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Author's profile photo Jerry Janda

Mike Pokraka — Member of the Month, February 2018

A winner of an SAP Community Citizenship Award, February’s Member of the Month deserves all of the accolades he receives.

Based on an audit of specific activities, the SAP Community Experience team gave the Citizenship Awards to members “who made contributions demonstrating the most outstanding effort and impact.” In other words, we looked at the numbers and identified people who were extremely active in the community — and whose participation earned recognition from other members.

I use the same criteria when looking for a Member of the Month — because the numbers don’t lie. And Mike Pokraka, February’s Member of the Month, has impressive numbers: nearly 400 answers and growing!

That type of generosity — taking so much time to help those seeking solutions — is reason enough to earn Member of the Month. But there’s another reason why I want to salute Mike: his efforts to better the SAP Community. He reports bugs (The Question Authority Is Taking a Break will always hold a special place in my heart) and voices his concerns about the community experience. That sometimes makes my job a little harder, but I appreciate members who want to improve things around here. And whether he’s helping peers or paging me to address an issue, it’s clear that Mike cares about the community.

It’s great to talk to you, Mike. Congratulations! How does it feel to be Member of the Month?

Wow, I’m not sure what to say. It’s a surprise and an honor. I didn’t think I contributed that much these days, but am happy that people seem to value it.

Looking at your profile, I noticed that you don’t have a location listed. Where are you based (if you don’t mind me asking)?

Really? I think that must have changed in the platform migration. Home is in Shepperton, a village near London. Work is a completely different picture. I might work for a German consultancy and sit at a client’s office in France. Right now I’m working on a project in Denmark and spend a fair bit of time in Copenhagen.

As a freelancer, Mike doesn’t have a boss — unless you count his son.

According to your profile, you’re an “independent consultant.” Could you tell me a bit about what you do? What made you decide to take this route?

Well, it’s just a fancy way of saying freelancer. I work mostly in techie roles with a functional slant to it — solution design, architecture, Workflow, ABAP, BRFplus, Web Dynpro, and anything clients throw at me.

For much of my career, I have made a deliberate choice of not spending too much time in one role, because that’s how we grow stale. And I get bored.

As a freelancer I can choose where and how long to work. Sometimes I even work part-time on multiple projects. This means I may have less work and earn less than my long-term peers, but I love the variety and huge amount of learning that comes with it.

What led you to this career? Did you work anywhere else before setting yourself up as an independent consultant?

I started in SAP as an employee at Siemens in South Africa where we had a diverse collection of SAP systems. There were ten business units each with their own SAP system and business models. On moving to the UK I joined another company but didn’t like getting stuck doing the same thing year in year out. I spent a couple of years working for a consultancy, but ultimately decided I’d rather be the one deciding when and where I work.

Something else interesting from your profile: It shows that you became a member in 2003. What attracted you to the community? I’m assuming it was SDN when you signed up?

I was on SAP-R3-L and SAP-WUG mailing lists and various online forums before SDN existed. Unlike today, SAP was on the trailing edge of technology back then and it took until 2003 until they finally ventured onto the people-centric side of this new-fangled “internet” thing. I naturally signed up as soon as I heard about it.

Freelancing means travel that can come with views of beautiful scenery (such as the Alps).

I mentioned that you’ve answered hundreds of questions. I’m guessing you make SAP Community part of a daily routine. How do you manage to fit it into your schedule?

SAP Community mostly fills the gaps — for example, on the bus and train. During work time I turn to SCN for “think breaks.”

I never really got along with the level of noise on Twitter, so SAP Answers are my Twitter. It takes one or two minutes to do a quick skim and maybe fire off an answer. If there’s an interesting question, something that needs research or a longer answer, I’ll save those for evenings in a hotel or other longer stretches of spare time. You can probably tell from my answers which mode I’m in.

I also mentioned that you’ve been vocal about the new community experience. So now I’m going to plagiarize myself and ask you the same thing I asked Jeremy Good, January’s Member of the Month. Let me check my notes to get this right. Ah, OK, here we go… “In your opinion, what is one area of improvement that makes you happy? And what is the thing that drives you craziest?”

