Continuous learning is process of life, pinnacle of the attitude and vision of the universe. The day we stop learning new things professionally / personally, literally, it would be the end of life. The learning is the only thing which distinguish humans from animals. Being a human, we have a great privilege to think. Thinking is a great thing we all can do. I would remember a great quote from Respected APJ Abdul Kalam regarding learning “Learning gives creativity, creativity leads to thinking, thinking provides knowledge, knowledge makes you great”. This is all a process, if we stop learning and thinking, then there is no creativity and knowledge in our life. Therefore, every human being should struggle beyond anything in order to learn new things. It is not necessary that we should visit Universities and B Schools to learn and it is not that we should only master in few academics / technical courses. Your life is the best teacher. Nobody can replace such a great teacher. Every life is a great example, we can surely learn many things. However, it is our attitude which makes us different from rest of the people.
I could still proudly remember my childhood days, where there was no electricity at all at my home, I used to read at lamp or under the lamppost. Now a days if we see, people cannot live 5 minutes without electricity, TV or Wi-Fi etc (including me 😉 ). I know these would compliment / helpful in your learning, sometimes, I do feel they are killing the thinking / learning ability of the individuals. Most of the time we are depending too much on “google” for small things. What I would like to convey is, the knowledge will not come up with money or the above mentioned items, it should only come up within yourself. All your inner abilities and intuitions would drive you towards learning spree. Continuous learning not just attaining a Certification or completing an academic course or achieving an admission in an University. It is a continuous process comes with us till the end of our life. Certifications / Degrees / Admissions are part of the process, they should only motivate us in our further learning.
Continuous learning is a process which is surrounded by your attitude to learn and share the knowledge, academic curiosity, reading & practicing, creativity, thinking ability and extending your knowledge levels. All these are very important in making you perfect personality. Many people once they passed any certification or attained a degree, they would feel they have achieved the pinnacle of life. However, in reality, it is not. It is only a small part in the life long learning process. Learning need not necessarily be limited to technical knowledge, configuration, but, it could be anything like your driving, showing humility towards the environment / others, learning a new skill or even it could be correlated to the relations in life. From every failure, we should be able to learn a new thing. Even from tennis ball we can learn the best things of life, it clearly shows, how to bounce back in life, candle tells us how to give light to the people even its life is diminishing. Therefore, please let us not limit learning just to a subject, if we are able to see it with a wide range of thinking, then the whole world looks very small.
SAP Consultant is also not an exception for continuous learning. SAP is a ocean, it would take few months to few years to get adequate knowledge on a particular module. There are multiple areas where one can choose to expand from their base module. If they are really interested they could expand cross-functional knowledge as well. The above diagram would give a very good idea. In addition, there are also number of Industry Solutions (IS) components available in SAP. You should also look into those additional components, if they would give you any additional and potential career opportunities. In SAP, it is always required to look for extended skills and knowledge levels. Just depending on a single module may not always be good idea, as the number of resources that are increasing in the market, the technology might be getting redundant or missing the chance to become a competent SAP Consultant. Therefore, it is always necessary to look into what additional skills would complement our core skills.
How would you achieve your continuous learning in your career? This is the biggest question. Usually many companies will have Personal Development Plan (Plan). Unless, it is very serious by few professionally managed companies, in most of the companies this is a joke. You would be asked to prepare your Personal Development Plan for the next year and it would be compared with actual achievement. In most of the cases, this would be just like a paper work. The companies should seriously look into the purpose of PDP and if they are really able to help the employees in developing their skills, otherwise, it would be wastage of paper. For the time being, let us forget the PDP, you need to write what skills / areas that needs to be improved. Then we need to put them on the paper, including, what are the possibilities available in order to develop those skills, what kind of skill level that is intended to achieve, what are the resources available to achieve this and what is the time frame that this skill can be achieved. You need to track your learning performance, probably every quarter, to check whether you are going in the right direction. Please do not look at your company to give you a training, if so, you would never get that skill in your life time. Try to gather the resources on the internet and try to learn on your own. If your company is supporting your learning, then it would be a bonus and needs to be appreciated.
There are many ways that you can learn on a continuous basis.
1. On-Job Experience
The best learning is your on-job experience. This is the most effective way of learning and the knowledge will be carried with you for a very long term. For example, if you are part of an end to end implementation project, you would get enormous amount of experience and the exposure you get on job would give you the most effectiveness and lasts for long. No other experience / training would be able to supersede this effectiveness. Therefore, it is your responsibility to give your best at job and explore much in order to attain the real learning. The more explore yourself in work would help you in turn with invaluable knowledge.
