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Community Spotlight: Tammy Powlas

Hard to believe that I took over the Member of the Month series in 2016. It’s been an interesting — and enlightening — number of years conducting dozens and dozens of interviews…and finding the very best to add to our Hall of Fame.

When I look for a Member of the Month, I’m trying to identify someone who hasn’t received recognition (or much recognition) before. To maintain a list of candidates, I scope community activity, badges and karma earned, input for the site and at events (either by speaking or perhaps proposing improvements to the community), generally positive attitudes on social media when it comes to community-related conversations, and so on.

So many factors play a role in the selection process, and given the criteria I use, each and every month I inevitably come across candidates who qualify for their contributions, yet ultimately aren’t eligible — because they’ve already enjoyed the spotlight. Maybe they’re a former Member of the Month or a Topic Leader (for those who remember those SCN badges) or an influencer (SAP Mentor, SAP Champion…past or present), and that’s why I can’t award them Member of the Month (because they’re already recognized and established). Still, every four weeks I find myself wishing I could salute these members again in some manner. Sure, I need new faces for Member of the Month, but don’t these long-time contributors deserve a reminder of how awesome they are too — and shouldn’t we remind ourselves how awesome they make the community?

Which got me thinking — maybe it’s time to open up the criteria a bit, so I’m spotlighting more than the newcomers.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

Don’t get me wrong — I still have a Member of the Month interview coming this month. But I also have this here interview and moving forward, it might make more sense to spotlight up-and-comers and veterans alike — so that you see both new and familiar faces in my interviews.

And speaking of familiar faces, in this spotlight, I’m talking to one of my favorite community members — and someone you probably already know: Tammy Powlas.

If you don’t know her, let this interview serve as an introduction to one of the most giving SAP Community members and SAP Mentors. And if you do know her, I hope this interview will give you a chance to get to know her better.

Tammy, thanks so much for taking the time to chat. And thanks for everything you do for the community. When I first started playing around with the idea of expanding into spotlight interviews, I wasn’t entirely sure how it might work out, but I did know that you had to be on the list of candidates. Congrats!

Thank you so much, Jerry. I feel very honored to be a part of this.

 


Tammy with Mark Finnern

 

For the Member of the Month interviews, I usually stick to the same type of format and never stray too far from the usual questions. But for this type of interview, I’d like to make it more informal — a bit more spontaneous. So, my first question, off the top of my head…looking back at your career and what brought you to this point…did you always know you wanted to work in technology?

No, I did not! I majored in Accounting in college, and my first few jobs I was an external auditor and then an internal auditor. I decided I didn’t like criticizing so much as an auditor and wanted to be more “helpful.” In my first technical position, I was a “Microcomputer Analyst.” From there I became a systems accountant and then moved to a company that was implementing SAP in the 1990s.

Would you have done anything differently? Or…let me rethink that — what career advice would you give to your younger self?

I don’t think I would have done anything differently, other than take two years of junior college instead of the one year I did. It’s less expensive and still a great education.

What brought you to SAP Community — or…was it SDN then? SCN?

In 2004 to 2006, we were one of the first “federal” customers to go live successfully on a NetWeaver release. We experienced issues and of course the community was a great source of knowledge. Also back then, I used a lot of “RIG” — SAP Regional Implementation Group, the true SAP rock stars –knowledge papers. I was a lurker.

What is your earliest memory of becoming part of SAP Community?

Consuming RIG technology papers on SAP Business Warehouse and reading up on Visual Composer.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned from being involved in the SAP Community?

I learn something new every single day on the community. The more you contribute, the more you learn. I always think that contributing is a noble cause.

What about from being an SAP Mentor?

I am so grateful for my experiences as an SAP Mentor. I have met so many wonderful people in the SAP Mentor program. I also never knew it would take me to faraway places such as Australia and South Africa.

I think I left a piece of my heart back in South Africa. The food was fantastic, the people were fantastic, and I felt like I was treated like family.

 


Tammy’s caption: “Meet the lovely Ntombi,
who was our hiking guide in South Africa.”

 

How did you become an SAP Mentor? And how would you describe what you’ve done in that role?

A fellow ASUG volunteer nominated me to become a Mentor almost ten years ago. Then at the time, Mark Finnern called me to tell me I became an SAP Mentor. I’ve been super-busy ever since. In addition to traveling to South Africa and Australia, I have been to Monterey, California, to attend the SAP University Alliance Summit. I keep in contact with some of those university professors. We used to give SAP classes on weekends. One year I was fortunate to be a DKOM Demo Jam judge with the great Steve Lucas (formerly of SAP). I also served on the SAP Mentor Advisory Board.

