As we approach the holiday season, it’s only fitting that we close out the year by recognizing a community member who has given a gift to the community. For December, our Member of the Month is Helmut Tammen, who created an application to help members find tags in the new community.
First off, Helmut, congratulations for being the final Member of the Month for 2016! Can you tell us a bit about your work?
About twenty years ago, I had a talk about future plans and dreams with a friend. I told her that regarding my job I want to be one of the best and most known people in the area I’m working on. With the selection for Member of the Month, you help me achieve at least the “most known” aim. Thank you very much for this. It’s a great honor and pleasure to be selected by you and it’s great to see that community work gets recognized.
I’m a self-employed IT consultant and I live near Hannover in North Germany.
Originally I studied mechanical engineering. But already during studying I realized that IT was much more interesting than mechanics and after two years of working as an engineer I was lucky and found an employer in IT who gave me a chance. The next ten years I worked for two companies where I used several technologies like Fortran, C++, Pascal, Java, and some database systems.
Because I’m driven by curiosity and my employers couldn’t offer me interesting jobs, I decided to be self-employed. For more than fifteen years now I’ve been a freelancer and an SAP consultant. This time was interrupted by about five years when I was the founder and owner of a small IT consulting company. This didn’t work out for several reasons and so I’m a freelancer again.
On the one hand I work as an SAP consultant but on the other hand I still work in the non-SAP Java world. The customers I consult and realize software for are mostly Fortune 500 or DAX30 companies, which is how we call the most valuable enterprises in Germany.
Because big companies don’t like to collaborate with freelancers directly I do a lot of my SAP consulting for SAP which offers me interesting projects.
If you don’t mind me asking — why didn’t your consulting company work out?
I founded the company with a friend. At the peak we were five people. At this time organization and administration took quite a lot of time. I don’t like this type of work. I’m a technician and want to work as such. Furthermore my friend who is not a technician had other ideas of the company’s future than I had. So I left the company to do the work that’s fun and satisfies me.
Since your SAP Community profile mentions SAPUI5 — and since you created an SAPUI5 application for tag search — I’m going out on a limb and guessing you’re a bit of an SAPUI5 expert. Can you tell me a little bit about why and how you became so knowledgeable in this area?
Oh, I have to go a bit into the past to answer this question and tell you about my motivation.
My SAP career started with ABAP programming. In one of my first such projects I used ABAP Objects. That was long before there was any support in SE80. I had to do everything without tool support. But it was great to work with OO programming in ABAP. I learned what’s possible in R/3 and ABAP and always tried to squeeze the most out of it.
Two or three years later, SAP decided to purchase a portal company from Israel and released their own SAP portal shortly after that deal. This was developed with Java. Because of my background I was more than happy about that. I luckily could jump on that bandwagon very early and worked as a portal consultant for some years.
Then SAP came out with a new UI technology called Web Dynpro for Java. (Yes, it was released before Web Dynpro ABAP.) I again had the chance to work in one of the first customer projects with this technology and I widened my portfolio. After Web Dynpro for Java did not get new releases anymore, I thought about my future: Should I return to ABAP again, would there be other opportunities in the SAP world, or should I concentrate on non-SAP technologies like Java and its ecosystem? I didn’t really want to move back to ABAP because in my opinion there is much more innovation in Web technologies and in the Java world. As you can guess from what I mentioned before, I love to work with latest technologies and always try to find better IT solutions in my projects. But I also didn’t want to leave the SAP world.
Then in 2012 or 2013, I heard of SAP HANA and studied it a bit deeper because it looked like a promising innovative technology that could change the SAP IT world. While I made my first steps with HANA, I recognized SAPUI5 as new front-end technology. HANA hadn’t spread widely at that time. So I decided to focus a bit more on SAPUI5 and Fiori and I got first contracts in this area.
To learn the new technologies — namely SAPUI5, Fiori, HANA, HCP — open.sap.com helped me a lot. I participated in twelve online courses there and in one on open.hpi.de (the more academic sister) so far. It’s an incredibly effective way to get an insight of new technologies.
Your profile also includes HCP, HANA, Cloud Foundry, and more. How did all of these areas become part of your career path?
As I said before, I’m driven by curiosity — I like to learn new technologies and always try to improve IT processes. I don’t only look at technologies SAP releases but also what’s hyped in the non-SAP technology world. At the moment, there is of course PaaS with Cloud Foundry and microservices in the infrastructured/DevOp area. In the programming area, there are new languages and paradigms like node.js and functional programming.
HCP is SAP’s PaaS implementation and in near future it will provide a Cloud Foundry run-time. HANA already supports it. Additionally there will be an SAP microservice platform currently called YaaS. Cloud Foundry and microservices are already adopted widely. So I think it was the right decision by SAP to also support it.
This decision enables me as an SAP and non-SAP consultant and developer to develop in non-SAP — that is, non-ABAP — fields but provide software for SAP systems. So I can work with really cool and innovative technologies that evolve much faster than ABAP but also stay in the SAP world.
I hope SAP will follow this direction in the future more often and with more intensity. This of course would be great for UI technologies as well.
Helmut shares his knowledge outside of the community as well, such as recently at UI5Con.
