Advice for Students: Part 1 – Mentors, Experts and the Importance of Internships
My first trip to Texas wasn’t to go to the rodeo, attend a country concert or have some old-fashioned BBQ (while one of those things may have occurred) – It was to attend the SAP Analytics and Business Object Conference (SABOC) that was hosted by Americas’ SAP Users’ Group (ASUG) in Austin! Aside from attending sessions, making connections and promoting this year’s DataGenius contest, I had the opportunity to speak to some of the most experienced individuals in the Analytics field.
“What advice would you give to a University student looking to enter the SAP ecosystem?” Time was limited, so my question was simple, yet allowed for a variety of insightful answers.
Simon To, an SAP mentor from Flowserve, was the first to answer. He actually approached me before a Lumira hands-on session to talk about University Alliances member schools, but it was the perfect opportunity to begin my “research.” His piece of advice was one that many mentors mirrored – Internships. Mr. To recognized the importance of classes and workshops, but stressed that seeing SAP solutions in use was equally important. He explained how practice in an “imperfect environment” exposes you to situations that just wouldn’t happen in a classroom setting. While it’s up to students to search out internships, Simon also put pressure on companies to make them available.
Tammy Powlas, another Mentor and a Senior Business Analyst at Fairfax Water, echoed Simon’s sentiments. She reflected on her first internship at the Federal Reserve – an experience she had right out of college. As a student currently in an internship with SAP, seeing her success and knowing that she started as an intern was extremely encouraging. Tammy was also a panelist in the “New Attendee Orientation” and gave advice on how to get the most from the conference; she really embraced the role of Mentor. Another Mentor I spoke to alongside Tammy was Joyce Butler. Joyce said that joining the workforce by going into an SAP customer, either as an employee or intern, was beneficial. Her challenge for new talent, however, was to show and demonstrate interest in SAP during these experiences as a way to focus learning and build skills.
I also attended an SAB Business Objects session where I saw examples of how to customize the interface to fit a customer’s needs and branding. The presenter, Dallas Marks (a Mentor from EV Technologies, inc.) was helpful not only during the presentation but also after, happily giving his advice on how students could prepare for the SAP workforce. Naturally, he also mentioned internships. He described the “try before you buy” approach to internships. The intern gets to experience a company and industry, allowing them to gauge interest and increase skills. The employer also benefits; not only do they have the potential to offer jobs to exceptional interns, but they also get to see what works and what doesn’t when interacting with this next generation of new talent.
The final piece of advice came from Tammy Datri, an IT Project Manager and heavily influential member of ASUG. Seeing as how Ms. Datri is a part of ASUG and we spoke at an ASUG conference, it is no surprise that her tip was ASUG-centric. “Attend a chapter meeting,” she advised, “find a chapter close to you and see when their meetings are.” This not only allows students to get to know what kind of companies use SAP and how, but also gives them a chance to network, ask questions and hear from the people who actually use the products. Luckily, every University Alliances member institution can join ASUG through their University Connections program – for free. Then all you need to do is find the next meeting and attend.
As you can see from the above responses – internships are key! Perhaps you can attend a local ASUG chapter meeting to find companies that offer internships or contact alumni who have gone out into the SAP ecosystem. Several of the companies and individuals I spoke to mentioned that they hire interns, so think of the type of companies or industries you might like to work for and do some research. In an age where the workforce is getting increasingly competitive and new talent is more skilled than ever, early workforce exposure could be the boost you need to ensure success. If you happen to already be a part of the SAP ecosystem and are looking to hire interns and new talent or just want more information on what SAP University Alliances is, feel free to reach out to the team at UAP.NA@sap.com