What a ride
What a ride… we sure did come a long way! Or to paraphrase one of Finnern‘s most favorite quotes: “Oh, the places we have been!“
I still remember my first days in the Mentor program: the introduction rite, the warm welcome and being completely overwhelmed by the atmosphere in the room – full of so many high calibre community members.
I still remember taking a back seat in my first Mentor meetings with executives (one of my wiser decisions!) and I’ll always remember the impact it had on me to have had the privilege to witness heavy-hitters like Vijay, Jon Reed, Dennis Howlett and Graham Robinson in action. Realizing that I would seriously have to up my game if I want to get even close to their level.
“Always judge a (wo-)man by her/his questions!“
They were truly able to challenge executives and provide clear feedback on behalf of the community/ecosystem. That’s when I realized that if I wanted to maximize my Mentor experience I would have to sit and learn, watch – copy – adapt and broaden my horizon to get the bigger picture, to get a glimpse of how deep the rabbit hole really is.
It’s not on me to decide how I faired on that journey, yet looking back I do clearly see how big of an impact it had for me to join the program. This is something I’ll ever be grateful for and it’s been Mark Finnern whom I need to thank – for his trust in me and for giving me this truly unique opportunity to grow.
I know that I’m not the only one among the Mentors who feels that way. Having been a part of this program has enriched both my professional and private life and all of us made lasting relationships and friends along the way. Some of us are even referring to it as our Mentor family, others simply call it the wolfpack. It may be hard to grasp from the outside and for bystanders it may be hard to believe that such a strong bond is possible within a group formed within a corporate setting.
(Note: The program has always been non-exclusive and the best way to get to know the Mentors is to simply engage and hang-out with! them Most of them are great fun to be around.)
In the early days many of the new Mentors struggle – unsure what to do. The best advise have always been: “You’ve been picked for what you’re doing, so keep doing that and take it to the next level.” That’s the approach I took. Since I started my community activities by sharing experiences about using emerging technologies to develop custom solutions I continued to do so.
And in short: yes, being a Mentor allowed me to create my dream job within SAP. I was able to turn my interest and passion for engaging with our developer community into my day-time job by becoming the developer evangelist for our cloud platform. And yes, I do have to say that I’m happy being able to claim that I personally onboarded some of the early adopters and nowadays thought-leaders on the topic!
Indeed being a mentor gives you a platform & more visibility, but this is for sure a two-sided sword to be used carefully. I tried hard to make the best use of this opportunity and act in the best interest of the community. If I’d ever get asked what has been my greatest accomplishment of being a Mentor my answer would be the HCP developer edition.
Based on my Mentor status I have been able to operate outside of company reporting lines and get direct access to executives. It did help to convince management that a perpetual, free developer edition is the only way forward. Of course it meant that someone had to fund the expenses, but finally we achieved that. Of course it was a team effort, yet I do take comfort in knowing I have been able to weigh in.
And while it has always been a struggle to figure out how exactly an employee Mentor fits into the program, I tried my best empowering others by providing them access to information or by connecting them to the right people. It’s never been upon me to publicly criticize the program or those who own/run it. Yet, I have always tried to stay true to the values of the program: open thinking and open communication! (Kudos to my Mentor’s Mentor and good buddy Oliver!)
So, whenever I felt I had something valuable to contribute to a conversation, discussion or argument I did speak up. Sometimes that resulted in conflicts which fortunately could be resolved and ultimately the people involved got even closer.
Can’t provide a reference, but I once got the following feedback from the outside:
“One of best things Mentors can do is to have a controversial discussion in public!“
On that note I came to the conclusion that I cannot simply step down and turn Alumni. Especially not now, with Mark being gone and the program in transformation. Otherwise some may speculate that me leaving the mentor program now has something to do with Finnern no longer being in charge. I guess it is in the best interest of the program if I provide reasons and answer the question – why now?
