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Author's profile photo Anne Kathrine Yojana Petteroe

SAP Champions Spotlight Interview: Bärbel Winkler

The SAP Champions Spotlight Interview Series highlights key strategic topics, such as emerging technologies, learning, and other topics, and provides insights from SAP Champions and SAP leaders on turning ideas into innovative approaches that impact people, process, and technology.

Where do we find the time to go beyond our professional jobs and contribute to the community?

For some, the best way is to find an activity outside of their day-to-day work that touches their interests or passions. With these contributions, momentum will start to build which can help support the community in a small (and sometimes even larger) way! For many, it is about making a difference one step at a time.

For Bärbel Winkler, SAP Champion and System Analyst at Alfred Kärcher SE & Co. KG, contributing insights and expertise comes naturally. Whether it be with the SAP Community, as a volunteer docent with Wilhelma Zoological and Botanical Garden, or as a communicator of climate change information and dispelling misinformation, Bärbel is dedicated to helping members (and volunteers) maximize their experiences.

In the midst of her busy schedule, we carved out some time to learn more about her journey as well as expertise with SAP ABAP development projects.

Anne Petteroe (AP): From your school days at Friedrich-Schiller-Gymnasium Marbach, and then two years clerical training at Kodak’s German headquarters, what sparked your desire to launch your career as a developer and system analyst?

Bärbel Winkler (BW): While at school, I wasn’t yet interested in computers, but had been lucky to have a great math teacher in 10th and 11th grade who managed to make math sound logical and made me really grasp it for the first time. During clerical training at Kodak, I spent a few weeks in a department called marketing statistics fairly early on and they let me play with “APL” – A Programming Language – which I enjoyed a lot.

A while later, I got a chance to spend several weeks in Kodak’s inhouse IT department during the training and ended up working there afterwards. That’s when I really learned to program in PL/1 for IBM mainframe computers which provided a foundation for what I do now with SAP ABAP programming.

AP: Please share some background on your passion to identify the facts about climate change and teach the basics to both “school children and interested people.” How have you bridged this interest within the SAP Community (e.g., Coffee Corner Meet-up presentations, etc.)?

BW: That’s a lot of questions rolled into one! I’ve always been interested in environmental topics, so when I watched Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2007, I decided to learn more about the important topic of human-caused climate change.

One thing led to another, and I hooked up with the website Skeptical Science in 2010 where I first helped to translate content into German. I also picked up a thing or two about misinformation. This is not just a big issue when it comes to climate change but also many other topics, be they science related or not.

To make SAP Community members aware about this important topic, I hosted a 30 minute meet-up at the prior TechEd in Barcelona and also did a coffee corner meet-up to talk about resources to give facts a fighting chance against misinformation.

AP: Your activities outside of work are impressive! Tell us about how you have cultivated a community by way of your volunteering at the Wilhelma Zoological and Botanical Garden. How have your experiences from one community helped you engage other communities (e.g., SAP Community)?

BW: Glad you mention the “Wilhelma” in Stuttgart, especially as it looks as if we can resume our regular guided tours this year after a Covid-enforced break of two years. Getting trained and having been active as a volunteer docent has made it a lot easier for me to engage with people who I don’t know yet. As I’ve been coordinating our volunteer group’s activities for many years, this has also been a great learning experience of how to go about such tasks and utilizing various tools like Wikis or shared documents in the cloud. This, in turn, helped me in both my professional IT-work and my climate-related activities where quite a lot of organizing and coordinating is happening almost all the time.

AP: How did you become an SAP Champion? In this role, how do you engage with Community members?

BW: Quite to my surprise, I was contacted by Kati Nonhebel (then Fischer) in July 2019 who asked on behalf of Craig Cmehil’s SAP Community team if I’d be interested to join the first group of SAP Champions. I was obviously delighted and honored to take them up on their offer! I just kept doing what I did before, which was to answer questions whenever I can, time- and knowledge-wise, in the Q&A section of SAP Community. And I also write a blog post now and then if “inspiration strikes” and I come up with something to write about that I think might be of interest and help to others.

