I graduated in 2006 at the Katholieke Hogeschool Kempen in Belgium where I studied IT (short term higher education of three years) which resulted in a bachelor degree in IT. A few weeks ago I received a request for Alumni members to participate in an event to sit together with students and talk about education, work and related topics.
This was the first time that I participated in this event and I very much enjoyed it. I was eager to listen to the students to find out what keeps them busy. How they see work opportunities, if they use social media, what their expectations are in terms of earnings and to what extent they are familiar with SAP.
After the event I received a document which contained around one-hundred and twenty statements from students concerning the alumni evening event. I categorized the statements and extracted the top five repeated statements. You can read up on the top five statements in this blog and on the topics I asked questions about myself.
Relation to SAP
Since I’m posting on SCN you would expect there is some kind of relation to SAP and indeed there is.
I received a document up front containing information on the course schedule for the current educational year. It did include SAP so it was already interesting to see that when I graduated there was no content whatsoever on SAP and because of the growing demand for SAP consultants the course schedules now actually do include SAP content.
The course that is part of the schedule utilizes SAP Business One and the largest part of the course consists out of functional use of SAP Business One. I talked to the school project lead in charge and found out they are in the middle of a SAP CRM implementation meaning they will also cover parts of SAP CRM in the future course content.
The restaurant was the scene where the talk took place. Numbered tables provided a wide range of alumni members and students sitting together.
We had the privilege to have a very outgoing alumni member at our table so the conversation was initiated right away. A small introduction of everyone who was sitting at the table took place before questions were raised and answers were given.
The pie chart in picture 1.1 represents the feedback from the students after the event. The top five repeated statements are displayed on the pie chart and the other statements fall under the category other. Throughout the blog you will be able to read about the top five statements and how I experienced this at the tables I sat at.
The top five:
1) 1) Education only provides a base layer
2) 2) Create opportunity yourself
3) 3) Master degree vs bachelor
4) 4) You have to love what you do
5) 5) Internship is important
Education only provides a base layer
One of the topics the students were interested in was earnings. Instead of the alumni members telling what we are earning we turned the question around to see if the students had a sense of what would an average start salary would be which made the conversation more interesting.
The first guess was almost twice the amount of what the alumni members received on average as a start salary so it was far from realistic. We saw some puzzled faces at the table as a result of that. There is a big difference in the earnings a starter can have and someone who has some years of experience.
The way the alumni members saw this is that you still have to learn a lot or even everything when you start working. As an effect of that, the salary you are given at the start is logically a lot less than what you can earn after you have some years of experience.
These thoughts came as a surprise for some students. You still need to be trained at the company where you start. Each company has its own way of working, its own procedures and so on. When I started I had no SAP knowledge so I had to start from scratch sort of speak. Yes you might have knowledge on certain operating systems and you have had networking lessons using Cisco courses but starting SAP system administration for example requires you to learn how SAP systems are technically build. How does this technology platform work and what are all those components and their function and so on.
Apparently a lot of alumni members passed on the message that education only provides a base layer.
Create opportunity yourself
I also noticed how much differences there were in the vision of the alumni members at the table concerning creating opportunities. While I constantly seek out opportunities another alumni member was talking about taking things slow and considering everything on the very long run. He was talking in terms of years. In his opinion doing a job you dislike throughout one or a few years is no problem and you can benefit from it.
Not really my opinion on this but of course everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion. I started out working many hours. I still do and I love it. I wouldn’t agree to waste a year or even years doing something I don’t like hoping an opportunity finds me somehow by doing so.
A third alumni member started out working for a company but then decided to start his own company. He didn’t advice the students to quickly start a company as he now believes he started his own company to early. As far as I could sense he wasn’t doing a bad job either and had some fresh ideas to tackle the Belgian market. His company is in to e-marketing meaning he provides full e-solutions. He gives companies e-products like a website and related content and he helps them out to become active on facebook and teaches them how to use social media. He is seeking out opportunities and I think he has a fair chance at succeeding.
I love creating opportunities and paving my own path. Among other means I leverage SCN to create opportunities. Information can be the key to create opportunities, if you don’t know the platform JDK for Netweaver 7.0x SAP products will be replaced by SAPJVM 4.1 you cannot create the opportunity to participate in the customer pilot program.
I’m pretty much convinced I was able to inspire at least one student to create opportunities as there was one feedback that said “I should read the book the purple cow” which is definitely something I blurted out during the evening. For those who aren’t familiar with the book “the purple cow”, the author is Seth Godin, a marketeer who has an opinion on things. He does what great blogs do: make me think about what I’m reading.
Master degree vs bachelor degree
Another statement which ended up in the top five of the feedback was a statement on whether or not it is worth it to get a master degree after finishing a bachelor degree. The opinions were very diverse. I do not feel any particular disadvantage having a bachelor degree and not a master degree. My advice to those we wanted to go for a master degree was if you want to do it then go do it.
Personally I believe in capabilities of people and not in what a piece of paper says. It’s not because someone had more education that he/she is more capable of doing his job better than someone who didn’t have as much education. Being smarter than someone else regardless of the degree you have is not a guarantee you will do better than someone who is less smart. There are other factors that should be taken into account like the ability to collaborate, the ability to create art, the ability to grow and so on.