I’m still looking at your profile — I hope that doesn’t sound too creepy — and I see a nice mixture of activity: blog posts, questions, answers. Do you have a preference about how you participate in the SAP Community?
I love community work. Community is a place where people meet because they believe in the power of community. People give away their knowledge and they receive new knowledge. Also one meets a lot of interesting people, in virtual and (sometimes) in real life.
In SAP Community, I prefer to read and write blogs. The blogs are often a good starting point for understanding technologies or products and they often also go beyond the official SAP documentation.
When SDN started in 2003, I also loved working in the questions-and-answers section. For some time, I was under the top three contributors in the sections Web Dynpro Java and NWDI.
I’m not only active in SAP Community but also in more agile platforms with live chats. For example, there is the OpenUI5 community Slack where in the meantime more that 1,100 people meet and discuss all aspects of new SAP technology, not only UI5. To be honest, we also discuss non-SAP technologies from time to time.
Another contribution I made to the community was a session at the first UI5Con in Frankfurt, Germany at the beginning of 2016. (Writer’s note: You can watch a replay of Helmut’s session.)
Outside the SAP Community, I’m also quite eager — such as with my open source project n-odata-server. I realized an OData server with which you can provide OData services within an amazing short time and with minimal programming skills. I personally use this to realize sample applications or being able to already develop UI5 front-end applications if the back-end developers in my projects are still at the beginning of their work. (Writer’s note: You can visit the no-odata-server site to learn more about this open project.)
OK, here’s the big question. Why did you decide to create the tag app? I’d like to know about how you went about developing it — the time it took and so on.
The answer to this question is very simple. When the new community started, there were a lot of questions like “How can I find content for area Fiori (BO, HANA, SAP ASE, and so on)?” Someone answered, “There is a Excel sheet for download that contains the technical IDs for different sections of community. Just add this ID (number) to the URL ‘https://www.sap.com/community/tag.html?id=’ and you’re done.” When I read that, I thought that this does not fit into the 21st century. So I sat down, converted the Excel file into JSON format, and wrote the tag app.
The initial development was done in two or three hours. In the meantime. of course I invested about two or three days because I enhanced the app a bit, played around with a few UI5 features, wrote some documentation, and did some “marketing” work.
Running — one of Helmut’s many interests
I’m assuming that you did the app in your free time — which tells me that you love to develop in and out of the office. But what else do you like to do in your spare time for fun? Any hobbies you’d like to talk about?
I like doing sports. At the moment my favorite is playing badminton. But I also like jogging. When I was twenty years younger, I participated in three marathon runs and lots of competitions over shorter distances — ten and twenty kilometers. But that’s a long time ago. Today I’m happy if I run five kilometers once or twice a week. Otherwise, I couldn’t do my community work!
Another area of interest is aviation. I would really like to get a pilot’s license and fly a gyrocopter. Some years ago I took a training lesson on a gyrocopter and one with an ultralight aircraft. It was amazing. Unfortunately, I don’t find the time for this passion. So I think I might either realize this dream when I’m retired — not that far away — or never, I’m afraid.
Getting a pilot’s license — an eventual goal for Helmut
Wow. Anything else?
What I shouldn’t forget if you ask for my spare-time activities is my dog. She requests quite a lot of time. Even though I once bought the dog for my daughter — who in the meantime has her own flat — this dog captured my heart. Dogs, compared to humans, are never resentful. They are always happy when their owners come home.
Happy together — Helmut and his dog
I have to say that your tag app is a great example of how community members work to make the community better. So I’m curious to know when and why you joined the community…
As you can see by my ID (P001984), I was one of the early guys. I registered on SDN in October 2003. So I’m a member for the last thirteen years. About my motivation…as I explained, I really love online communities and I hope the new SAP Community will become a place where great knowledge exchange will happen.
You clearly provide value to the community, but what value do you think you get in return?
As I already mentioned, people give knowledge to communities and they receive knowledge from communities. It motivates to see how others contribute to the community. If I read a valuable blog or get an answer to a question I feel that I also have to contribute to the community. If everyone thinks like that, a community really lives.
And how do you think other members can provide value? Any advice about participating in SAP Community?
As said before, everyone who gains benefit from the community should give something back. This is how open source communities work and this should be the case for SAP Community as well. The more people contribute to the community, the more benefit it will give.
For those who don’t want to or can’t contribute but who ask questions I want to say: Please define your questions as precise as possible, because the people who answer do this in their free time or during short pauses from their daily work. They want to help but they don’t want to get to the details of a problem in endless Q&A sessions.
Participation isn’t always limited to the community. I see members connecting via social media too. If people want to connect with you further, do you have a Twitter account that you’re willing to share?
Of course I’m not only active at SAP community but also on Twitter (@helmuttammen), LinkedIn (/helmuttammen), and XING (Helmut Tammen). Additionally, you can find my consultant profile created with UI5 at https://htammen.github.io/.
Thanks for talking to me, Helmut — and thanks for everything you do for the SAP Community.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to present myself and talk about the community.
I also would have liked to give you a video interview but because of a current and temporary disability I don’t feel well with this.
I understand, Helmut. I very much appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions. Have a great New Year!