What I learned from my first time as an SAP Inside Track organizer – Part 1
Now it has been a little more than a week since the first edition of SAP Inside Track happened in Ribeirão Preto (Brazil) and I finally had the time to write about my experience as a first-time organizer of a SIT event after a couple of years going to SITs as a speaker or participant.
My goal is to share a couple of lessons learned and also to motivate other people to take the initiative and do the work to make more community events happen. As you will see, all you need is a strong will, have the dispositions to make the necessary effort and take time to put everything together.
If you did not see yet, here is the #sitRP event page: https://blogs.sap.com/2018/02/19/sap-inside-track-ribeirao-preto-first-edition-2018-sitrp/
And here you can see pictures of the event day: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23sitRP&src=typd
I will split this blog into two parts, as follows. I plan to publish the second part in the next few days.
– My motivation
– What I have proposed myself to do
– How I have prepared myself
– Who helped me (aka: To who I am grateful)
– The value of PX, SX, OX, and VX
– Do your best to bring diversity
– You can be focused but you do not need to
– Bring local partners from the beginning
– Check everything in advance
– Make uncommon alliances
– Be ready for the unforeseen
– Community matters
– Remember you still have your regular job and personal life going on
– Make room for the day after
– Now, do it yourself!
– My next steps
This is part 1. (Click here if you want to jump to Part 2)
– My motivation
Despite working as an SAP software architect, developer and consultant since 2004, my first experience with an SAP Inside Track (SIT) event has occurred only in 2016. On that year I have finally decided that it was about time for me to get closer to the SAP community and I decided to apply as a speaker at SAP Inside Track São Leopoldo. I was kindly accepted by the organizing team (Tobias Hoffman, Former Member, and Karen Rodrigues) and I debuted talking about SAP Screen Personas because I already had completed two projects using this amazing tool.
Since then I’ve been a speaker in other SIT events in São Paulo, Campinas, Joinville (all in Brazil) and Barcelona (Spain), always talking about how Screen Personas and UI5 compare and complement each other.
I had felt in love with the spirit of community, knowledge sharing and friendship that is so strong in these SIT events. For almost two years I have been constantly thinking about organizing one edition in the city where I lived in Brazil, Ribeirão Preto (aka “California in Brazil”, because it looks like the sun never goes away from the city). It would be the first edition ever of a SIT event in the city and also the first time I would get myself organizing a SIT event (in fact it would be the first time of me organizing any event, since I had never organized even a birthday party before).
But despite my lack of experience, I had lots of drive to do it and I have heard lots of motivation from other SIT organizers, especially from Raquel Cunha who always asked me when it was finally going to happen.
– What I have proposed myself to do
First I’ve finally decided, on February 2nd, one day before SIT Campinas 2018, that I was going to make SIT RP happen and that I wanted to do it as quickly as possible. Two more weeks and I’ve decided on the date of March 24th for the event, so I had just a little more than one month to make everything work (while having to keep my full-time job running undisturbed).
From the beginning, I was also decided that I wanted to be a speaker in the event and that I would speak about my experience going from ABAP developer to UI5 developer (it is not an easy one for most people, so I wanted to share my own journey). It was a presentation I had never made before, so I also had to prepare.
I also wanted to offer an SAP CodeJam to the local community one day before the main SIT event, because I have been in three SAP CodeJam editions (UI5, IoT, and UI5+APIs) and I really had gained a boost on my skills because of them.
I wanted the CodeJam to be about SAP Screen Personas and, as soon as I’ve found that it was not available I decided to create one by myself. Since I could not name it “SAP CodeJam” (it is exclusively designed and delivered by SAP) I got inspired by Steve Rumsby and named it “Personas Day”. Essentially I intended to deliver to the participants the exact same experience as the one we have at SAP CodeJam and it is what I began to work on simultaneously with all the needed SIT preparation.
Finally, I wanted to get personally involved in the Personas Day design and delivery. I called Cristiano (Cris) Hansen from SAP Labs Latin America and asked if he wanted to work with me to build and deliver the event. He immediately jumped in and we did some calls to agree on the scope and method of delivering the content. I will probably write another blog with details on how we have done that, but I can say that we had split 50% of the work for each of us.