So let’s get this one straight right away: The Mentor program is bigger than a single individual and while I won’t even try to decompose its magic, it’s about chemistry and like-minded individuals. It’s hard to measure and impossible to put into metrics…
In retrospect it may would have been wiser to turn Alumni 18 months ago, when – due to private reasons – I had to reduce my mentor activities close to zero. Yet, at that time I received so much support and friendship from people on the program and that feeling of belonging really helped at the time. afriendinneed
And yes, it probably was that hope that … one day I would be able to come back and things would get back to normal. Oh well… the world is not standing still, and hence it’s the most natural thing that the program evolved and is undergoing transformation to adapt to a changing environment.
So, why now? Well, I wanted a final ride! To run with the pack one last time… to step up one last time and try to do the same thing for newcomers I saw the veterans doing when I was a noob. To speak up on behalf of the community, to act as its sounding board – leaving titles and ego at the door – and to ask questions that matter!
Of course, I also wanted to say thanks to all those that mentored and accompanied me all these years. I wanted to say good-bye (surely not fare-well!) and I know we’ll still get to hang-out regardless of whether I’m Mentor or Alumni!
I realize that the transformation is already underway and that the tracks have been set. I see old veterans and young guns alike leading the charge. There’s an amazing group of volunteers leading the transformation process: Aslan, Martin, Tom and Phil ! (in alphabetical order)
Together with the rest of the group they have the collective experience and knowledge to truly take the program to the next level – given they continue to get the empowerment and support from the executive sponsors. I believe it has been a good decision to bring the program back under the community leadership and from personal conversations I had with Jeanne Carboni I know she understands that this where the program belongs.
Of course this re-born mentor program will not be a 1:1 copy of what it used to be, yet that’s just the way it goes. We all have to adapt to changing environments: “if you’re not moving ahead, you’re falling behind!” I know many will watch with interest how the program will transform and of course there’ll always be controversial opinions on whether this change is for the worse or better! Time will tell…
Right now some may see the program evolve into something with more of a marketing touch, others may see the forming of an independent advisory board that provides feedback to SAP based on technical expertise. Who knows, maybe some sort of slingshot maneuver will be required to get the program back to its root of being a sounding board of the community – if that is the plan at all.
Whatever the case I know I’ve been privileged to be a part of it and I did try to live up to it and play it forward. And the things I learned & all the friends I made along the way will remain. As my good friend and fellow Mentor Robbo keeps saying:
“Once a Mentor, always a Mentor!”
As such, I’ll continue to mingle with the community and provide honest and direct feedback. I just cannot commit myself as much anymore and I feel I did had more than a fair share – now it’s time to make room for the next gen.
I’m not a superstitious person in general… but the day Mark Finnern left, was the day my son was born. Hard to not take it as a sign to set priorities. And I know that for me it’s best to focus on my family these days (pickyourbattles)
Let me conclude by saying thanks for having me – I’m resigning with nothing, but fond memories and best wishes!
PS: Most/all pictures courtesy by Martin Gillet – special thanks and gratitude for capturing all the magic!
Thank you for sharing part of this ride with me - see the SAP Mentors Quarterly - I enjoyed the time with you, Otto Gold and Michelle Crapo. Aslan and I spoke about it as recently as last week! It has held the test of time.
It was great to see you last week - thank you for all you have done for the community and me.
you made huge difference - at least for me - thanks a lot for all the time and advices you gave me... it it pleasure and honour to know you... Thanks!
Matthias, I'm glad you carried on and we finally got a chance to meet at SAPPHIRE.
When you shared the personal news about Lotte I asked my son to draw a card and mail it to her. He was super-excited to get a card in return. It was extremely kind of your family - I can't imagine how busy you must have been at the time. It was a relief to find out recently that Lotte's health is improving.
Certainly I wish it was a happier occasion, but it makes me think of Mentors as a family rather than a pack of wild animals. After all, every family has their share of "drunk uncles" and "crazy aunts", but we love them nevertheless. 🙂
Thank you for contributions to the Mentor program and SCN. Best wishes!
Really great post Matthias and welcome to the Mentor Alumni world. Awesome job of capturing what it is like to be in the Mentor program from beginning to next journey as well.