My personal bugbear is wasteful UI. On my 15 inch MacBook I can see three questions when I open a forum — sorry, “tag page.” I can scroll through them at six questions per page. Six! On a PHPBB forum I can see twenty questions on one page, with better summaries. I can skim this far quicker than pages of varying fonts and oodles of blank space. The original SDN was far more user-friendly. In that sense, I miss it. And I miss the Coffee Corner. I mean, it still exists, but barely.

I really have to think hard about what makes me happy on the new site compared to previous incarnations. I think tags are a nice idea, but many people don’t understand them. I do like that the reduced incentives has cut down the amount of “answers without a clue” and the quality of answers has definitely improved as a result. But to be brutally honest, while there are a couple of nice things, there is no “wow” factor for me on the new platform.

Fair enough. Let’s switch back to the good things you do. You answer questions. You offer valuable feedback. But let’s talk blogs for a sec. You wrote one in 2005, two in 2008, and that was it. Can we expect more blogs from you? Or are you a big believer in George RR Martin’s writing philosophy?

Good question! The simple answer is that it takes too long. I have a whole bunch of blogs in my head, but they’re all of the longer variety. I also find it difficult to pick up a written train of thought if I’m interrupted, so I ideally need a solid block of one or two hours, which is a real challenge.

I also found the old platforms a pain to work with for blogs, and actually started a couple and gave up. But now that you prompted me, I think I should give it another go in the near-ish future. I read DJ Adams rave about how good the new platform is for blogging so I’m hopeful.

Mike loves building, fixing things, gardening, and family time — sometimes all at once!

We’ve covered everything you do for the community and for your career. Now let’s talk about what you do off the clock. How do you like to spend your free time?

Free time? Where can I get some? [Laughs]

Well it’s no coincidence that my activity in SAP Community reduced drastically when my son was born. He just turned four in December. I try to spend as much time as I can with my family, especially when I’m working on away projects.

Aside from computing, I also enjoy mechanical things, building and fixing things. We live in an older house that needs a lot of attention and modernization. OK, we call it a project, and I like spending time on anything from laying floors to hacking around the garden. It brings a very different sense of accomplishment to IT work. I try to turn most things into some sort of game with my son. He might deliver bolts and screws in his little toy car when I’m doing DIY. Or he likes feeding my receipts into the scanner when I’m doing my admin.

Oh, and BBQs in summer rule. Sometimes the simple things are the best.

One final question. December’s Member of the Month, Michelle Crapo, recently published a blog post encouraging lurkers to get involved. What advice would you give members who are nervous about participating more?

Just do it!

Be honest, be yourself, be professional. Honesty means don’t pretend to know. If you’re not sure of your answer, it’s perfectly OK to say, “I’m not sure but I think the problem may be x,” or “I believe that…” This is an excellent way to contribute ideas. Sometimes the wackiest ones turn out to be the real answers.

It does bug me when someone states incorrect information as fact, which can sometimes do more harm than good. So if unsure, just say so. This gets you more respect and credibility. I also try to make it clear in my answers whether they are facts, opinions, or educated guesses.

Once again, thanks for taking the time to talk to me, Mike — and congratulations on joining the Member of the Month Hall of Fame! I hope you’ll continue to answer questions and that you’ll continue to share your opinions about (and report bugs for) the SAP Community platform.



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      Author's profile photo Michelle Crapo
      Michelle Crapo

      Congratulations Mike!

      So if I ever get in the area, I have to stop by for BBQ.  I'll find something to bring!


      Author's profile photo Mike Pokraka
      Mike Pokraka

      Thanks! Bananas, pineapples, lobster, shrimp, steak, almost anything goes as long as it's dead. Ice cream has some practical issues but I still want to try making pizza on a barbie one day.

      Author's profile photo Michelle Crapo
      Michelle Crapo

      Cheese on the grill?  Oh boy are you daring!


      Author's profile photo Nic Teunckens
      Nic Teunckens

      Congratulations Mike!

      I can certainly relate to your feeling of limited free time, having young kids also. But the joy, fun and inspiration they can bring you to your life is great!

      Kind regards

      Nic T.

      Author's profile photo Mike Pokraka
      Mike Pokraka

      Thanks! Yes, lack of free time was not meant as a negative comment, but rather that a young family has the effect of making other things less interesting.

      I don't need an excuse to act like a kid, but at least people don't look at me funny anymore when I'm with one.

