Bärbel Winkler — Member of the Month, May 2018
Over the years, the Member of the Month recognition has gone to people for quality and quantity of output. Whether it’s writing blogs, answering questions, or both, the typical Member of the Month has the numbers and the followers to warrant attention.
But numbers alone don’t tell a story — and aren’t always the best measurement of value. Consider new (or newly active) members who have an immediate impact with their contributions, quickly showing that they’re worth watching (and following). Why not give the nod to an up-and-comer who demonstrates a great deal of promise?
Such is the case with May’s Member of the Month, Bärbel Winkler. She’s published six blog posts (as of this writing) — a figure that in and of itself isn’t impressive. What is impressive, however, is the buzz she managed to create with those contributions — all of which collectively have received thousands of views. (Heck, I wish I could get that kind of traffic consistently.) As one prominent member and SAP Mentor said of Bärbel: “She is a good writer and I like that she is not afraid to express her opinion.”
I couldn’t agree more. And I hope that there are many more blogs to come from Bärbel.
I certainly plan to encourage her to keep writing when I interview her.
Oh, which reminds me…
So nice to talk to you, Bärbel. Congratulations!
Thanks, Jerry, and all I can say is “Wow, what an honor” – especially for a fairly new active contributor to the SAP Community.
According to your profile, you work for Alfred Kärcher GmbH & Co. KG in Winnenden, Germany. Could you tell me about what you do there?
I do all kinds of things.
As a member of our small in-house programming team in Germany I’m for example coordinating incoming development requests, keeping track of who is tackling what, doing some coding myself, keeping our development guidelines current, trying – with mixed results! – to get developers to actually read and adhere to them.
I’m also regularly involved with technical projects, like the Unicode conversion we did a couple of years ago, or the recent upgrade to NW 7.50 with EHP8 and HANA-DB.
In addition, I work a lot with Atlassian tools like Confluence for various documentation purposes and Jira for tracking above-mentioned development requests. I’m in the happy position that I can — and to a fairly wide degree — configure these collaborative tools for our needs on my own. Building a Jira workflow may be quite far removed from writing ABAP programs but it certainly adds to the diverse nature of my job — something I really like and enjoy.
Bärbel at one of the stops of her climate-themed guided tour through the “Wilhelma”, the zoological and botanical garden in Stuttgart. “I’ve always been interested in environmental topics,” she says.
So how did you become an employee at Alfred Kärcher? Would you mind telling me a little bit about your career?
Not at all!
In June 2010, my then boss at Carestream Health Germany — which started life as the carved-out medical and dental business of Eastman Kodak Company in 2007, where I had worked until then — let me know that the “powers that be” in Carestream’s U.S. headquarters had decided that my position in IT would no longer be needed. By then, I had worked for Kodak and Carestream for about twenty-seven years, so I got a very good severance package and period out of that and had about seven months to look for a new job while still getting my salary. Talk about rather relaxed job hunting!
Fairly early in my search I noticed an open position in Kärcher’s IT department, which overlapped by about 80 to 90 percent with what I had been doing for the previous years: some programming, looking after the guidelines, quality assurance, troubleshooting, documentation, and so on and so forth. The fit was almost too good to be true so I sent off my application. I also applied for some other jobs but my hope was that I’d end up at Kärcher.
There were several reasons for that: For one, Kärcher’s headquarters are just an easy thirty-minute commute via public transport away from where I live in Fellbach near Stuttgart in southern Germany. But the even-more compelling reason was that this privately owned company sees corporate responsibility for culture, nature, and society as an important pillar of what they do.
Needless to say, I was very happy when I learned just before Christmas 2010 that I’d be starting work at Kärcher in March 2011!
Your profile description notes that you’ve been involved with ABAP for nearly twenty years. What got you interested in ABAP? Was that always your area of expertise?
Well, in early 2000 I had to get interested in ABAP after about fifteen years working on IBM mainframes with PL/1! A few years earlier Kodak had started to move all its scattered IT systems away from local and regional solutions to a global SAP R/3 system and that switch was in the pipe for Germany later in 2000.
Together with a few other colleagues from Germany and the U.K.. I was sent to Walldorf for the four- week crash course about the ABAP workbench, including the certification exam at the end for SAP 3.1 (or however it was called then!). Lucky enough for me, ABAP is not all that different a language from PL/1 so the switch was quite painless. The real learning obviously happened after this initial training and on the job as a member of our then European ABAP development team for Kodak.
A bit later, the IT organization changed to a global one with different module teams and I ended up looking mostly after FI/CO programs. When Kodak decided to have more and more ABAP development work done off-shore in India, my role started to change from active programming to looking after the guidelines and quality assurance type work.
Bärbel is heavily involved with the Skeptical Science website. Here, the site’s team receives the U.S. National Center for Science Education Friend of the Planet Award 2016.
We’ve established that you’re an ABAP expert, and not surprisingly, your blog posts focus on that topic. Yet, as previously noted, you’ve been working on ABAP for almost twenty years, and you’ve been a community member for six. So what inspired you to start blogging now?
Not sure about “ABAP expert,” Jerry! I see myself as an “ABAPosaurus” still preferring procedural programs and having a hard time wrapping my head around all things ABAP OO and having no clue about all the new stuff like Fiori and whatnot. I therefore mostly have a lot more questions than answers swirling around in my head.