Bon voyage Matthias. This community will miss your extraordinary communication skills (yours are some of my all-time favorite blogs) and the Mentor program will miss your thoughtful contributions. Happy trails.
In the end you have mentored me much more than I ever could have mentored you.
thank you for helping us get the perpetual, free developer edition. i have always appreciated your thouroughness in blogging and trying to make the (both on line and off line) community hum. i realize that it's a delicate balance to strike between what you put in and what comes out as result of your efforts, but being an alumn seems like a very nice place to be as well.
all the best,
What a beautiful post Matthias! Thank you for all you have done for the community.
As Mark Yolton wrote: your thoughtful contributions are among my favorite blogs here. But if I read this correctly, this isn't about any silencing of your "extraordinary communication skills". That would be unimaginable. Your voice is necessary for the health of the ecosystem.
As regards the mentor program: You use a very interesting image: Slingshot maneuver.
In thinking of the slingshot maneuver to affect motion, I recalled something else about the idea of the limitations of its use and I think the analogy appropriate in this, your note of farewell...
Perhaps we were all very lucky that "our planets aligned" . I hope we won't have to wait for the middle of the 22nd century for that to occur again. 😈
May your trajectory be fueled by all the right kinetic energies! I consider myself lucky to watch your bright orbit. Shine on!
Argggg.....not you too, Matthias! .....but I understand your reasons and appreciate your openness....and must say that among the Mentors, I would think you one of the most "open" of us all given your time with us!!!!! You have also never been one to shy from confrontation when the "voice of reason" (or "Devil's Advocate" haha) needed to be heard (a trait of Mentors I have always loved and hope does not get lost in the shuffle in the next "version"). I have always respected you and this "bow" just makes it more so. Thanks for the time you put in....how does that saying go...."if you can give more than you take..." or something...well, you have met that in spades. Thank you , thank you, THANK YOU! 😏
Mate, this blog and the comments trigger a huge number of thoughts and emotions in me.
Firstly you have been, remain, and will continue to be one of the people I admire and try to emulate - in short one of my mentors (note the small 'm').
You have also captured a great deal of the essence of what mentor "magic" is in this post.
The "Werewolf" photo with @finnern doing his thing triggers great memories - we must do that again.
Your acknowledgment of the tremendous service and legacy that Martin has provided through his photos also touched me.
And, finally, I am looking forward even more to catching up again in just a few weeks at #sitmel.
You are frickin' amazing!
Great blog as usual.
Really glad we bumped into eachother at the airport in Orlando before going home after SAPPHIRENOW so we had the chance to talk about this. I understand your decision and I wish you good luck. Thanks the shout out 😉 .
I'm still on my way home and luckily there is free wifi in Frankfurt airport 😀 which allows me to read through and comment already.
I've always looked up to you (still do), I still remember the first time I met you at a demojam at SAP in the Netherlands 🙂 where we had lunch together, for me it was "awesome" to openly discuss about SAP with a SAP Mentor 😉 .
Thanks for everything you've done so far already!
your blog put me in a pensive mode for a bit, appreciating some terrific moments that helped shape my career and many others.
But you made me smile from ear to ear with "Realizing that I would seriously have to up my game if I want to get even close to their level."
That's how it was for so many of us, myself included. The Mentors were, for me, the most vivid example of what I sometimes call a "culture of excellence," people who were friendly and inclusive but also challenged the heck out of each other. It's a model Mark Finnern envisioned that I will carry with me.
One final thing - I feel you have exemplified how an SAP employee can be open/communicative/passionate and engage across many boundaries. On a personal level you have also shown me a strength of character I can only hope to emulate. You have a lot to do with how I have come to understand certain SAP tech (HCP specifically) but of course if goes way beyond that - it's the conversation itself.
And that carries on, even as both of us are now beyond the formal Mentor program 🙂
no, no, Thank YOU for the ride.
You are an awesome fellow mentor, and you definitely left your mark on the program.
I'm certain we'll still hear from you, because as you say, you're not the type to keep quiet.
Looks like the alumni are packing quite a punch nowadays 🙂 , so I'm expecting a lot of noise from them in the coming period.
