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Personal Insights

Abdel Dadouche — Member of the Month, August 2019

Every January, an SAP employee becomes Member of the Month. Picking that annual recipient is such a tough decision for me to make — because I know so many colleagues who deserve the recognition, and I can only choose one every year for the Member of the Month honor.

Of course, if I happen to know a deserving candidate who is leaving SAP…well, that’s not exactly a loophole, but it does allow me to add a worthy peer to our Hall of Fame — especially if the “former” colleague’s employment status doesn’t slow down his contributions.

Such is the case with August’s Member of the Month, Abdel Dadouche, who, within the course of the last few weeks, wrote of new beginnings, created a new account, and earned the Solver badge for answering questions.

I’ve known Abdel for years — he’s a “Rock Star Blogger,” a frequent speaker at industry events, and a regular guest on SAP CodeTalk (here’s one appearance of many) — but it wasn’t until late June that I actually had a chance to work side by side with him at a show (QCon in NYC). (I was also fortunate to join colleagues Lucia Subatin and Josh Bentley at that event.)

 


Your humble narrator (left) with Abdel Dadouche and Lucia Subatin — out after QCon

 

Seeing Abdel in action — as he spoke to attendees, some of whom had stopped by our booth just to compliment his session at the show — gave me an even deeper appreciation of how much he meant to the community (which extends far beyond this site…to the various get-togethers where developers meet to share knowledge and make connections). So while I’m sorry to lose Abdel as a co-worker, I’m happy that he remains a valuable member of the SAP Community family. And I’m happier still to welcome him to our Hall of Fame.

Congratulations, Abdel!

Thank you, Jerry, and the SAP Community. I feel really honored to be nominated as Member of the Month.

At this point of the interview, I normally ask people about their work history — but you covered all of that fairly thoroughly in your “The end of a journey is always the beginning of a new one…” blog post, and I link to that in the introduction, so I won’t ask you to rehash your CV. Instead, let’s talk a bit about your education. In that blog post, you mention getting your computer science degree in 1996. Where did you study?

I studied at the University Paris XIII nearby where my parents are still living, not so far away from Paris, France — and for those who are soccer fans, it’s 10 minutes away from Stade de France, where France won the World Cup in 1998.

When you mention France winning the World Cup, I get this sense of déjà vu for some reason. Anyway, why did you decide to study computer science?

It will sound a bit rubbish as a reason, but I’ll be honest: Studying computer science was the easiest way for me to have my parents to allow me to buy my first computer. And to get the money, I had to work at the local farmers’ market on the weekends. In the end, my professors from University Paris XIII transferred their passion and helped me to learn how to learn new things.

When we were at QCon, you spoke about machine learning, and in your blog post, you explained how you ended up involved with that technology. Is there anything in particular about machine learning that you find appealing?

At first, for me, machine learning was simply science fiction — and I love sci-fi! Imagine if I was telling you that by using a bunch of data, you can predict the future! What else could you say but “I want to understand how it works”? And the best is that the technology keeps evolving and improving in many ways — like the type of data you can use or the use cases you can apply it to. Don’t forget that the best machine learning you use is the one you don’t see!

What I really enjoy the most is when I start explaining what ML is and how or where it can be applied to a non-practitioner, and then you see that look or “click” in their eyes meaning “I got it!” I won’t pretend I understand it all — I still don’t hold a PhD — and I feel I don’t practice enough anyway, but that first step is for me the most important one for most developers to get started, teased, and sometimes addicted.

Do you plan to continue to focus on machine learning? Any plans to expand into other areas?

Machine learning will remain one of my sweet spots, but I’m also a coder and a “try it” kind of guy so I’ll also keep on growing my expertise around SAP HANA and SAP Cloud Platform development…XS Advanced and Cloud Application Programming Model, for example. I’m also planning on contributing to the open source community. I have used many OSS libraries in past. It’s now time to give back.

 


Abdel has attended eight SAP TechEd conferences — and he plans to present at more.

 

In “The end of a journey is always the beginning of a new one…,” you share some impressive numbers. You’ve been to dozens of events and spoken to thousands of attendees, but you’ve also reached people through forty blog posts published in SAP Community. Do you remember the topic of your first post and what motivated you to write?

My first posts were around SAP Predictive Analytics, as I was part of the Center of Expertise…CoE…at that time.

