This year I was able to be a tech coach at two different SAP InnoJams (CeBIT, Fashion) – and hopefully there are more to come! I want to share my experience with you what it’s like to be a tech coach at SAP InnoJam.
- You are the expert for …
- Your job
- Your checklist
- You are not alone
- You’ll be surprised by the questions
- You can’t be “prepared”
- You’ll meet other colleagues
- You’ll work outside your comfort zone
- You’ll have a lot of fun
- You’ll get to know the E2E process
- You’ll learn a lot of stuff
- You can be proud
You are the expert for …
When you are a tech coach then you are the expert for a certain topic (mine is SAPUI5), but the broader your knowledge, the better. I prepared myself with the openSAP courses for HCP and HANA (especially HANA XS). Due to the fact that our team developed the SAP Web IDE I know this tool from the inside out, and I am very familiar with GIT (due to my work) and HCP HTML5 apps and the destination service.
It all starts with the so-called “Tech Fire”. There you present the participants your technology. I showed on stage how to get into SAP Web IDE, import the sample project, setting up the destination in HCP and where to find useful information. The other SAPUI5 coaches gave an introduction about SAPUI5.
At the beginning of the event you help the participants to get started.If I am next to a participant I make sure that they have everything setup and know about the most important resources (API reference and Demokit for SAPUI5). After that you act like a walking dictionary, knowing where to find all the information – whether it is the SAP documentation, certain blog posts, SCN or github repositories with examples.
Later on it is getting harder as their projects grow and their questions are getting more specific, you’ll need a certain time to understand their app structure, their approach and coding. You will also act a lot like a trouble shooter and trying to give them the right hints about how to debug, what does the console say and what information can they get out of the network trace. At the end it is getting more hectic because time is running out and suddenly nothing works.
When they use a trial account they can not share their git-repo for HTML5 apps on HCP and they will manually putting together their hard work: you need to act as an “integration” helper. It is always tempting to take their laptop and “just show them how it’s done” (am I “pair-programming-spoiled”? 😉 ) – but your job is to support them so that they can do it on their own – you are their coach and not the programming buddy.
Some late night fixing before going to sleep:
- overview presentation about your technology
- getting started examples
- full fledged examples
- list of useful resources
- arrive well-rested !!
You are not alone
Despite the fact you are referenced as the expert for a certain topic: no one knows everything. The good thing is, that you are not the only expert for a certain topic. There are other tech coaches at the event which you can ask if you are stuck. And don’t only reach out to the experts of “your” topics, other colleagues may also have experience with your technology.
You’ll be surprised by the questions
When doing your daily business or developing things in your free time you will do it your way. Also when working together with your colleagues, your team will have a certain idea about how to solve problems. Coaching a group of people with a different mindset, experience and background will open your eyes and will surprise you how they would solve the problem. So expect some unusual use-cases for your technology.
You can’t be “prepared”
Obviously you should know your technology really well, but you can’t really “prepare” for such an event. For sure you should provide getting started material and a presentation for your technology, but other than that: you can’t be prepared. There will be always new things which you would have never thought off.
You’ll meet other colleagues
SAP is a very big company and therefore it can be hard to get to know colleagues from other departments. An InnoJam is a great opportunity to make new friends and connections. It is fantastic to work together with our internal young talents but it is also a great honor to work together with “old stager” (really experienced colleagues).
You’ll work outside your comfort zone
The InnoJam is not like your 9-to-5-job. If you have the night shift then you try to stay up as long as possible to support the participants. You are suffering from the lack of sleep, feeling stressed when it comes to an end and the participants experience unexpected errors, feeling overstrained when things don’t work out, craving for the next coffee and develop a craving for the offered sweets. But I think every developer has already experienced some night shifts and some last-minute bug-fixing – so such a work environment should not surprise you.
You’ll have a lot of fun
Although the event can be quite stressful, you will also have a lot of fun! Whether it is some colleagues starting to fool around or the participants doing funny things – this is important! The participants face a lot of desperation when things don’t work out and they suffer from more sleep deprivation than you do. So try to keep the good energy at the event, be up for any nonsense, cheer up some desperate faces and find some words of encouragement for them. Starting a pillow fight is also a good idea!
You’ll get to know the E2E process
The great thing about those kind of events is that you see the different SAP technologies in an E2E process so that you can see how the different pieces fit together.
You’ll learn a lot of stuff
Since you see the whole E2E process and have experts from other areas around you will also learn a lot of things. You can also use the breaks to ask the questions which you always wanted to know about a certain technology. The participants will solve the problems in unexpected ways, so you will learn new solutions to solve problems. It is also really valuable to listen when the participants are taught “how to sell their idea” on stage. Next time I will try to arrive earlier, to see the Design Thinking process in action. What you can also learn from the event is where your documentation is unclear and where people struggle most.
You can be proud
At the end, when the participants present their solutions, you will feel proud because you know where you helped them so they could succeed. And at the final words every time a participant will speak up and “special-thank-you” (the tech coaches) for their support – at this moment you feel like the king of the world!
It was really a pleasure to be part of such great events. I made new friends, good memories and learned a lot of stuff. If you ever have the opportunity to be a coach at such event: DO IT!!!
If you have any doubts about “if you are good enough” – this quote totally nails it:
“If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives.” ― Lemony Snicket
And here my favorite picture from our last SAP InnoJam:
It was a pleasure to work together with Christian Heller, Rui Nogueira, Julian Breuksch and Julia Lakatos! My special thanks goes to SAP University Alliances for making this possible, René Wohllebe for the organization and Mr. InnoJam himself: Craig Cmehil.