AP: Terminology at SAP and in the industry can be overwhelming at times. You wrote a blog, “Trying to stop the spinning of terms in my head – work in progress,” that showed the evolution of disparate terms to a collaboration effort which led to greater clarity. Are you an advocate of reaching out to the community with questions to clarify key points, and do you also encourage eLearning like OpenSAP and Topic pages to learn more?

BW: That blog post is still a work in progress but has unfortunately fallen a bit by the way-side! So, thanks for the reminder to see if and how I can move it forward. But yes, I like to dig into the “hive mind” of SAP Community when I’m getting stuck, which often triggers interesting and very fruitful discussions. Which is why I’d like to very much encourage others to follow suit with well laid-out questions and discussion starters.

I’m a big fan of eLearning and have taken a few OpenSAP Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) over the years, but – due to my “spare time” activities – I often simply lack the time to give them their dues. What’s the saying…? So much to learn, so little time!

AP: In your blog post, SAT to the rescue!, you highlighted SAT as the SAP ABAP “Runtime Analysis” tool providing tons of information for an executed process such as database tables and routines accessed. Have you picked up more tips on how to further save time?

BW: There’s almost always something to discover on SAP Community which could turn into a time saver down the line. Just recently, for example, I happened upon a short blog post by Hamad Ahmad about finding the Table/CDS Views Name by fieldname. It looked interesting, especially because I, as well as colleagues, have run into the issue of how to quickly identify the underlying table for a screen field where SAP unfortunately only shows a structure in the F1-help. So, I adapted the provided code to fit our guidelines and am right now in the process to make it available for my colleagues in IT. Some have already indicated an interest when I mentioned the new program in passing while still working on it.

AP: From the early part of your career to today, it appears that you have emphasized practical, hands-on work experience. For students and recent graduates interested in development and system analytics, what suggestions do you have to encourage them to get high quality jobs and further their careers?

BW: Indeed! I only briefly entertained the thought of going to university before deciding to do the clerical training at Kodak, so I’m not sure that I can give a good answer to this particular question.

I also don’t really know enough about university systems in other countries to make proper recommendations, but here in Germany we have an option to combine university studies with hands-on experience in companies, alternating between the two in roughly 3-month intervals.

Students are employed throughout the usually 3-year studies and gain a lot from the combination of theoretical and practical work. This approach – as far as I know – makes it a lot easier to get high quality jobs once done, often within the same company.

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      Author's profile photo Paul Hardy
      Paul Hardy

      Apropos the university thing my degree in the UK was like that. I went to Brunel University which is in London and it was a "thin sandwich" course.

      That is the degree course is four years long, and in the three summers instead of just lounging around you actually have to work at a real company (or the government). I spent the first two summers working (if you can call it that) for the UK government and the third one working in the accounts department of the company I ended up working for.

      It was a really easy job interview for the permanent job. I went into the office the Friday after I had finished my last exam (and it would be weeks before I got the results) and asked for a job. I was asked for how long and I said full-time, and was told someone had resigned the day before, and could I start on the Monday i.e. three days time? So ironically it would not have mattered if I had failed my exams (happily I did not).

      This sort of things happened to loads of my mates at university. The reason being is that you are a known quantity, and have held down three jobs, as opposed to someone who has a similar degree but has not yet worked at all.

      Cheersy Cheers

      Paul

      Author's profile photo Bärbel Winkler
      Bärbel Winkler

      I had a similar experience with my own clerical training which included - among many others - a stint in the accounts receivable department for a few weeks during which I not only got hands-on experience with the related tasks but also got to know many of the people working there. Fast-forward to a few laters when I was put in charge of the underlying homegrown accounts receivables system and to maintain the PL/1 programs. It really "paid off" (pun intended!) to have the contacts and at least some basic knowledge of how things worked from the user-side of things.

      Cheers

      Bärbel