The main reason I posted the first time was because I was asked multiple times the same question. So, instead of sending the same response again and again, I decided that publishing the answer online would be beneficial to a larger audience, including people that are sometimes too shy to ask, just like I used to be in the past.

In addition to writing, you answer questions. In fact, as I noted in my introduction, you earned the Solver badge a few weeks after creating your new account. The first time you ever responded to a question in SAP Community…did you have to overcome any nerves?

Oh, yeah! I used to read the question twenty times to make sure I wasn’t missing anything about the underlying request. So, now, if something is not clear, I always ask for clarification or I provide my understanding of the issue with my own words. I think it’s important to let the requester know when we are missing details, when something is not clear, or if the question was already answered, so that the requester will improve next time.

The reason I asked about your blogging and answering — I find that so many new members are a little shy about contributing. Any advice to anyone who is looking to get started with blogging?

I use blogging to share knowledge about things that are not obvious, tricks I learned while solving issues, or to share some personal experience. I always try to put myself in the reader’s shoes, and ask who will be interested by this content (after checking it doesn’t already exist), why would they be interested, and how to best deliver it — such as in a single blog, a series, with links to other content, with some code, et cetera.

One important factor for successful writing is the overall content formatting. To drag attention, try to use a catchy title, use a picture after the first paragraph, add a call to action at the end, and select your tags wisely. And off course, make sure you check the preview before hitting publish as the content formatting is really key: use paragraphs, headers, bullets and numbers, separators, bold and italics to help the reading experience.

Last but not least, just be yourself when you are writing!

Great advice. How about suggestions for participating in Q&A?

Before asking your question, make sure to check if it wasn’t asked and answered before. It may sound obvious, but lot of people tend to forget about that. And if you found your answer, make sure to like or upvote the question or answer. It’s a token of appreciation to the contributor or requester.

If you can’t find your answer, just like with blogging, put yourself in the shoes of the person helping you and don’t be scared to provide details about the context, steps to reproduce, things you have tried or Q&A entries you have checked, et cetera. All these details will help others provide a prompt answer.

But don’t think your job is done here. You’ll also need to be reactive if someone asks for clarification and acknowledge if it helped or not! Unfortunately, there are still questions submitted using incorrect tags, not enough context or details, and no response to clarification request, which at the end reduces the chance to get them answered and sometimes even discourages contributors. So, as part of the community, we all need to raise the bar and understand that we are all here to help or get help from each other and this is multi-directional.

And I assume we’ll see more contributions from you moving forward too?

Definitely. I’m following multiple tags and I check my Inbox on a regular basis for new Q&A entries. (I just wish the Inbox had some more filtering and management features.) I’ll also keep investigating the machine-learning features provided by SAP HANA and start publishing some new content and code on the SAP Community and my personal GitHub.

 


Abdel at Bryce Canyon with his wife. As the parents of a sixteen month old, they don’t have any trips abroad coming up — by they hope to tour a U.S. coast next year.

 

Not that I’m pressuring you to do more work! If anything, with a change in career, I’m wondering if you might take some time to travel a little before focusing on freelancing?

You know Paris is the most beautiful city in the world — despite the recent loss of Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral — so any time I get there for leisure it’s like traveling in time, and especially in August when all the locals are gone! But I’m more a countryside guy and enjoy the quietness. So, we will enjoy some family time off at the beginning of August in Vichy. which is known for its natural sparkling water sources, its spas, and nice cheeses!

Traveling abroad is not in the plan yet, as our little boy is only sixteen months old, but we will most likely be traveling next year with maybe a tour on one of the U.S. coasts.

Speaking of freelancing…I’m sure your new consulting work will keep you busy. But when you aren’t working, what do you like to do? Any hobbies or favorite leisure activities?

Before being a dad, I use to have a lot of improvement activities over the weekends. I used to visit our local version of the Home Depot store. I actually brought back some tools from the New York Home Depot last June. So, I’m planning on resuming that along with reading books waiting on my nightstand and start doing some exercise again. (I used to play basketball if you can believe that.)

And with that…I’d like to say one last thing: It was a true pleasure working with you, Abdel, and I wish you all the best in this next stage of your career. Congratulations once again on becoming Member of the Month for August 2019. I look forward to seeing you still in the SAP Community — and at related events!

It was my pleasure to work with you, Jerry, and I’m sure we will meet again soon! SAP TechEd is just around the corner and I have submitted some sessions and completed the tutorial mission too.

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