After several months of conducting Spotlight Interviews as podcasts, I’m back to my simpler roots — sharing this conversation with SAP Champion Andreas Gautsch as a blog post. I’m glad because chatting with Andreas gave me a chance to dust off the ol’ typing skills and actually publish some content via the SAP Community blogging tool again.
At this point in the introduction, I usually explain that the Spotlight Interview series celebrates our SAP Champions: community members who serve as role models through their contributions, positive demeanors, and helpful attitudes. (Which I guess I just did, so please feel free to go back and read the previous sentence.) Then I’d take a moment or two to tell you about the interview subject, but chances are, in this case, you don’t need me to — as Andreas is plenty popular. His posts and sessions about ABAP draw big traffic.
Not good enough? Then how about some photographic evidence. Check out the standing-room-only crowd gathered for the “Extending ABAP in Eclipse” unconference session led by Andreas and Łukasz Pęgiel (another SAP Champion) at SAP TechEd Barcelona in 2019. (Remember when we actually gathered like this? Good times…good times…)
As you can see, Andreas doesn’t need me to talk him up. When he speaks, people listen. When he writes, people read. And when he creates plugins (see here, for example)…well…we’ll get to that in a little bit.
Good afternoon, Andreas. It’s really nice to be talking to you again.
Hi, Jerry. Thanks for the invitation. The pleasure is on my side.
Before we cover the cool stuff you’re doing for the community, I’d like to ask about your career. According to your profile, you’re a “software engineer from Austria working with ABAP and also .NET and Java”…amongst other things. How did you become an expert in these areas?
Well, I am not sure if I am an expert in all these areas, but what I like to do is combine the strengths of these different technologies. .NET was well established in my current company before we introduced SAP, thus I started to combine the existing .NET stack with the newly introduced ABAP system years ago, and I am still excited about the possibilities of this combination.
Java is something I did a lot in my previous job, and actually I only use it from time to time in my spare time to create extensions for some of SAP’s development tools, which are written in this language.
Also, according to your profile, you’re fluent in Spanish, English, and German — and you’ve told me you have some basic skills in Italian — plus you’re based in Lienz. Are you from Austria originally? How did you come to pick up so many languages?
I am originally from Austria. I grew up on a farm in a small village with about 350 residents.
Speaking about the languages, I am a German native speaker. English is something I picked up during school. Back then, the second language I learned was Italian. During my studies, I passed one year in Andalusia in Spain.
I tried also to learn Czech, but that’s really a difficult language, and I have nearly no skills in this language anymore. But my Czech teacher gave me one very insightful piece of advice: Learning a new language or getting to know a new culture adds a new characteristic to your personality.
What a fantastic philosophy. Probably one I should consider more myself. To continue that thought though…you’re from Austria and you still live in Austria, but you mentioned spending a year in Spain. I’d love to know more about your travels throughout life, education, and career.
I studied Telematics at the Technical University in Graz, a mid-sized city in Austria. Next to Graz, I also started my first job in the warehouse-automation area, which was very travel-intensive. But young as I was back then, that was perfect for me. I made projects in Mexico, Colombia, USA, Brazil, and of course some European countries. Especially the on-site months in Colombia and Mexico with Spanish-speaking customers were an incredible experience for me.
After a few years, I turned back to Graz, where I started at a technical consulting company which was focused on building large software applications by focusing on code quality.
Since 2015, I have been living with my wife and two little girls in Osttirol, Lienz, working at an SAP customer.
I believe you joined the SAP Community in 2013. What prompted you to sign up?
Before my actual job that I started in 2015, I was not mainly occupied with SAP products, but there was in literally every project an SAP part I had to take care about. This made me more and more curious, and I signed up in the SAP community. The most informative component back then was the topic pages of the SCN area. I was not very active in the first years, but when I got the chance to dive into the SAP area with my current job, I got more and more active, especially in the Q&A area, where I got a lot of valuable help for my ABAP projects.
In terms of community activity, you’ve done dozens of blogs over the years. Anything in particular you like about writing for SAP Community?
For me, blogging and doing presentations at SAP events are the two activities I like to do most within the SAP community. Preparing a blog or a speech forces me to dive deep into a topic and reflect about it. The feedback, suggestions, and ideas I get as comments on my blogs and presentations help me to get better. And of course it is satisfactory if you help other community members in their daily work.
While we’re on the subject of your presentations, you have spoken at several events, including SAP TechEd, SAP Inside Tracks, SAP Online Tracks, and SAP community calls. How did you get involved in presenting at conferences and online meetings? Is there anything about speaking that you find especially appealing?
One of the key moments for me was the invitation to the SAP TechEd in Barcelona in 2016. One thing I really like to do is to combine two useful tools or techniques into a new more powerful tool or technique. I think that was also the reason I got selected in 2016 as a community speaker.
This first TechEd was a very special experience for me. I passed a lot of time in the speakers area, enjoying to be able to sit next to people well known from SAP product videos and OpenSAP courses. I got also introduced to a lot of SAP Mentors I am still in contact with.
Joining SAP Inside Tracks was after a few years a way of also meeting friends. Unfortunately, currently it is only possible online in the form of the SAP Online Tracks.
In addition to sharing your knowledge via blogging and presenting, you’ve also shared plug-ins with the community. How did those plug-ins come about? What has been your goal in making them available?
Well, working in .NET and ABAP in parallel, I am missing some things in one area from the other. In the ABAP area, these missing features were especially automatically running unit tests and automatically formatting the ABAP source code – thus I simply created these features on my own.
All of my plugins do not relate to a specific business process or industrial area and are spare-time projects free to use.
By sharing them, I could improve them by getting suggestions and ideas. Also, others improved them, and beside helping others, these improvements also help me now in my daily work.
This valuable collaboration with people from all over the world is a special thing you only reach by joining open-source projects.
All of the activities that I mentioned — the writing and speaking and developing — show why you’re such a valuable SAP Champion: You give back to the community and then some. What went through your mind when you were invited to join the SAP Champions program?
First of all, I was very surprised but of course very proud. Being selected together with twenty other people as first members of a new SAP program is something I always will remember.
And what does being an SAP Champion mean to you?
Currently I think we are about fifty SAP Champions from all over the world, and every single one of them is unique. The job roles, the area of activities, and the personalities are very different, but one thing combines us — we are willing to share our knowledge and passion. Each Champion makes a unique contribution to enhance the SAP ecosystem, as it does every active member of the SAP community. It’s all about people.
SAP Champions serve as role models for the community, and your contributions span from the site and beyond — from blogging and presenting to developing and sharing ABAP plug-ins. So what advice would you give to members looking to make a difference for the SAP Community?
If you have a passion about something, share it. In rare cases, it will be a passion where you are the only one who cares about. In most cases, you will find people who care about the same things and that’s the first step to move forward together and possibly start something which makes a difference.
When you’re not working and contributing to the community, what do you like to do? Any hobbies or favorite activities that you participate in during your downtime?
I like enjoying the nature which is here in Lienz really impressive — the Dolomites. In summer, I am mountain biking. In winter, cross-country skiing.
But actually my wife and I use most of our spare time to make a home for us and our two children.
Thanks for taking the time to chat today, Andreas. I appreciate everything you do as an SAP Champion, and I’m sure community members appreciate everything you do for them!
Thanks to you, Jerry, for the interview and your continuous support to the SAP Champions and the entire SAP community.