Influencing SAP Certification & Education: a SAP Mentor success story
A SAP Mentor success story
The SAP Mentors work hard and many of us also work behind the scenes. This is not always visible to the community at large nor to SAP. With this success story and other upcoming success stories I hope to inspire both the community and SAP. We can show the added value that the SAP Mentor program brings to SAP and we get the chance to highlight the teams of SAP that embrace us.
In the end this is a win-win situation for everyone and by having these success stories I hope to inspire community members to aspire to become a SAP Mentor. Being a SAP Mentor is very valuable to me, it has changed my life already and it is an amazing experience. Only so few in the world get this opportunity and I’m living this dream vividly although I’m still awake.
One of my activities as a SAP Mentor is participating in SAP’s global CEIC (Certification Engagement & Influence Council). The council originated out of recommendations from the Certification 5 which consisted out of five SAP Mentors. The council consists out of a good mixture of persons & perspectives. SAP, SAP Partners, SAP Customers, SAP Service Providers, SAP Mentors and SAP user groups are represented in the council.
From a global perspective, I’m covering EMEA and Tammy Powlas is covering the US. Other regions are also discussed but there is no specific SAP Mentor assignment for those regions. Martin Gillet and Jon Reed still chime in since they have a long history on the topic of SAP certification and have already influenced it in the past.
How did I get involved in this topic?
Early on in my career already I was interested in SAP education & certification. I went for my first SAP certificate within the first year of my career and passed the test. I do believe that at that point it did have significant value. As a junior, it helped me to get hired by a big energy company in Belgium. Over the years I also passed a number of other SAP certification exams.
After I became SCN Top Contributor in 2011, I ended up on stage at SAP TechED Madrid in November 2011 and as a reward, I received a voucher to take a SAP Certification exam at a Pearson Vue test center. The SAP Certification team provided me the voucher and I took it and passed the exam “Certified SAP Technology Professional – Solution Manager” in Q1 2012.
Soon after, in the spring of 2012 I became a SAP Mentor. At that stage, I had already been commenting on blog post(s) concerning SAP certification on SCN. I might have, no, I did comment on one of the blog posts with an example of a “real” exam question which was picked up by SAP and removed discretely as that’s simply illegal. It was not really on purpose but I believed the question sucked (sorry for the wording) and I used it as an example which I shouldn’t have done 🙂 . As such, I received a kind mail (no sarcasm here) from Susan Martin that the question had been removed from the comments since it was an actual, existing exam question. At that moment the connection was forged.
So what I did was actually break a rule and then leverage that as an opportunity! It was not on purpose so what I am saying is that you never know when opportunity arrives. When it does, take it with both hands.
As I was grateful for the voucher that I received as a Top Contributor I replied to Susan Martin ‘s mail to say “thanks!” for the voucher and “sorry!” for the comment . At the same time I offered to provide feedback on the certification that I took. I might also have stated that I don’t find SAP Certification as valuable as it should be. Is that a daring statement to make when you reply back to a mail from SAP’s Director for Global Certification? Maybe it is but I could back that statement up by justifying why I felt that way. In other words I was capable of providing valuable feedback so that makes up for putting the statement out there. It is always easy to say why something is not good but it isn’t as easy to say how it could be improved. When you want to provide feedback and influence SAP you have to be capable of doing both.
Joining the Certification Engagement & Influence Council
Soon after I became a SAP Mentor, I joined SAP’s global CEIC (Certification Engagement & Influence Council). The CEIC has a lot of passionate members and that also results into heated discussions and very strong perspectives and opinions. The council pushes the boundaries of SAP on SAP Certification and SAP Education. By discussing the pain points that exist and looking at possible solutions, I believe the council does influence the future of SAP Certification & Education in a positive way.
It has been really interesting already to be involved in this council as I have been getting a lot of information on where SAP Certification and SAP Education are heading for the future and I also had the possibility to chime in and influence things.
