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author's profile photo Michelle Crapo

Are you a technical person?

So, I used to think I was a technical person. I mean I do have the title - SAP Developer. I am developing programs, doing configuration, holding meetings for specification, writing the specifications both technical and functional. That all doesn't scream technical person, but well I "think" I am.

1997 - Learned SAP. Around then I found SDN. I also went to many free pre-teched sessions that mentors were running. (They don't do that now. I think mainly because a lot of them do SITs those are free for all.) So to be technical I had to know how to spell SAP, check, knew some ABAP, check. I was "very" technical. Then we went live on SAP, and oh boy - new world. I had to quickly learn Sapscript, SAP provided upload programs, and how to check everything. Back then there were these "functional" people to tell us what they wanted to do sometimes on the fly. I was back to feeling untechnical.

Fast forward - I knew Sapscrit, ABAP, IDOCs, and some workflow. Back to being technical.

ABAP Objects came along. I, with my infinite technical knowledgeable, went to a class with other co-workers. Then I went back to work. We told our manager and co-workers that objects were too slow, just use FM and regular ABAP. Darn short sided of me. Also key learning point for me.

Fast forward - learned how short sited I was and promoted and used objects. I head learned xMII and some PI, and Javascript. I felt technical again.

Fast forward again - I had been on many different versions of SAP 3.1H all the way to 6.0. Still technical. Except that pesky Eclipse that I was learning to use. I am even using objects and enhancement points. Yay me!

Fast forward to now - I'm on HANA on-premise. Oh boy just so many things to learn quickly again. I've started with CDS, APIs, and PDF forms. Now I'm sort of technical.

Fast forward - you get it. This is the end. I now feel very nontechnical. I have so much to learn it boggles my mind. I'm learning - Fiori apps, Fiori development, pull-channels, JAVA, and learning just how hard it is to maintain someone else's PDF. I'm going back and forth between Eclipse and GUI. Back and forth between GUI and Fiori. Trying to pick up some of the outside "languages and other things" like .Net, groovy, Kubernetics, SAPUI5, WebIDE... Trying to relearn the functional side in Fiori. (That's not too bad) Relearning configuration and of course picking up some BRF+ basics. Understanding deeply how OPD Yes, indeed. Of course I'm well on my way. There are a lot of bonus information that I didn't have back then tutorials and opensap top the list. So now again I find myself wondering some days if I am technical. <Sigh>

So now you've heard my journey and very long response. Are you technical? Have you felt overloaded on new things AGAIN?

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  • Aug 26, 2020 at 03:28 PM

    I feel the pain. Yes. I'm a functional guy. But always considered myself to be technical in nature. I was never as technical as many. And in any given area there always seems to be someone more technical than me. So honestly, anymore.. I don't know.

    And as fast as software and hardware changes, one has to wonder if that ebb and flow is just the norm in the IT world? I mean honestly.. I did my first programming course in high school around 1975 using punch tape and punch cards. Today, I'm not even sure most programmers are even technical. They know a language. Like French or German. But with the new programming languages they are so far removed form the workings of a computer can they really be considered technical? Many don't even know the basic concepts of relational databases.

    I mean we give people programmer titles after a 6 week crash course, (now online!) in ABAP. Are they really all that technical? I doubt that many of them even know what a bit or byte is.

    And if I gave them a riddle of how a byte is like a dollar they would have no clue.

    • Aug 27, 2020 at 11:51 AM

      So true. Mine was back in 1986. But I did get to use Basic. It was fun when I was at my first "real" job - RPG and CL. Yes, true green screen. Before general use of <gasp> the internet. ;)

      I suppose back then I would consider this a fourth generation language. And it would have blown my mind.

      Mmmm... So technical depends on the time frame and who is asking the question. What they themselves perceive as technical. AHA! That makes sense.

      So do you have some of those punch cards hanging around? I bet that would be a fun thing to show people.

      • Aug 27, 2020 at 01:56 PM

        Nope.. those cards and tape are long gone!! But I bet someone here in the community probably has a dusty old box with some.

        I think the take away for me is that once you get to the point of being technical, you'll always consider yourself technical. That doesn't go away. Its whether that knowledge is relevant anymore. AKA Cobol and Fortran programmers. They basically went the way of the dodo bird. Yet anyone who was a serious Fortran programmer, (not just took a college course on it), was a very technical person. They would still be technical today, but irrelevant if they haven't moved on and learned a new language.

        • Aug 27, 2020 at 02:19 PM

          OH, I like that! Yippee - I am technical again.

        • Aug 27, 2020 at 11:44 PM

          never used punch cards but saved one from IBM as a souvenir or a proof of how to build a business - they wouldn't fit into anyone else's machine - legally - it reminds me of ink cartridges and Apple's dongles these days.

          not a techie, but i do like the esoterics of programming and how it makes computers do the auto-magic of un-stucking of what's been stuck. i heard that was happening a lot with the punch cards, too.

          Cheers to the techies or nerds or geeks or what have you.

          • Sep 01, 2020 at 11:57 AM

            Totally agree! Whatever you decide you are - you are awesome!

            No punch cards!? Sigh I don't think anyone really kept them. Nope I, luck for me, never had to use them.

    • Sep 02, 2020 at 03:24 PM

      My dad was a programmer before he retired (he's 81). He started out in 1958 at Univac in St. Paul, MN programming missiles on a DoD contract. He would go into work on a Friday afternoon and work until sometime Sunday because that's when he could get a long block of time on the punch card machine. He would sit there and convert assembly language to machine code as he was punching cards. Before he retired he was consulting and did things like writing the boot code that ran on some of Nokia's telephones when they were turned on. This was very technical code that interacted directly with the hardware.

