to SAP. I still love Geology. Whenever I travel to someplace new, I always come home with an interesting rock or two that I found on some beach or trail. Knowing Java (and some other languages) has given me a broader view of programming than if I only knew ABAP and the SAP environment. My advice to anyone would be: Do what you love, no matter what.
When did you become a member of SCN and what brought you to this community?
Way back in 2004. Like most people, I first came to SCN looking for the answer to a problem I was trying to solve. In the process of researching that issue, I discovered there was a lot of helpful and interesting content on SCN. I gradually started to spend more time browsing the communities for interesting discussions or documents until one day I read a question someone had posted and realized, “Hey I can answer that!”. After that I started contributing myself, first by replying to discussions and later by posting a few how-to documents.
How does SCN help you in your daily activities?
I keep an eye on recent activity in a couple of communities that interest me most, Web Dynpro ABAP and ABAP Development. Often I’ll notice a document or blog that demonstrates a clever approach to some programming problem or details how to integrate an external tool into ABAP or WDA, for instance Recreating the SE16 data browser in WDA by Thomas Jung or Using captcha in WDA by Joachim Van Praet. Though I might not have an immediate use for the information, I’ll bookmark it for later in case I ever need to tackle something similar.
Note from Laure: Here, I asked Amy if she usually likes or comments on such content that she finds valuable. And although she does sometimes, she doesn’t always do it. If you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, imagine that they are contributing for the first time on SCN! It would be such an encouragement for them if someone with an established reputation showed appreciation for the good content! Sometimes it’s validation of the good work that they need to keep contributing. I think this is a very important community spirit that we should all strive to have. It doesn’t take long.
There is something neat that I noticed on your LinkedIn profile: I’m talking about the little box with the SAP icon linking to your content page on SCN. How did you do that? I know LinkedIn’s profile features have evolved a lot recently but I have to say I’ve never seen anyone link to a url like you did. It’s nice. Can you share your tip?
That’s one of LinkedIn’s new features. If you open your profile in edit mode, next to each of your entries in each category there are two icons: a pencil for edit and small rectangle with a plus sign in its corner for adding a link to an image, video, document, etc. The image LinkedIn displays in the box is pulled from the site you link to, so the SAP logo is there because I’ve linked to my content on SCN.
How do you find the time to contribute to SCN? I see you are active in the discussion forums every day of the (work) week, and also I noticed you logged in last weekend 😉 Your answers in the forums are very thorough and thoughtful, tell us how you find the time to provide so much help to so many people!
It took me a while to really start contributing on a regular basis, but eventually it became part of my morning routine at work. Some days I have enough time to browse the communities and reply to a question or two, other days it’s difficult to find the time. I keep up with it primarily because contributing to SCN benefits me at least as much as my participation benefits others. Often the question I’m replying to is something I’ve done before and so I know the answer, but sometimes I read a question and think, “Interesting question! Let’s try it!” It’s those questions that help me to grow as a developer because they give me the opportunity to experiment with a requirement I wouldn’t necessarily come across in my normal work assignments.
What do you like most about the community in general?
Members seem genuinely happy to help their peers tackle problems they once tackled themselves. Their willingness to share the knowledge and expertise they’ve earned is very welcoming, and I like the sense of community that fosters.
What technology recently had you most enthusiastic about?
Does it have to be SAP technology? I recently was given an iRobot Roomba as a gift and I read that it offers a programming interface. I started brainstorming about what I could program my Roomba to do—like maybe better handle navigating the forest of chair legs underneath my dining room table.
For SAP technology, I’m still really enjoying Web Dynpro ABAP. We recently upgraded our systems and the new enhancement pack came with some new capabilities for WDA. It feels a little like a new toy I want to play with so I’ve pestered my boss a couple of times to assign me a new WDA project so I can go play with my new toy!
Note from Laure: The Roomba story really had me laugh! I told Amy that she would have to blog about it as soon as she’s programmed it to do something extraordinary, such as giving massages for instance 😉
And in your field of expertise, have there been notable improvements over the past 12+ years you’ve been working on Web Dynpro ABAP?
Although most of my SCN reputation points have come from the WDA community, I wrote my first WDA application only two and a half years ago. In fact much of my work still focuses on writing custom reports and enhancing standard SAP functionality through BADIs, enhancements, and exits.
Each upgrade brings new features that make a developer’s life just a little easier. Some of the recent improvements that I eagerly awaited include embedded expressions, regular expressions, the “new” debugger, code coloring and code completion, unified rendering light speed, and new UI elements and properties in WDA.
Note from Laure: Amy was kind enough to explain ABAP to a novice like me. She’s been working with Web Dynpro ABAP for “only 2.5 years”. She told me the difference between procedural and object-oriented programming, and how it is important to plan how you are going to use the object in your program. The shift from procedural to object programming can be difficult, but at some time you have to write procedural ABAP, and learn as a company or technology shifts directions.
If a new member came to you and asked for your advice on how to be an active and respected member of SCN, what would you say?
Share your experiences. If you developed an interesting solution to a problem during a project, share your solution in a blog or document. If you participate in discussions, try to provide thorough answers with details that will help the person to implement your suggested solution.
Is there an SCN member you admire (OK… you can name a few)?
I really enjoy the blogs posted by Paul Hardy. Not only do his blogs discuss interesting object-oriented or software development topics, but they are sprinkled with humor and are truly entertaining to read. His blog on Domain Specific Language in ABAP was so interesting it prompted me to check a copy of Martin Fowler’s book on DSL out of the library, and Paul’s response to a consultant who was explaining the purpose of mocking a system had me laughing right out loud.
I also greatly admire the impressive breadth of knowledge which Kiran Kumar Valluru demonstrates in discussions in the WDA community especially. His contributions to discussions are always invaluable and often teach me something new, it’s impressive to see that he seems to know something about everything.
Also, Thomas Jung always has great insight to offer in discussions and often shares details that would be difficult to find in documentation. I see he is more active in SAP Hana now, and less here (ABAP). But he’s there watching and reading because when he’s really needed (e.g. for a statement from SAP) he sometimes chimes.
Easy question: Mac or Windows?
Windows. I actually converted from Mac to Windows in college because there were always more Windows machines than Macs available in the computer labs.
Note from Laure: Here, Amy was very diplomatic and compared the question to “Coke or Pepsi?”
But… I forgot to ask her which one she prefers!
Are you on Twitter?
I did set up a Twitter account years ago but have since abandoned it. Keeping up with both Facebook and Twitter seemed too much, and I always found it difficult to say anything interesting in 140 characters or less.