      Author's profile photo Michael Appleby
      Michael Appleby

      Hi Mike,

      Congratulations on getting this well deserved recognition for all that you have contributed to the community over the years. I did not realize that you had been around from the beginning and am kind of jealous of not having that end to end perspective.

      Having a good work-life balance is very important.  I sometimes miss the independent consulting business with being able to pick and choose assignments or just deciding to spend more time with the family.  I don't miss all the paperwork for invoicing, travel receipts, and tax documentation required so that is a large part of why I went to work directly for SAP a few years back (Geez, has it been almost 10 years now?).  I can't imagine trying to do invoicing with my (at the time) 4-5 year old son.  That by itself is rather impressive!

      Free time is where you make it, but with young kids it might only coming in 90 second increments!

      Again congratulations on this well deserved award.  One last question:

      Dry rub or wet BBQ?  If wet, brown sugar or vinegar based?

      Cheers, Mike


      Author's profile photo Mike Pokraka
      Mike Pokraka

      Hi Mike,

      Thanks. Yes, I call it "admin hell", personal tax year, company tax year plus 4 VAT quarters = 6 major admin deadlines per year plus a few minor ones.

      Re. kids, I have a simple formula, I worked out everything takes 2.5 times as long with 'help', but at least it serves a dual purposes of getting stuff done and spending time with them.

      BBQ... don't get me started! Usually neither, I prefer good quality ingredients that are best with minimal meddling. A nice ribeye or sirloin from our local butcher, bit of olive oil, salt & pepper and that's it, maybe serve with a lump of garlic and parsley butter on top. Too good to mess with it! 🙂

      Author's profile photo Caroleigh Deneen
      Caroleigh Deneen

      Congrats Mike Pokraka  Great choice and nice write-up Jerry Janda .

      LOL  Cheers to "Free time? Where can I get some?" Sounds like a t-shirt to me.

      Author's profile photo Mike Pokraka
      Mike Pokraka

      Thanks Caroleigh! Actually that was one of those accidental puns I did't realise until afterwards 🙂

      Author's profile photo Jeremy Good
      Jeremy Good

      Congratulations Mike!  Welcome to the MoM club 🙂

      Author's profile photo Mike Pokraka
      Mike Pokraka

      Thanks! It starts as a club, soon to become a movement and next thing we'll be taking over the world!

      Author's profile photo Matt Fraser
      Matt Fraser

      Congratulations! Another well-deserved induction to the club. 🙂

      Author's profile photo Mike Pokraka
      Mike Pokraka

      Thanks Matt. Ditto my reply to Jeremy. Team MoM sounds wrong, we need a another name.

      Author's profile photo Kamlesh Kumar Arya
      Kamlesh Kumar Arya

      Congratulations Mike!

      Glad to know about you more.Your son is so cute.


      Author's profile photo Susan Keohan
      Susan Keohan

      Well, well, well... the chickens have finally come home to roost 🙂

      Mike has been a 'community contributor' for literal decades, and I'm so happy to see Mike get some more 'formal' recognition.  Without dragging you all down a long memory lane, Mike and another gentleman used to be top contributors to the SAP-WUG (SAP Workflow Users Group) mailing list, and we fondly referred to them as Statler and Waldorf (

      Congratulations, Mike!  I hope other community members follow you and learn from you!



      Author's profile photo Bartosz Jarkowski
      Bartosz Jarkowski

      Congrats Mike! Well deserved!


      Author's profile photo Jelena Perfiljeva
      Jelena Perfiljeva

      Congratulations, Mike! Great to have you with us!

      "It does bug me when someone states incorrect information as fact, which can sometimes do more harm than good. So if unsure, just say so."

      Well said. No harm in sharing an idea, just don't post utter nonsense with great authority.

      Re: blogs. I always write in Word and then just copy-paste. Personally, I don't find the new blogging platform vastly different. It has some quirks, they're just different than before. So the platform is not a valid excuse IMHO. 🙂

      Author's profile photo Koen Hesters
      Koen Hesters


      Great interview! really liked the "Honesty means don’t pretend to know"

      Author's profile photo Kjetil Kilhavn
      Kjetil Kilhavn

      Congratulations Mike. Well deserved.