Of course I have my own perspective on the topic. As a holder of, now, five SAP certificates I know what a certification exam looks like. As a CEIC member I started to pay more attention to the Certification space on SCN and reading through the sometimes heated discussions on SCN around certification. A must read was of course the certification 5 whitepaper. I talked to a lot of SAP Mentors about SAP certification which gave me a better idea on the different perspectives that exist.
Weekly conference calls
At one point I was having weekly conference calls with Susan Martin because of the many discussions on SCN around SAP certification. Sue would update me on actions that were being taken in order to address specific pain points and we would ping eachother when certain content was “must see” or “must read”. We still do that to some extent but the communication has changed into mailing since after a while we didn’t have that many points to discuss anymore meaning certain pain points were already addressed or at least discussed to a sufficient degree and we basically didn’t have as much information to send across on such a short timeframe.
Going for SAP HANA certification
As an influencer it is always useful to see things from multiple perspectives and that also means you should not be afraid to explore things. The newly introduced SAP HANA certification was created with new elements so I was eager to give it a shot. In preparation for this certification, I followed the latest HANA training at SAP and I used a developer edition HANA on Amazon AWS to practice to the extent possible. I passed my exam and I gave feedback to SAP on both the training and the exam. Afterwards I posted a blog on SCN in order to help out community members who were preparing for the same certification.
My feedback to SAP included amongst other things that the description of the certification on SAP’s certification shop site didn’t contain enough information for candidates to know that the exam requires hands-on experience. SAP took my feedback and took action on it. This is why today, you can read that you need hands-on experience to prepare for your certification exam 😉 .
Seeing change happen because you influenced something is really rewarding. It is not always clear as a SAP Mentor or a CEIC Member what you influenced exactly but when you get praised (often enough) by Susan Martin for the work done, you know you have done well.
SAP Mentor mondays
A channel through which SAP Mentors update the SAP community at large are SAP Mentor monday webinars. SAP Mentor mondays can be attended by anyone, without the need to register even. Sessions are recorded so you can watch the replay later on if you were unable to attend.
CEIC meetings at SAP TechED
I arrived at SAP TechED Madrid 2012 the day before SAP TechED and on the planning were CEIC meetings throughout the day. A lot of topics passed the revue. Not only certification is on the agenda of the council as the E stands for Engagement which means Education is also part of the equation.
The meetings lasted through the whole afternoon and a lot of topics passed our review. SAP gave demo’s on the latest offerings of SAP Education, results from previous SAP certification surveys were shown, ongoing projects & intiatives were presented and we discussed the topics on the agenda to help define the future of SAP certification.
One of the things I still remember was the fact that the certification survey results were shown but in my opinion, the set of questions didn’t include all the question which should be asked. So at that moment I voiced for another survey with a different set of questions. Why? Because if you ask someone is certification valuable? A lot of persons answer “Yes”. But it’s like asking someone if global warming is an important issue to tackle? A lot of persons would also answer “Yes, it is important” but the question then is do they do anything with it? This resulted in a new set of survey question where those questions were also addressed.
I was late for my first SAP Mentor meet-up (being a fresh SAP Mentor) at SAP TechED because of the CEIC meetings that I had participated in. It was a rather heavy first day because of the amount of information that I had stored and the discussions I had been in. Each discussion requires a certain amount of energy as you try to put yourself in the perspective of others in order to understand their arguments. Once you have formed a view on those arguments, you either agree or disagree to a certain extent. At that moment you can chime in to influence things. This again requires you to think about your own perspective and why you agree or disagree and how you voice that in terms of either justifying an opinion to bring information across or argumenting in order to attempt to persuade the other person.
Expert networking session – SAP HANA certification
At SAP TechED Madrid 2012 I held two expert networking sessions to inform attendees about SAP HANA certification. Why? As a SAP Mentors and a member of the CEIC it made perfect sense to me to explain attendees on how they should prepare for SAP HANA certification. I knew that the certificate requires hands-on experience, I did the certification myself so I also knew what is important and I had written about it. So from my perspective I could bring over a lot of interesting information to the benefit of the attendees. That is what you want to achieve as a speaker, provide useful information to your audience and for me another goal was also to inspire them to step up and take action.
