When I first started my SAP HCM consulting career in 1998 my goal was very simple, work hard and hope the market stayed “hot” for another year as I thought I had gotten in on the tail end of the SAP HR boom. As you can see my skills at predicting the future were not very good. Like so many others my first experience with SAP was at the five week Partner Academy and I remember wondering if I was cut out for the career change as my previous experience in the grocery business did not quite prepare me for learning Human Resources as well as SAP at the same time. I passed the Partner Academy and was now a certified R/3 HR consultant about to start on my first payroll project. I learned several valuable lessons on that first implementation that stick with me today even after 20 successful projects.
1. Hard Work – Nothing can replace the ability in any career, including SAP, of being willing to put in the time to be successful. Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers sums it up very well when he says the difference between success and non-success, genius and mediocrity is practice. Anyone from the Beatles to Bill Gates who has succeeded has done so on the back of at least 10,000 hours of practice. I wanted to be good at my SAP career and the fact that I loved my job made it easy to put in the hours it took to be successful, which continues to this day. SAP is competitive industry and if you are not willing to put in the effort someone else will.
2.Information - I realized early on that there was a lot of information available and half the battle was being able to find it. I made a pledge that I would build up a knowledge base of information and would document everything that I worked on or could find that related to SAP. Some of my friends have nicknamed my data repository "The Library" and they are glad to have a card to access it. Make no mistake, this is a very time consuming process and one that I have spent several hours a day on for the last 12 years. I am now sitting on a database of 70,000 organized SAP documents with a good portion of them being specific to Human Capital Management. These documents have turned into a security blanket and allowed me to make the jump to an independent consultant and later to opening my consulting company. With SAP Help, SAP Community Network, User Conferences, IT Toolbox, ASUG, there is a wealth of information to help you learn and grow in your career.
3. Adaptability - When I graduated from the Partner Academy all I knew was that I didn’t want to do SAP payroll as it seemed to difficult. Of course when I found out my first assignment was going to be a large Fortune 500 SAP payroll project I got a crash course in being adaptable. After doing many payroll implementations I had a chance to start working in other areas of HCM such as the Employee Interaction Center and Enterprise Compensation Management each of which had a steep learning curve but I wanted to continue to adapt and grow my SAP career. I believe it is very important to take advantage of the opportunities you are given in your SAP career as you never know where they are going to take you.
4. Networking - I read the other day that SCN has over 2 million members but make no mistake the SAP world can be very small. I have made a point to keep in touch with as many people in the industry as possible which takes effort and a time commitment. I have helped many people over the years by sharing knowledge, answering SAP questions or helping people find jobs and in return I have been helped when I needed it. A great example is Jon Reed who I met on Linkedin and Twitter who was kind enough to review this article. It is easy to network with your SAP peers on projects or via Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook etc and it is something that you should do from day 1 of your SAP career.
5. Knowledge Transfer - We all know individuals in the industry that try to hoard their knowledge thinking it will make them more valuable. There used to be a lot more of these folks before the SAP Community Network was formed and sharing became more fashionable. I still remember during my first month of consulting an individual who had 1 year of experience (that was lot in early 1998 for US Payroll) who would not explain or provide any help to either his fellow consultants or client resources. He confided in me one day at lunch that the client would never let him go because he had “all the knowledge”. The interesting thing is that he was the first one to roll off the implementation and yours truly stayed as although I had very little knowledge at the time I was more than willing to share it with everyone. I learned very early that the more I shared, and the more questions I got, the more I learned. If you want to continually learn and become an expert in your area share all your knowledge as you will get way more back in return.
If you work towards those five key areas above it does not guarantee that you are going to be successful but it will put you on the right path. We are all very fortune to be working in the SAP ecosystem and the fact that you are reading this article shows that you are doing some of the items discussed about above.
I would like to hear from each person reading this blog on some of their most valuable lessons for making the most of their SAP career.