2. Formal Training
Formal training is also one of the best way to learn the things at a much faster rate. If you are learning the skills from the experts, then you would tend to follow their instructions in a very easy way. Particularly, if they are technical courses, then there is a limitation how much you can learn on your own. For those type of courses, definitely formal training would be a handy. Wherever, there is a possibility of getting formal training, you should make use of it.
3. Reading Literature
Reading is the best the quality for human being, whatever be profession you are in. If you are not yet a reading freak, then you must immediately switch your modes to a great reader. There are different literature available SCN, SAP Help, Service Market Place, Building Blocks etc. Furthermore, you would having lot of SAP materials, project documents, business process documents, user guides, test scripts etc. The more you read, the more it would be good for you. If you are free for sometime, please do not waste your time at Canteen or Cafeteria, just spend yourself productive reading something. Learning at least one thing by reading, then surely you be a master over a period time.
4. Practice on the System
If you have access to the system, then you should consider it as a great privilege. Many people are not even fortunate enough to have the access to SAP system. Therefore, if you have access to SAP system, you should make full use of that. Try as much as practice that you can. Make use of building blocks and how to documents etc. that are available. Some of these documents are really good, even a fresher can start learning, just by following the instructions given in the documents. Write down a plan for next one month, track your practice performance on a daily basis. I am confident if you practice like this on a daily basis, you would surely get adequate confidence to handle the complex scenarios.
5. Mentoring People
You should always consider that the mentoring is a great opportunity. You should not hold back yourself to mentor people around you. The mentoring will not only develops the good human relations, but also give you a chance to refresh your knowledge and skills. Mentoring need not necessarily be technical mentoring, it would be guiding, directing, monitoring, advising or motivating the people around you. This would give you a confidence that you can be a good constructor. When people start believing your abilities, then it gives you an additional boost to your inner abilities, this is the great starting point for a new journey.
6. Sharing Knowledge
The more you share your knowledge, it would come back to you with double knowledge. Therefore, you should never hesitate yourself to share your knowledge. There are many people who are always reluctant to share their knowledge because of their insecurity feeling. If somebody is in need to know something, explain them with the best possible way, it would definitely give you a benefit. Whatever, you are explaining to the other people would be remembered by you for life long. If you read something you could tend to forget in 10 days, if you see something, you could tend to forget in 10 months, but, if you explain something, surely, you would remember it for 10 years. Therefore, learn something by sharing your knowledge.
7. Attending Seminars
There are number of seminars / conferences you would see, something like Tech-Eds, SAP Sapphires, ASUG Annual Conferences or other related conferences. I understand they are really expensive, but whenever there is a chance and you have ability to participate, you should always make use of it. Particularly, if you go to Tech-Eds, you would see lot of excitement and you will be refreshed with number of new technologies happening around SAP. It is the main reason some of the companies would send their employees or encourage to attend these type of events. Try to attend these event and update your knowledge levels.
8. Discussion with Peers
SAP is a ocean and if somebody says they are champions, then just forget those words. Knowing few transaction codes / programs, does not make anybody a champion. If you practice 10 times more than me, then you would get better skills than me, if somebody practice 10 times more than you, then that person would be a master. Therefore, we should not hesitate to discuss with peers and colleagues. There is no rule that we should know every things. Sometimes, even senior consultants would learn few things from the junior consultants. It is always a good practice to keep your discussions open with peers / colleagues, it would really help you in your learning.
9. Attain industry knowledge
Being a SAP consultant, you would be expected to work in different industries like Public Sector, Utilities, FMCG, Banking, Chemical, Metal, Oil etc. Therefore, it is not just configuring and testing some SAP transactions. We should always update our business process knowledge and industry knowledge relating to various industries. I understand it would take years and years to master the industry knowledge relating to a single industry, however, at least we should have basic understanding about different industries. Therefore, it would always be good idea to read various journals / annual accounts or watching videos would be helpful to a greater extent.
10. Leadership qualities
Please do not think that leadership is something related to the top management. Every individual is a leader in his / her own abilities. Therefore, learning the leadership qualities is always a continuous process. Leadership does not mean that you need to command somebody. You need to take the ownership of the situation an able to direct, protect and guide your sub-ordinates. The foremost quality of the leader is believing in your own abilities first, then you should direct others. When you are in knowledge driven industry, you should have enough confidence in your knowledge levels to drive them towards the common goal of succeeding the project.