This month I took a break from my gamification project to do something I really enjoy: interview the SCN Member of the Month. Each time I discover a new personality, learn things about a technology, a certain use of SCN, or a new wisdom.
This month is no different: Steve Rumsby, our Member of the Month for March 2013 is a wise owl if I may say. We spent some time talking about quality of life, project management, community heroes, taking things slowly and mobile devices. In no order of importance 😉
Steve, 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 in Coventry, a city of about 300,000 people in the centre of the UK. My house is only about 2 miles from my office, so I commute by foot most days. I love being able to do that. I work at the University of Warwick, and always have. In fact, I was an undergraduate student here before that, studying Computer Science. I’ve been here since I was 18.
I was introduced to SAP in 1998 when I joined the team during our initial implementation. I started in a Basis role and have spread from there and now get involved in many aspects of the operation of our SAP systems.
Outside of work I have two current hobbies. Photography has been a long time interest of mine, and astronomy is a fairly recent one. I would love to combine them, but doing astrophotography properly can get very expensive. Finding time for hobbies can by difficult, though, when you’ve got a wife, two kids, a cat and a dog all wanting your time also! No, I love my family really 🙂
You’ve worked for the same university your whole career, and that’s also where you graduated. This is pretty rare in today’s world where everyone gets to work with at least more than one employer. And here in the US, it is sometimes expected that people in big companies change jobs every three years. Can you tell us about your experience, being with the University of Warwick for several decades?
Although I’ve worked at the same place for all these years, I haven’t always had the same job. One nice thing about a university is that there’s a lot of diversity, so even the same job in a different department will bring new challenges. I even had a Project Manager hat for a while but I didn’t like it as much as being a Technical Manager. When you are a project manager you have to make certain decisions that are good for the project, but not specifically the ones you would take in another role.
The key thing for me is that I’ve always been able to learn new stuff. Even now, after having worked in the SAP world for almost 15 years, there’s always new stuff. SAP, and technology in general, isn’t standing still. That’s exciting.
Are you active in the SAP University Alliances Community?
No, unfortunately. It would be nice to have more SAP involvement in the academic activities at Warwick, especially since we have lots of direct practical experience, but so far that hasn’t happened. This is on my list to pursue further.
Note from Laure: I’m pretty sure that Steve could easily find someone from the University Alliances Community (UAC) to chat with him and see what they could do together. It is true that it can be a rich experience to enroll fresh talent in any SAP project. Myself I “found” Sean Yang who is doing an awesome job on my gamification project, as an intern. He was recommended to me via someone who knows someone who knows someone who is active in the UAC.
When did you become a member of SCN and what brought you to this community?
I joined SDN, as it was then, in October 2003. That’s so long ago that I forget what prompted me to join! I do know it was a long time before I started contributing, so I imagine it was just to get help with a problem I was having. At the time we were working through our first ever SAP upgrade, R/3 4.0B to 4.7. I imagine it was related to that.
How does SCN help you in your daily activities?
SCN still provides a great source of help, both through being able to ask questions and get answers but also from the accumulated answers of years gone by. Just a couple of weeks ago I found a partial solution in a discussion posting from about 4 years ago to a problem I was having right now.
More than that, reading the content on SCN is a great way to keep your knowledge up to date. I make it a habit to log in every morning when I get to work and see what’s going on. I also use the blogs’ RSS feeds and can therefore see what is posted throughout the day.
How do you find the time to contribute to SCN? I see you also have a personal blog, and you have your day-time job, are there “productivity secrets” you can share with us?
I find blogging about something, whether on SCN or elsewhere, provides a great incentive to make sure you understand it well first! It’s always time well spent to go through a certain thought process before publishing a blog. Creating a draft, going through it and then publish the blog is part of my continuing education process. You can’t understand something properly until you can explain it well. In the case of SCN, keeping my knowledge of SAP current is an important part of my job, and contributing to SCN helps with that.
What is interesting is that sometimes certain topics don’t resonate with the community when you were thinking there would be a lot of feedback on something you find interesting.
What do you like most about the community in general?