Oh, and I’ve actually been a community member for more than the currently shown six years but that was with my earlier Kodak/Carestream login to which I lost access when I left. But even then, I was more asking than answering questions.
To answer your question about why I started blogging this year: After posting some questions in the forum and getting very valuable and sometimes very quick and high-quality responses, I somehow felt the need to give something back to the community. If everybody just asked questions but if nobody was willing to provide answers, we’d reach a standstill fairly quickly. In addition, I noticed that it actually helps me to learn about a topic like ABAP OO — something I’ve been grappling with for several years — if I try to summarize my thoughts, gripes, and “feelings” and get them out there. I was however quite surprised at the many responses and lots of feedback my post about that garnered. Seems as if I poked a bit of a hornets’ nest there and I’m really thankful for the many helpful replies which came out of that and other discussions. Thanks go to Mike Pokraka, Jacques Nomssi, Matthew Billingham, Jelena Perfiljeva, Paul Hardy, James E. McDonough, and Michelle Crapo for those replies and subsequent discussions as well as to Iftah Peretz for encouraging me to blog. I’m sure I missed some other names, so if I forgot you, I apologize!
Have you always enjoyed writing?
If you mean “writing” as in participating in online discussions and writing blog posts, then the answer is yes. Although most of that hasn’t really happened in work-related activities but in what I do in my spare time — talking about and trying to tackle human-caused climate change.
In addition to blog posts, you’ve asked questions, answered them, and participated in Coffee Corner. Not to put you on the spot, but can we expect more activity in these other areas of the community?
Yes, that’s the plan. I’ve tried to at least skim a few open and ABAP-related questions as time allows but more often than not, I either don’t have a response or somebody already provided an answer. On the other hand, I for example still have to revisit my question about how to get developers to adhere to guidelines and to turn some of that discussion and what came off of it into blog posts.
“People say that Germans don’t have any humor”? Bärbel and her husband enjoy traveling — and using stand-ins for their photos. Here their doubles enjoy the view down the Masca Gorge.
OK, I think I’ve pestered you with enough work questions. Let’s turn the conversation to something fun…uh…not that ABAP isn’t fun. I guess what I’m trying to ask is…how do you like to spend your free time? Earlier you had mentioned “human-caused climate change.”
Indeed, ABAP can be fun! But it’s obviously not everything and there’s one topic which I spend a lot of my spare time on: human-caused climate change.
I’ve always been interested in environmental topics, having been a member of organizations like Greenpeace and WWF since I was at school, now helping with a local conservation group as well as being a volunteer docent at the zoological and botanical garden “Wilhelma” in Stuttgart. But after watching Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2007, I started learning more and more about climate change and got ever more worried about what it could lead to if kept unchecked. So, in order to turn these worries into something productive, I started to help with a website called Skeptical Science in early 2010 where I at first translated selected content into German. The goal of this international website is to debunk misinformation about human-caused climate change with factual information taken from the peer-reviewed literature.
Over time I got involved in the day-to-day running of the website, organizing stuff in the background, writing a blog post every now and then, and even becoming a co-author on a few and quite high-profile published papers about the scientific consensus about human-caused global warming. The highlights of that being when Barack Obama tweeted about our study in May 2013 after it had been published and John Oliver making it the focal point in one of his “Last Week Tonight” sketches a year later. Admittedly, experiences quite hard to beat with anything SAP or ABAP!
Both my husband and I like to travel and take pictures — although he beats me by at least three to one when counting the numbers of pictures taken during a trip. And even though we like taking pictures, we like them best if we are not in them — which is why we sometimes take some stand-in doubles with us and then take pictures of them in front of or enjoying the scenery instead. And yes, we do get some odd stares from some people when we position our doubles just right on some stones, benches, or whatever else is available — but most of the time people just laugh and perhaps even ask if they can take a picture as well! The best response we had thus far was on Tenerife when a British couple noticed what we did, asked about it, and then said something along the lines of “and people say that Germans don’t have any humor!”
I sometimes manage to combine traveling with my interest in climate change, like recently when my husband and I spent a week in Vienna, doing some touristy stuff together like riding the double-decker bus around town or visiting the zoo. While he then spent the week walking around Vienna in search of photo-ops, I went to the General Assembly of the European Geoscience Union to join several talks and giving a short presentation about tackling misinformation. Obviously, not everybody’s idea of a vacation but as far as I’m concerned, time well spent and an interesting change from dealing with ABAP.
Bärbel sometimes combines tourist traveling with her interest in climate change — such as when she presented at the General Assembly of the European Geoscience Union in Vienna.
One last thing — and it’s not a question. It’s a request. Please keep on blogging. The community needs more great (and regular) writers like you.
Don’t make me blush, Jerry! But, as mentioned earlier, I already at least have some rough ideas of what to blog about, so I’ll just have to find – or better make! – the time to write them.
Well, I don’t normally end my interviews with a request, but I suppose there’s a first time for everything, such as honoring a Member of the Month at the beginning of her community career…relatively speaking, of course. Congrats again and we look forward to seeing your byline more in SAP Community!