The fact that many hadn’t read my blog post on SCN showed me that they are not really active on SCN which I would recommend any resource that starts in the SAP realm. As such I could highlight the fact that this blog post was already out there with a lot of useful information. By doing that I could also show that it can be beneficial to be active on SCN and follow community members and content spaces.
A lot of small actions can become a big movement and by shiming in where I can and doing many small actions, I really believe in the added value it brings that a SAP Mentor is involved in the future of any division of SAP. As a SAP Mentor you can bring another perspective to the table and that is an important key asset. Without that perspective, the respective team might not know about some of the pain points that exist and as a result, they might not take those into account to further improve what they are passionate about.
Interview from the other side of the world
Once you are identified as a key person on a specific topic, you get attraction from around the world. In the autumn of 2013 inside SAP magazine in Australia inquired me about SAP Certification and the value it can bring. I’ve always found going for a SAP certification to be an asset as it pushed you to extend your boundaries and the journey to learn something new is important.
The SAP certificates which leverage very new methods, such as SAP HANA certification definitely bring more added value. As time passes by the SAP Mentors keep influencing SAP Certification & Education in order to improve things further.
Getting a different perspective: the teacher perspective
I’ve also started to teach at SAP Belgium. My main focus is on technology so I’ve been teaching HANA Administration & Operations (HA200) and a number of SAP Solution Manager courses since that is currently my main field of activity. As a CEIC member I feel it is important to try and understand other perspectives. Ever since SAP introduced me to the topic “Empathy”, I have a different view on things and I must say it has helped me a lot already.
Teaching makes sense when you look at all the things I have been doing in the past: blogging on SCN, doing internal workshops and knowledge sharing sessions, being a CEIC member, being a SAP Mentor, …
My respect for teachers has grown as I’ve experienced their perspective now and I’ve seen how difficult it actually is. You have to take into account all the different persona’s (students).
One student comes for pure theoritical knowledge, another student comes for doing hands-on excersises, yet another student comes because his boss said he had to come and he doesn’t really want to be there nor is he interested in what is being said and yet another student comes for a global overview. As a SAP teacher it is then up to you to juggle the course so everyone ends up being happy. Not an easy task but then again I always love a challenge 😉 .
Having experienced this perspective, it helps me to also bring in the view of the teacher to the CEIC meetings and again influence SAP Certification & SAP Education in a different way.
Design Thinking workshops at SAP Walldorf
In July 2013 I was invited to join other CEIC members at SAP Walldorf for Design Thinking workshops around SAP Certification & Education.
Change is always right around the corner and as with any division within SAP, SAP Certification & Education also want to keep on improving what they have to offer. As such, design thinking workshops were organized. The goal was primarily to find a solution to make SAP certifications more valuable but inevitably, a secondary goal was also to think about SAP Education.
After an intensive two days, we were all happy with the results produced and we look forward to see what initiatives and solutions are born from those results.
Looking back and looking forward
The SAP Mentors have been influential on both SAP Certification & SAP Education. The existence of the council and multiple other results are there. Actual work is also being done in order to inform the community at large. Tammy Powlas has done significant amounts of work with the SAP user groups and she has organised countless webinars to inform the community about upcoming changes.
The SAP Certification & Education department has been supporting and collaborating with a lot of SAP Mentors for which we are grateful as well!
We have participated in the CEIC meetings, we have blogged about different aspects of the topic, SAP Mentors have influenced SAP Certification exams, SAP Educational offers and courses and some of us teach at SAP. In general there is wide spread engagement of SAP Mentors in these topic areas. More specifically, a few of us really focus on the area in order to bring across feedback from the community at large.
In the end, we want to see progress and change and there has been progress over the last few years so you can say the influence is there and it’s a win-win situation for both parties. The influence might not always cause huge waves but all waves count. Every improvement made is a benefit for everyone.