I know you are all eagerly waiting to learn about the new SCN Member of the Month! Rick Bakker is a Workflow expert, passionate about SAP and the SCN forums. He is a Workflow Topic Leader for the third year in a row (I checked my records). Congratulations!
I talked to him over IP and recorded a short video where he introduced himself for the community. He had the advantage of looking fresh at 2pm his time in Australia while I was wrapping up a long day at 9pm in California 😉 We had a nice chat and diverted from my interview questions a few times, which is always a good thing. I got to learn a bit about Rick and what he thinks about SCN, points, moderation, and many other things. I also got to travel a bit vicariously as he told me about the different countries he lived in before settling back in Australia. And there’s a little gem that you guys need to find in this interview, I won’t tell you where it is, you have to read the whole thing!
Rick, 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’ve been living in Sydney for the last three years, working full-time as a contractor for the State Department of Education and as a consultant for our family company Hanabi Technology.
I was born in Australia but I’ve spent more time out of the country than in, being a citizen of the world and all that. My hobbies are travel, running (NYC Marathon 2006), squash and quizzing – I’ve appeared on a number of TV quiz shows (but haven’t won much). My long-time Significant Other works in Houston so we often travel to Hawaii to spend time together. Next year will be a Gap Year for us but I’ll still keep up to date thanks to SCN.
Fun fact: long-time SCN contributor and prolific blogger Paul Bakker is, yes indeed, my identical twin brother. I introduced him to SAP and he introduced me to SAP Workflow. He’s the one who started the company Hanabi Technology.
Note from Laure: Oh my God, this is hilarious! I think that’s a pretty unique case on SCN. I guess SAP is in Rick and Paul’s DNA 😉
On another note, we all hope that Rick will continue to contribute on SCN during his gap year in 2014, but I told him that I would understand as well if he has more pressing things to do, such as going to the World Cup 2014 in Brazil! But hopefully he will find time, even if it’s just to publish a blog here and then with some nice pictures.
Your LinkedIn profile lists different jobs in various locations. Can you share how life took you to the Netherlands, Gabon, the UK and then Australia? Also, your profile says that you speak both English and Dutch fluently, so I sense there is an interesting story here!
My parents are Dutch and immigrated to Australia. When they got homesick we moved to the Netherlands and I attended high school there, so I didn’t really have the option of not learning the language. After University in Australia I returned to Holland for my first real job, at the European HQ of a Californian Biotech company. My time in Gabon (Central Africa) came about due to its links with Shell (a Dutch/British company) – one day I had the memorable experience of colliding with an elephant on my drive to work! It was at Shell Gabon that I first started doing SAP work and where I made some British connections, leading to my years in the UK. After doing an SAP Workflow course I was drawn back to Australia due to the booming economy.
You mean you didn’t knock the elephant down, right? You just saw it on your way?
No, actually we did collide. It was 5:30 in the morning and I was driving my Peugeot 205 and suddenly this elephant runs into the side of my car. It took my mirror off and then disappeared.
Are your parents still in the Netherlands now?
No. They got home sick again and went back to Australia.
And another question: how is the economic situation in Australia now?
It’s good but it’s the end of the boom times (Australia’s economy has grown every year for the past 21 years; no recession here!)
Earlier in your career you were an Oracle DBA (Database Administrator). Did you move away form Oracle after that or are you still half SAP/halfOracle fan? 😉
I’m a big Oracle fan! Best database in the world, though I have heard a lot of good things about SAP HANA and how it is going to change everything. I’m not familiar with the Oracle ERP solution but my Oracle database knowledge has come in handy with ABAP. If you have a problem in ABAP, e.g. it’s going slow, it’s handy if you know what’s going on behind the scenes. You can check the query: the system could be using an index for example and that slows things down, I experienced it first-hand with a partner add-on.
Note from Laure: We expanded a bit about Oracle and SAP, how they are both competitors and partners. And of course we had to talk about Larry Ellison. When Rick worked for the Californian biotech company in the UK office he got to meet Larry and asked him why Oracle products were twice as expensive in Europe as in the USA. He got a vague answer but later the prices in Europe went down. I told Rick he should take credit for this change in Oracle’s strategy 😉
When did you become a member of SCN and what brought you to this community?
I joined in 2008 but I was a lurker long before that. I joined, and contribute, purely for selfish reasons: I learn a lot trying to help solve other users’ SAP problems, hopefully before I run into them myself.
How do you find the time to contribute on SCN?
I don’t find time, I make time! Daily visits to SCN are very important for keeping my SAP knowledge up to date. I admit it, it also feels good when you can solve someone else’s problem.
Do you only spend time in the discussion forums on SCN, or do you also read blogs or documents?
I spend 99% of my SCN time in the Workflow forum. I’ll read a blog or document if it has an interesting title. I like the email notifications and the communications stream. I follow a couple of forums and keep my window open all day, and when something comes in I take a look at it if I have time. I use a log book.
Note from Laure:
Someone with such a good reputation should blog it forward, don’t you think so? I challenged Rick to do it because I’m sure the community would love to hear more about him, and it’s an easy way for him to start blogging and get familiar with it.
He also said that he would be interested in publishing Workflow FAQs in a document so that forum users know where to go first before asking a question (the SCN search is also a very good way to start by the way!) So now Rick has two tasks and let’s see if he accepts the challenge 😉
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?
Jump right in and start trying to answer questions in the forums. If you don’t know the answer, do a search and you will often find that it has been asked before. Don’t just copy the answer, understand it first and try it out, if possible.
Keep note of anything useful you read, it will come in handy later (see earlier the reference to my log book). SCN has been very good to me – one year the Topic Leaders received a free Certification exam and having a name that’s well-known in the Workflow world certainly hasn’t hurt me during job interviews.
Is there an SCN member you admire (OK… you can name a few)?
Anybody who has more points than me! In the Workflow forum I particularly admire Workflow Goddess Jocelyn Dart’s willingness to mingle with us mere mortals, but additionally I appreciate how a dozen or so of us are (collectively) on there around the clock to answer most if not all Workflow questions. They know who they are. Finally, SCN member Susan Keohan predated
SCN and SDN with her very valuable SAP WUG mailing list and has championed SAP Workflow for years.
What technology recently had you most enthusiastic about? It doesn’t have to be related to SAP.
SAP HANA sounds very very interesting as does SAP BRF+; I hope to learn a lot more about both in the near future. SAP BRF+ is business rules framework: you have an ABAP program and you have the logic in the backend, not visible to everyone: if…then. The idea with BRF is to make this logic visible so that a user can change it. For example, a Manager could decide to change a rule so that IF someone is asking for time-off more than 5 times THEN the boss has to approve it.
Away from SAP, I’m looking forward to one day orbiting the planet on a commercial spaceflight and scramjets have piqued my interest, mainly because my alma mater is involved.
Note from Laure: Here we got off topic a little bit and started talking about SAP products and technology, and I have to relate the uplifting story that Rick told me: When he was working for Shell in Gabon, the company there was the Guinea pig for SAP at Shell. There were two oil fields, a new one attracting all the innovation and interest, and an old one that everyone thought was losing money. But after installing SAP, the company figured out that the old field was actually making money, it’s just that it had been paying the bills of the new field because all financial transactions were charged under its cost center! Pretty cool success story, isn’t it? Next year when Rick goes to Gabon during his gap year he will see if the old oil field is still working!
Easy question: Mac/iOS or Windows? Or Android?
Windows – more out of habit than anything else. I hope all of these are soon replaced by something even better.
Are you on Twitter?
Note from Laure: Haha, that’s a good sense of humor!
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.