Clearly, if you want a career in SAP, you should begin with knowledge about products, how they are used and the systems that make them work. If I’ve to work through the most important things that I learned with my SAP career, it was to be: Disruptive, customer centric and be digital.
I realized that software and systems were just a part of a picture – the other half was consultants like us! So, I thought I should pen down my thoughts on building a SAP career and share some advice that you as a SAP beginner might find helpful.
And it isn’t just for people who work for large organizations, it can also help people that are into smaller SAP practices or plan to go full time on a contract/freelance setup.
Learning is never-ending in SAP. There are a variety of SAP learning hubs available. Oh, and let’s not forget about being an end-user for all those systems, applications and products. In a SAP career, you need not only to know how the systems function but you also need to be able to use them. So, that’s our first thing to go through.
Your understanding of Product is everything! That makes or breaks your career as a SAP practitioner. I see new consultants so detached from what they are doing – more often than not completely focused on the system side of things. It really helps open a whole new world if a practitioner equally values product level understanding as well.
It certainly helped me. If we take a look at even the simplest process like purchase of an apple at the supermarket, there’s just so much that goes around that impacts an end consumer. It was eye opening to see how products move assisted by data systems. Warehouse inventories, payroll accounting, transit receipts, bills of lading, customer receipts and much, much more require systems to track them. Consumers have become spoiled by simple things like package tracking, something that was not readily done twenty years. To work effectively with these systems, you need to understand databases, how they work, the functions they perform and how information gets into them in the first place.
Product knowledge truly makes a valuable SAP practitioner.
Agent of Change: Technology and Communication skills
If you are at all familiar with the history of computers in general, and the Internet in particular, you know that when it comes to technology, change is almost a minute-to-minute event. Of course, you will need to keep up with those changes so that you can be prepared for a disruptive technology that could change the needs and functions of your system.
But that won’t be your biggest stock in trade. You will need excellent communication and interpersonal skills to be able to politely and persuasively coax employers or clients into investing in the changes that they need for their daily operations. Keeping your customers first, providing a customer-centric environment, needs to happen seamlessly. Even though the change you are introducing might be considered “disruptive technology” it should not disturb the even flow of business operations.
You will need to get the staff on your side. Being an agent of change doesn’t mean being a lone wolf who is forcing your co-workers to use the cool, new stuff you’ve discovered. It means selling your team on the advantages of using the new way of doing things. If you do your job right, they will quickly wonder why they weren’t always using your system. They might even think they thought of it themselves. Being a team player is more than just a buzzword for any SAP practitioner – it is a real deal!
SAP career is fascinating and frequently time-consuming. It is easy to get lost in the intricacies of planning hardware, software and tutorial aids to the point that suddenly you realize that it is long past time to clock out and go home. Motivational speaker Pam Selle did a comedic routine about this syndrome. Her message was to work intensely while you are at work, but at the end of the day to go home and “get a life”. Maintaining a healthy work life balance should be one of your top goal as a SAP practitioner.
In SAP, you are a vital asset. You are the only person who can really pay attention to taking care of you. If you are working with a small company, you might be the only person who fully understands the processes from start to finish. Therefore, you have an obligation to avoid over-working, falling sick or getting so wound up in what you do that you forget to eat, talk to friends or family or just relax for a little while.
A little advice, but helps long way keeping your sanity and motivation in place.
Aim to share and teach to avoid “One bus accident” failures
You also have the responsibility to train others to understand at least their part of the process. That goes back to those interpersonal skills that are so important. You will need to be a teacher and a communicator so that your company isn’t subjected to the “one bus accident” failure. A One Bus accident operation is where a pivotal worker fails to sufficiently document his or her activities making replication difficult. That might seem like job security. It really is not. It simply means that if you become ill or otherwise incapacitated, the person who must pick up the reins must do a lot of unnecessary checking and tracing of systems.
Enhance Your Skills
You can enhance your abilities by cross-training with skills outside your specialty. This means that when an accountant talks to you about how debits and credits need to behave, you will be able to help set up the necessary software functions to make them work correctly. Or when a teacher or school administrator discusses having one software package to track all of a student’s needs, you will have some idea of how to connect the departments. You don’t have to know everything, but learning a little about the various business types with which you work will enhance your value.
Too broad and too thin is something people are afraid of becoming when they typically think of learning things that they don’t see any direct correlation with. But, you should know that our industry highly values people who learn for fun and don’t live in a sandbox of their own. Be passionate about enhancing your skills and pick up things that you think you would want to leverage in future.
Find the right managers to work with
When I started my career in SAP, I started working with what I would say was an ideal manager. She loved her team, empowered us to think and act and didn’t micromanage at all. For me, SAP was my love at first sight. But then, I moved across the country and started working for a new company. I hated every bit of my work there, despite being good at what I did.
I eventually decided to leave. And, here’s the bit for you “newcomer” to takeaway – People don’t leave their jobs, they leave their managers. I did too!
I picked up another job after careful consideration and got exactly the team and manager I wanted. Things were much better again. So, if you feel that SAP isn’t good, check if it is because of your workplace. If it is, I would start looking at job boards, asking on forums and do whatever it takes for you to get the right career path. build a perfect resume with a cover letter. Get to the right place at all costs and never look back!
If you want to freelance, sign on with an agency that works with both companies and individuals looking for consultants to hire, as well as people who are looking for work.
Here’s a blog post that I read a year ago (has been my bookmark ever since) on what type of manager I really want to work with. As a practitioner, I aspire to the guy who fits into Keavy’s advice.
Develop a Reputation
Finding those first jobs might be difficult, but work that is well-done, completed, and turned in on time will build your reputation.
A career in SAP is a lot more than knowing how to set up the hardware, troubleshoot and repair networks or write excellent code. To succeed you need to be an excellent communicator capable of understanding your client’s needs. It takes good social skills, judgment of the market and steady perseverance.
I hope my thoughts would contribute to your successful SAP future. Let me know about your thoughts and opinions in comment as well. Would love to hear from other experienced practitioners on what they feel a SAP newcomer should focus on as well!