We both worked on building content and delivering it to participants on the event day (Cris was a professional teacher in the past, so he made most of the speaking, while I’ve focused on sharing some insights around my experience on Screen Personas projects and supporting the event participants while they were doing the hands-on exercises).
So, in the end, I got the role of leading organizer of these two events and also decided to create and deliver content for both of them. I did not know how much work I was going to have and it is the reason why everything worked in the end, because if I knew I probably would not have done all that, or at least not everything at the same time as I did. A good lesson learned!
– How I have prepared myself
As I have already told, in 2016 I have decided to get closer to the SAP Community and started as a speaker on the SIT that happened at SAP Labs Latin America that year. Since that first time I have been carefully observing how SIT organizers, speakers, and volunteers work to make everything happen.
I have talked a lot with some SAP Mentors and SIT organizers, especially Raquel Cunha, Bruno Lucattelli, Tobias Hoffman, Marssel Vilaça, Former Member, Karen Rodrigues, Marcelo Ramos , Jose Nunes, Fausto Motter and Thiago Pereira. Each of them gave me valuable advice, motivation or taught me lessons learned on how they did the work of organizing SIT events.
I have learned a lot, including the characteristics of the venue where the events took place, the importance of having volunteers controlling session times to help the speakers, preparing for last-time surprises and lots of other things.
When I decided to organize #sitRP, one of the first things I have done was to read and re-read the wiki page “How to create a SAP Inside Track – Step by Step Guide”. I know I did not do exactly 100% of what is said there, at my own risk, but it was mainly because I could not or did not know how to do a particular thing.
I have also done an extensive work of studying how people organized, communicated and executed SIT events in other places, from Brazil to the USA and Europe. I want to make special mentions to the event pages of #sitSP, #sitWDF, #sitFRA and #sitMUC, where I have got inspiration about how to deal with a lot of things and also on how to build the event page for #sitRP.
So I want to say a big thank you to the whole teams of organizers from #sitSP, #sitWDF, #sitFRA and #sitMUC because I have learned a lot of things while talking to you or watching your work.
– Who helped me (aka To who I am grateful)
Of course, I did not do it alone. As much as I could be willing to make it happen, it would have been impossible if I had not had amazing people supporting, guiding, helping and working with me.
So, don’t be afraid to ask for help, you will need it if you want to organize a SIT event.
I was the only organizer who actually lived in the city where #sitRP happened, so almost all of the logistics and local contacts, like stickers suppliers, venue and sponsor finding, coffee-break vendors, etc, were my responsibility. I also did a lot of work looking for and making contact with potential speakers and doing phone calls to people in companies that are SAP customers or partners and that would be interested in joining us as participants or volunteers.
I had lots of remote support from Raquel Cunha, Marssel Vilaça and Fausto Motter who shared ideas and guidance based on their experience organizing other SIT events. Marssel has done a terrific job or producing nice graphics for the event promotion and he partnered with me on making the sun pictured as the main part of the #sitRP logo because the sun is the one constant thing in the city all year long. They also helped me to make the event known using their established and popular social media accounts on both Twitter and LinkedIn. Raquel and Fausto came to Ribeirão Preto (a 315 KM road ride from Sao Paulo) and helped me a lot with various tasks to make everything run without problems on the event day.
For the Personas Day event, I had the amazing partnership with Cristiano (Cris) Hansen, who co-designed and co-delivered the event with me (after taking two planes just to arrive in the city). For this event, we also had the support from Peter Spielvogel, Tamas Hoznek and the whole SAP Screen Personas team from SAP Labs Palo Alto.
Obviously, all the speakers and volunteers had kindly chosen to volunteer their effort and time to make the event happen. We had sixteen amazing speakers and five great and hard-working volunteers. You can see all of them here on the event page: https://blogs.sap.com/2018/02/02/sap-inside-track-ribeirao-preto-2018-sitrp/
– The value of PX, SX, OX, and VX
With that in mind, I have done my best to make #sitRP a nice experience, both before and during the event day, for everybody. And I have learned that a good experience means different things to each one of these roles.
First of all, I have done my best effort, supported by our sponsors from Avannt by Cast Group, to find a good venue to host the event. It was not easy because we found the “perfect place” just four days before the event. Because of that, I had made a personal effort to communicate with every and each one of the 160 registered participants and tell them that we had this last minute venue change, most by email but I also did lots of phone calls to make sure everyone had the news.