You have to love what you do
Another statement residing in the top five is you have to love what you do. The message was also sent out by me at the tables where I was sitting. As mentioned earlier not all alumni were on the same level on this point as one of the alumni sitting at the same table as me found that it was no problem to spend a year or years doing work you don’t like.
In general the students did want to find a job which they would love to do since it is a large part of life. On the other hand they seemed to be very interested in how much money you can earn in which line of work. Those two facts don’t always mix well together.
It all depends on what makes someone happy. I know employees who prefer working for the company around the corner for less money because they want to ride their bike to work and get home five minutes after their work day has ended. I respect their choice and it is up to each individual to find out what suits them best. Earlier today I read an article which stated that happiness and Mojo is what makes people do well in business. The article mentioned how those persons are more engaged in what they do and are more motivated to work.
Internship is important
The fifth statement in the ranking is internship is important. Most statements were revolving around the importance to pick the right company to do an internship. When I had to choose I didn’t choose based on the name of the company. I choose based on the work that I would get to do which I found most interesting to do. I didn’t start at the company at which I did my internship either. I started at the consulting firm that did SAP support for the company.
For me the company one does internship for is not the most important, the most important is the work that you deliver. Do you honestly think the companies will hire all of the students that do their internship there? No. So it is a guarantee at all? No. What I find important is the work that you perform, how well you do it and what you learn by doing it. That is what can make you stand out from the crowd and possibly land you a job.
A lot of students do like the idea to go do their internship outside of Belgium and the alumni members who did confirmed it enriched them. The enrichments came from experiencing other cultures and seeing what the business world looks like in another country.
Along with this discussion the alumni members also stated the importance of doing outside school work like summer jobs and how doing so or being involved in other endeavors can help out to have a better chance at getting a job. I did summer jobs working on a marketing division handling complaints, archiving files, scanning and interpreting surveys and replacing the webmaster while he was on vacation. I do believe such endeavors are a good idea as you learn how a company works and how things are being handled in a real business environment instead of how it looks like in theory in a school book.
Since one of the alumni members was seriously into social media I was eager to hear to what extent everyone uses social media. I know I have only recently discovered it and I’m still learning to use it but I have grown fond of it and I find related content very interesting. To my surprise the students looked at me as if they just heard something that sounds a bit off and is very suspicious. Basically only facebook was being used but not by as many students as I would have thought. The numbers were pretty low actually.
I do know it is not yet as much of a hype in Belgium as overseas but I did expect the somewhat younger (I still feel young) generation to be ahead of me in the participation of new technology and media.
The alumni members were all agreeing on the fact that connecting to other persons is important to build a network. Not only can you learn much from collaborating and talking to other persons it also creates opportunities and lowers the boundaries between yourself and other persons. The most suitable tool mentioned to achieve that was LinkedIn as it serves for a good base to post curriculum vitae on and show what you are working on or which activities you have done in the past.
Students opinion on SAP
All students I talked to found the experience they had with SAP not user friendly enough and only a few seemed to be interested to start working with SAP. For me it felt like they had a very narrow sight on what SAP has to offer in terms of the multitude of products that exist and what the possibilities are in starting a career in SAP. There is definitely room for improvement here to get the students more aware of what is in fact possible and which different career opportunities SAP has to offer.
Of course I did an effort to explain the above and it did look like I was able to create some awareness that SAP has more to offer than SAP Business One alone.
Lack of content on SAP system administration
It was also noticeable that there is a lack of content in the educational system on SAP system administration. I talked to a student who was very much interested in system administration and had no idea what SAP system administration was about or what different tasks and challenges are tackled by a SAP system administrator. I did an effort to explain some of the work I was doing and after half an hour he smiled and said it sounded like a fun job to do.
I discussed the lack of SAP system administration content in the course schedule with some of the teachers and they are going to take up the point to the person responsible for the IT department to see what is possible. I made it clear I was willing to help out to so I hope SAP system administration can find a place in the course schedule within due time. I plan to continue to collaborate with the school to provide the students with some insights on SAP and what SAP system administration is about.
I still strongly believe that having a SAP system administration space on SCN can aid the cause so you are welcome to vote on the idea on idea place and use the #sapadmin hash tag on twitter to tweet content that is related to SAP system administration or that is interesting for SAP system administrators.
Diversity of people
Another statement out of the one-hundred and twenty statements which I remembered by heart is that one student found it compelling to see the diversity of people present at the event. That is exactly what is so interesting about these events, finding out what others experienced, how they see things, how they see the future and how ones past can change ones perception on things.
The top five statements didn’t come as a surprise to me as it were the topics which generated the most interaction at the table. In general I do think the students were not yet busy with all the topics that were mentioned at the table let alone that they would leverage social media to learn or even visit SAP Community Network to check out content to make them get a more clear view on what lives in the SAP community.
The thoughts and advice of the alumni members were largely based on personal experience and because of that you had a wide variety of thoughts and opinions. It was not what I expected but it was definitely interesting to hear what both sides, alumni and students had to say.
I’m curious to see what will happen next. I do want to contribute in one or another way. The way I can contribute will depend on what the IT department thinks about incorporating technical SAP content into the course schedule.