The people. There is a great, well, community on SCN. Friendly, helpful, welcoming people. People I’ve never met and yet I think I could genuinely call friends. I was fortunate enough to get to TechEd Madrid in 2011 (it was not the first time though) and meet a few of these people for the first time, although I knew them well from Twitter and SCN: Thorsten Franz, Tom Cenens, Jon Reed, Martin English, Oliver Kohl, Martin Gillet, Tim Guest and Uwe Fetzer. I had briefly met Michael Koch before, but we travelled to Madrid together – he lives not far from me.
I feel like I’ve left out a few people. Sorry to anyone who thinks they should be on the list:-)
Note from Laure: anyone who would like to meet Steve in person, please add a comment to this blog!
Steve and I also talked about SAP Inside Tracks and the great opportunity they give to meet at a local level when you/your company can’t afford a TechEd trip. If you don’t have an Inside Track coming up in your area you should organize one!
What technology recently had you most enthusiastic about?
I play with lots of new technology. Most of it is clever, useful, maybe even fun. Very few devices get me really excited, though. Until recently, I’d not come across an exciting gadget since I got my iPhone 3G over 4 years ago. But Google’s new Nexus devices changed that. I’ve got a Nexus 7 tablet and a Nexus 4 phone and they are both great devices that I really enjoy using. Android devices have finally caught up with iOS. Nothing could compare to that until these Nexus devices came out. They are so much less expensive! I appreciate companies that make technology more accessible to everyone.
In an exchange of emails you told me that you’ve been using emails since the 1980s and you’re still writing the “old school way” with quotes from the person who sent you the email and then below your answer. I have to ask you: how were the old days, the 80s? I’m too young to remember 😉
In general, technology was bigger, more expensive and less capable back then. The first computer I looked after here at Warwick (a VAX 11/750 for the nerds in the audience) had just 1MB of RAM and 380MB of disk storage, and cost about £80,000.
And can you believe mobile phones only made calls and sent SMS messages? Those things are way down the list of things I do with my phone today!
But the 80s were no less exciting. Many of the technologies we take for granted today were bleeding edge not so long ago, and I got to play with a lot of them back then.
Email was about the same thing as it is today, except that it could take two to three days for an email to reach its recipient! And today of course email comes with multimedia. As you explain, I like to reply to an email in a conversation style. I find it’s too bad that Microsoft Outlook came in with a reply at the top of the original email, it loses the interaction that all emails should generate.
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?
Start slowly. Follow a few spaces in which you have some expertise. Find some people who seem to do things right and follow them. The community is very diverse, with people from around the world, and everyone has a different way to interact with their peers and use the content available on SCN. Watch how things are done, just for a little while. Then jump into a discussion or two, and grow from there. Your first blog can be a bit scary. Take your time over it. Maybe ask somebody to read it through before you publish it.
Is there an SCN member you admire (OK… you can name a few)?
I currently follow 57 people on SCN, and I could name them all. I’m going to name just two, but I love you all really! Both are people who can see through hype and aren’t afraid to speak their mind. In this rapidly changing world of technology where many shiny new things come but very few stay around for long, that’s important. My two are Jim Spath and Thorsten Franz.
Easy question: Mac or Windows?
Depends on who is buying! My work machine is a Mac and I do like it more than the Windows machines I’ve used, but not enough to pay the Apple premium myself. With my own money I’d buy a Windows machine.
Since you’re a photographer I have to ask you another easy question: Nikon or Canon? 😉
Sony! But since Nikon use Sony sensors you could call that a vote for Nikon…
Are you on Twitter?
I’ve been on Twitter for a little over 5 years now and you can find me here. I posted my 30,000th tweet just yesterday, in fact! I love twitter as a way of interacting with people, and I love that many of those friendly, helpful, welcoming people on SCN are just as friendly, helpful and welcoming on Twitter. Twitter is obviously a more informal environment than SCN and that makes it easier to get to know people better, since you can talk about pretty much anything. I know Twitter isn’t for everyone, but if you like the people interactions on SCN and you aren’t on Twitter yet, I recommend you at least give it a go. For me, SCN and Twitter complement each other perfectly.
Every month, a member of the SAP Community Network is recognized for exemplary behavior: sharing knowledge with peers, being helpful and taking on additional tasks to support community engagement. See the list of previous SCN Members of the Month.