Overall I knew this last minute unexpected work was worthy because we would have more space, more comfort and better amenities like free parking space and ease to have lunch or dinner for all the participants, speakers, organizers and volunteers. After the event, we had lots of great feedback around that, everybody liked and now I know we did the right thing.
I have also talked by phone with each speaker and did my best to make they know what a SIT event is about because many of them had not been in one before. So I did communicate the “spirit of community, knowledge and experience sharing, and personal networking” that, in my point-of-view, are the true values of any SIT event. I really wanted them to know that they were about to have an opportunity and a responsibility to share their valuable knowledge and experiences with lots of people who would be eager for learning from them.
Many speakers came from distant cities, like Sao Paulo (315 km away) São Leopoldo (1430 km) and Rio de Janeiro (715 km) and we had volunteers helping them to get comfortable with the venue and also with controlling their speaking time, since we had a tight schedule with sixteen speakers throughout the day.
For participants we have done our best effort to offer a comfortable venue, with coffee breaks, some gifts (stickers and mouse pads with the #sitRP logo, by our kind sponsor) and we have seen some of them happily sharing photos of it in their personal social media accounts, so we think they were enjoying the day.
For organizers, I think we have the most room for improvement. I am saying that because of my own personal experience since I didn’t have time to attend to a single one of the other fifteen sessions (I was the 16th speaker myself). I had spent all the day checking if everything was running OK for everybody, taking photos, talking to the volunteers and speakers to make sure everything was right, so I had the feeling of not having the opportunity to learn from the wonderful speakers with interesting topics such as S/4HANA Cloud, SCP, AI, Blockchain, HXE and lots of other interesting stuff.
Finally, I’ve been thinking about the #VX or volunteer experience. Surely the organizers and speakers are also volunteers in every SIT event, but we had an immense help from the five people who volunteered to help us with various tasks before and on the event day. For them, I saw it was particularly important the sense of being contributing to the Community and I think the best I could do was to recognize their effort and made them known as volunteers in the event page. I will work to make it even better for future SIT events.
It was a sunny day in Ribeirão Preto and we had more than a hundred people in those various roles who have chosen to not be with their families on that Saturday, but instead to share their knowledge, experience, and expertise with each other, even traveling for a couple of hours just to get to the city. So I think everyone deserves the best possible experience and I want to say a huge THANK YOU to all of you!
Take a look at this photo where we have almost all the speakers with me and Raquel. I missed Robson Rocha and I think he was the only one who was not in the room when I called up the speakers for this one:
– Do your best to bring diversity
I think that everybody has to support diversity as much as it is possible. As a SIT organizer, I think it means inviting and making possible to as many different demographics as possible to lead and take part of this community-driven event. SAP is recognized by its own corporate focus on diversity and we can see that SAP Mentors are also working on enabling and promoting diversity and inclusion as you can read in this blog post from Jason Cao.
If you look at the speakers in this event you probably will think that things could be better when it comes to diversity, and I definitely agree. I will tell you some things I have made that were successful and what were not.
First, I have done my best effort to focus on the local SAP community because we did not have a SIT event in this city before, so I wanted to motivate people to join as speakers, participants, and volunteers. We had 160 registered people and 100 actually came to the event, meaning 62,50%.
Initially, we had four women submitting session proposals, meaning 25% of the speakers. Unfortunately, as the time passed, three of those four women canceled their submissions because of personal or professional reasons. So we had just one last session, amongst sixteen, to be presented by a woman. It is not good and I, as someone married to a successful woman, definitely wanted to see more women because I know there are many of them doing great work in the SAP Community.
I had even tried to make happen a special session called “Women in Tech” when we still had four women amongst the speakers but, also, unfortunately, we did not have enough people and time to make it happen after three of them had opted out.
Fortunately, we had Raquel Cunha, a recognized SAP Mentor in Brazil, working with me as co-organizer and doing a terrific job on the event day to make everything work.
Another way of including people was to welcome many of them to a SIT event for the first time. As I could see from the registration forms, 88% of all actual attendees had never been in a SIT event before and it is great news for the SAP Community! We had some speakers that had never been in a SIT event before too. Now I will do everything I can to follow-up with more opportunities for people to get together, share and expand this sense of community.
Thank you for your interest so far. If you want to read part 2, please click here.