I hope to run into you guys ASAP, to grab a beer and catch up on things.
Cheers mate, and thanks for being totally awesome!
It makes me a bit sad to see you leave transcend the program. But on the other hand, like Tom says, I'm sure we'll hear a lot from all those awesome alumni, you included.
You've always been one of my role models, especially because of your unique writing style: always thoughtful, respectful to others, and never shy at the same time. Please continue to engage on SCN! (Why do I even write that, I'm sure you will 🙂 ). Apart from that you're a very warm personality, which also shines through in your posts. I could go on, but... 🙂
Just thank you so much and I really hope to meet you again soon (I know, I've said that before...).
If memory serves me well, I think I met you first at the Dutch Innojam in 2011 (getting hands-on experience on now-collector-items like SAP River and NetWeaver uPods) and wow, have you guys made a mark on my professional career!
The way you explained new stuff in laymen's terms, the way you helped others, your humble yet very visible appearance, and your sheer kindness made a huge impression. And I can only hope to gain a glimpse of what you have shown and done.
Honestly, it makes me feel a bit sad seeing you leave, but I comfort myself with the knowledge you will still be around, and continue spread the love for SAP HCP in particular and be friggin' amazing in general.
I'm proud to say you're one of my all-time heroes!
Such announcements are always bittersweet, looking back fondly on the ride and contemplating what comes next. In this post, describing your own beginnings as a Mentor, you have captured precisely the thoughts and emotions I have gone through this past week, new in the program and overawed at the deep expertise and excellence I observed from the veterans in the executive sessions at SAPPHIRE.
Just reading this from you is a lift, as I realize I'm not the only one to have wondered "How did I get here?" and that this is a more common newbie experience than might be otherwise evident. But you are also right, the welcome has been warm and open, and now you are one of those veterans I look up to and aspire to emulate. In short, you fit the broader definition of "mentor," one who provides guidance along the path.
As others have noted, we will still benefit from your contributions, as it is difficult to imagine you will not still post to these pages with your insight and wisdom. Thank you for your welcome to me, and best wishes for all that is to come.
it was great meeting you last week at SAPPHIRE - one of the "big names" that I payed close attention to after becoming active again in the community.
And I take your words as motivation and reminder of what this community is, the people that make it up, what it was and what it will come to be - to put my effort into it, supporting and pushing it forward the best way.
It's a great comfort to know that you can't leave 'the family' that easily (The Godfather: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPw-3e_pzqU )
You see, we will always be pulling you back in. You've helped elevate the Mentor Program in so many ways, and you've helped elevate me as a person as well.
See you soon,
Thank you for your many contributions to the Mentor program. You have always been so gracious and a real role model for all.
I'm very sorry to see you move on, but based on the conversation we had, I understand.
Please know that you will be missed. I would appreciate your insights and feedback as you feel appropriate as we move the program forward.
I always saw you as a Mentor and admired you for the way you engage with the SAP community even before I met you in person. I remember that you approached me in my first year as a Mentor trying to make me feel comfortable, and I thank you very much for that.
I also felt a bit sad with the news, but I hope we continue in touch and can meet again in the next events.
Best wishes for you and your family, and be sure you can continue counting on me.
WOW... I'm speechless! You're sure you don't mistake me for somebody else?!?
Thank you all so much for your kind words & wishes - means a lot to me to hear this!
Matthias, above all your outstanding contribution, you made friends!
Looking forward to biking with you (it seems I will have a hard time keeping up) 😉
You got your priorities right man. HUGE KUDOS!
It makes me stop to think for a second if my priorities are right....
I am so sorry to see you leaving the Mentor program, but I understand your reasons and hope that you'll stay close - we have a date in Vegas to sing Learn to Fly again (See the picture of the backing vocalists in the blog) 🙂
Like you I am unsure how the program will evolve, I am looking forward to the ride though and will support/challenge others in making the changes work. Wish you could have been a part of it, but I can understand why and you do have different and amazing priorities
Good luck my friend and I look forward to seeing you again.