But it also allowed me to participate in other things such as BI4 Elite training, analyst meetings, and other things my previously shy self would be afraid of doing.

You mentioned that you’re shy, but I know you’re a frequent speaker. So is speaking something you’ve always been comfortable doing?

No, not at all, but I try to remind myself of something that actor Matthew Broderick recommended — rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, and make sure you enjoy rehearsing. It is a great experience to present, because I find I always learn more by presenting.

 


Tammy was a judge at a Data Viz-A-Thon at SAP TechEd Las Vegas.

 

Any tips for first-time speakers?

Matthew Broderick’s advice about rehearsing. But also take handwritten notes of what you are going to say. When I write things down, I find it easier to remember.

Any anecdotes about any presentations — something that went really well? Or maybe not so well?

I received perfect speaker scores on this session at SAP Insider — I think because I had demos interspersed with the presentation. I think this session went really well, but right after I had to run to the airport.

I don’t remember too many bad presentations, but a few times I was on a panel where one person dominated the conversation. I am the type of person who likes to learn and move on from bad experiences.

We’re having this chat in late February, and International Women’s Day is Sunday, March 8. There have been a lot of community-connected conversations recently on Twitter and on the Coffee Corner Radio podcast about women in tech. What are your thoughts about what unique perspectives women bring to developer roles, particularly when it comes to SAP?

For me, I think it all starts at home. I still remember coming home crying from eighth grade, telling my dad, “I can’t do Algebra,” and he simply would not put up with it. He was mad and said something like, “What are you talking about? Of course you can.” From my family, my father and brother were always supporting me, like they were my top fans. Having a supportive family helps and in the workplace, and with SAP, I have been fortunate to work with talented teams, both male and female.

Speaking about tech more generally, what are your thoughts about attracting and retaining women in tech positions, especially in leadership roles?

I’m back to family support and encouraging each other. I am reminded of when I first presented at SAP TechEd many moons ago, Susan Keohan (now an SAP Champion) and Thorsten Franz (SAP Mentor Alumnus) sitting in the front row, encouraging me on when I was presenting. I never thought this accountant would be technical enough to present at SAP TechEd.

What advice would you give to girls and women who want to pursue a career in tech?

I think learning the business side helps first, as I did, and then look at moving to tech, or a combination of the two. See what you like first.

What about advice for anyone new to SAP Community and looking to expand their career?

Contribute, contribute, contribute! The more you contribute, the more you learn. And search, search, search…

Again, contributing is a noble cause.

How can they use SAP Community to their advantage? How has it benefitted you? Sorry…I hope that’s not a loaded question, but I assume you’ve stuck around all these years because the community has helped you, even as you’ve done so much to help it?

I have used it to do archiving! A great blog by Paul Bakker showed me how to archive workflows, I told him I owed him a drink if I saw him in person. And early on with SAP and BusinessObjects, I learned a great deal from SAP Mentor Alumnus Ingo Hilgefort‘s blogs.

That makes me wonder — what do you like best about SAP Community?

I think it is a sense of community. I liked something that Craig S said [in a Coffee Corner conversation]. [Jerry’s note: I’m copying the quote here for convenience.]

Your reputation will grow naturally if you are here, and participate for the right reasons.

If your goal is to simply publish for your resume, go away. If it is to honestly share on an issue and provide information, please do.

If you really love what you do and want to share it, please do. If you are simply trying to justify raising your rate or get a raise, please go away.

If you want to get to know some of your fellow people here, please do. If you are only here to follow one or two influencers for career reasons, please go away.

Being honest, open, admitting you don’t know an answer or question, admitting that you gave an incorrect answer, or that someone gave a better answer all go a long way.

I’d much rather hear people say at my funeral “He was a great guy and good friend” instead of “He was really competent”.

I liked the fact I was able to post a Coffee Corner discussion and immediately obtain feedback for an SAP Community Call I did with Mynyna Chau.  If you want to see how I blog or answer questions, please watch the SAP Community Call replay.

What would you change about the SAP Community? Feel free to be honest. I can handle it.

I think for me, it feels disconnected between blogs and answers, even though everything is at community.sap.com.  Perhaps it is just me as that is how this community restarted a few years ago. However, Thomas Jung recently gave an ASUG webcast and showed some tips how to navigate SAP Community and I learned a few things.

While we’re on the subject of change…you’ve accomplished so much, but still…do you have any new dreams you’d like to share?

I would like to live up to what Craig S said above: “(s)he was a great guy and a great person.” I hope to leave being a good role model to my nieces and nephews, great-nieces and -nephews, and my nephew’s granddaughter.

The other year, I lived out my childhood dream by sitting in the Batmobile with Batman at Funko Headquarters in Everett, Washington. What more could anyone ask for?

 


“The other year, I lived out my childhood dream by sitting in the Batmobile with Batman at
Funko Headquarters in Everett, Washington. What more could anyone ask for?”

 

I feel like I’ve probably kept you long enough, and maybe it’s good to wrap up on a philosophical “never give up on your dreams” note. It’s always a pleasure talking to you, Tammy. I’m so appreciative for everything you do — for the SAP Community site, for our events, for the SAP Mentors program.

I want to thank the community family, starting with Marilyn Pratt and Jim Spath, who encouraged me initially, and Audrey Stevenson and Caroleigh Deneen for their sound guidance on community matters. Lastly, I always remember what Dennis Howlett says: something like you “blog for yourself” — so start contributing today!

25 Comments
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  • Nice! Great to see Tammy’s tireless contributions to the community recognized in this way. Thank you Tammy, for all you do to answer, encourage and inform. You are a role model to many. Can’t wait to read your next spotlight installment Jerry.

  • Hi Tammy,

    that was a great read. It’s good to see that the spotlight have found you. You know.. you are one of the very first persons who encouraged me to start sharing my thoughts. Thank you.

    ~Florian

    Hope to find again more time on that when my toddlers are a little older 🙂

    • Thank you, Kamlesh. And don’t just judge her by the profile (which is impressive enough). She does so much at events, on calls, as a Mentor, etc.

      –Jerry

      • Hi Jerry,

        In future, if I get chance then I would definitely like to visit such events. She is an inspiration for so many SAP learners like me.

        Though I had received an invitation(ticket) to attend SAP Inside Track in Brasil but it is far from India and flight fare is quite expensive, hence, couldn’t attend.

        Regards

        Kamlesh

  • Dear SAP Community,

    If you are not familiar with the fabulous writing of Jerry Janda or the incredible contributions from Tammy Powlas , you should immediately follow these two, and spend the rest of the week month

    catching up with them.

    Sincerely,

    Sue

  • Great read to learn more about Tammy!

    And I’m so blown away to see a reference to something I wrote by someone like Tammy Powlas.

    It really does show you never know how your contributions might be seen and who is reading them.

    Thank you both!

    Craig

  • Thanks for highlighting the massive community contributions of Tammy Powlas! I don’t think there’s anyone who has contributed and facilitated more learning in the SAP Community than Tammy, especially in the BI & Analytics space. I find myself on many weekly webcasts with Tammy moderating and answering questions in real time, and later find her notes here and on Twitter, usually with better and more complete contextual info than my own as a participant. I’ve told Tammy personally at TechEd, I don’t know how she does it… but she does it all, and does it very well. Tammy is the epitome of a great SAP community mentor. Sincere thanks and gratitude for all you do for the SAP community, Tammy!

  • As always, It was a great read, thanks Jerry Janda & Tammy Powlas for the spotlight interview. It’s great that the spotlight series has started with her !

    and It’s always good to know more about our community role models and their journey in this tech world, so keep them coming 🙂

    -Mahesh

  • LOVE THIS!  Tammy is a role model for all of us – it’s always such a pleasure to be involved in any activity with her!  You are a rock star, Tammy!!

  • Not sure I’ve ever mentioned it Tammy Powlas but one of my goto things is to read your notes after a call, even if I was the speaker I seem to learn something from your notes!

    And not sure I ever said thank you for our conversation on the walk way in Orlando at SAPPHIRE in 2018 when I had first stepped into my role for the SAP Community and SAP Mentors – it was that conversation that strengthened my resolve and helped me set things in motion confidently. So THANK YOU!

  • Nicely done Jerry Janda and great to recognise / appreciate the tireless efforts of those in the SAP Community that go way beyond their remit and Tammy Powlas is definitely one of them. Perfect timing Jerry with International Women’s Day coming up. 

    I really like the “I can’t do Algebra,” discussion. Having a daughter my wife and I always say “Of course you can” as well. No limits whatsoever!

    Great read, thanks Jerry and Tammy! 

  • Thanks for everything, Tammy. I have mentored a few SAP and ASUG volunteers over the years (still trying) and I would say you were never the Padawan learner but started in full Jedi mode. Stay well, friend.