      I'm a programmer focussing on databases and application and reporting design. I also consider myself technical.

      We're both programmers, but I can't do what my dad did and he can't do what I do.


      • Sep 03, 2020 at 03:11 PM

        So true. That's a nice way to think of things. Yes, I agree you are both technical.

        Wow!!!! Missiles on a department of defense contract - I would guess he triple checked his code. That is pretty impressive.

        :) I love these responses. I'm going to bottle them up for when I'm having a bad day!

  • Sep 01, 2020 at 07:01 AM

    Hi Michelle Crapo,

    don't be too harsh to yourself. Heard a good phrase the other day: 'A jack of all trades is a master of none.'

    My first hardcore programming was in C in the nineties. It was a cruel master but also a very efficient one. Learned the basic concepts: Program flow, Variables(Stack vs. Heap), Pointers, Arrays, Stacks, Cellars, Queues, Linked lists, Binary trees, Recursion, and so on...

    This proofed to be a rock solid foundation for everything later on. Like learning Latin helps with any romanic language.

    Fact is: You got the basics for a long long time. They help you understand new stuff without notice. You got a completely different view on new stuff because your brain compares it with the stuff it already knows. If some fresh(wo)men see new stuff they might learn it faster, but they most probably fail at the first question beyond the training scope. This is where your experience kicks in and your pain pays off. Nobody says computer science is easy.

    To close the loop: IMHO neither jack of all trades nor master of something is a healthy way to go. You need to find a good balance. Nobody can know everything. Cooperation with those complementing your skills is the key. But with a solid foundation you are quite good at adaption. What good is it to be a master of a SAP module when it is EOL???

    Reflect: Did you ever fail at anything new? (Taken for granted, that this new was worth it)

    This makes you a reliable crafts(wo)man and qualifies you as techie.



    • Sep 01, 2020 at 11:55 AM

      Of course, I have. Failed at something new. Fail often, fail early. I'm pretty good at that. But I eventually "get it".

      It just makes me smile a bit to think about it now. I also have gone back - years - to find to my shock that my horrible first programs are still being used. :) Since I no longer work for that company friends have nicely shared that information. They are nervous about changing anything because it all was very strange. I helpfully tell them that it needs a rewrite.

      Not so much hard on myself as in reflection. And also I want to know EVERYTHING at once. A million years ago I had a discussion with someone - and for the life of me I don't remember who. They said "Do you want to know the technical side or the business side. You really should only know one or the other?". My answer was both. They gave me a very doubtful look. Now it's a bit impractical, but I am at a small company and now I have to know both! It worked for me. I also wonder how you would test code while not knowing what it will do to the other streams. HA! That goes a bit beyond a unit test. But I wouldn't really be happy not knowing. (At least a little)

      We have analytics on the cloud. Now that module is very interesting to me. I haven't done a lot with it. It seems like basically a tool box and you can build anything with it.

      Master of none. Well full circle I can easily do a deep dive in ABAP. So I just need to learn other languages to compliment it. And yes, we have brought in different consultants that I have learned from. The good ones I can learn from. They also have left behind code that I can look at and find out more.

      Hard on myself. Maybe. Maybe it's just me being on a bit of a rant on all the different options available now. And wondering if others are feeling the same way?

      • Sep 02, 2020 at 05:26 AM

        What matters is the outcome. If you cracked the nut, you prevailed in the end. No matter how many failed attempts you had. When I asked, 'did you fail?', I meant: 'did you ever give up?' (I don't think you ever did)

        Yes, I know. The early programs. Somehow we managed to make them work, but they don't meet the standard we evolved over time. Testimony of how inventive we were all the time. No matter how limited our skills were at the beginning. When those programs still do their job, they couldn't have been that horrible ;-). Perhaps their source code looks ugly, but does it matter when it worked for years with minimum hassle? Coined a saying: It's allowed if it works! Even if it's an eye sore.

        Who said you can't know both the technical and the business side? I'm with you at this one, 'cause I'm in a similar situation. Our company may have reached a certain size, but when it comes to coding, we are a little understaffed. Either you understand what the program has to accomplish or it will miss the spot.

        Master of none sounds perhaps a little hard. How do we define master degree? Perhaps the question is: 'Do we really need a black belt in every technique the IT world has to offer???' Of course it is cool to be a bruce lee of ABAP world, but is this really necessary for your daily work? Take a look at the time you invested to become that good in ABAP. Do you really need to invest the same time in another language? Our life spans are simply too short to get 25 black belts. Often it is sufficient to reach the first Dan.

        Don't get overwhelmed by all the different options. Try to find out their essence and decide if they are worth a look, or not. Otherwise you don't see the wood because of all the trees. Often new stuff is just old wine in new hoses. Take a short look on the different view, but don't waste too much time on it. Perhaps you fear missing something important. Start being confident in your feeling of guts. With the experience you have, it should be really good by now. Don't go chasing geese. Pick a single goose to chase at a time ;-).



        • Sep 03, 2020 at 03:07 PM

          Thank you! This helps a lot. No - I never did give up. So it shouldn't be so different this time, right?

          I'm glad to hear someone else does both sides the functional and the technical. There is this fine balance that I do. I'm setting up a workflow right now that may never get used. But I do it because our business people need to see it work first. "If they don't know what is out there, how do they know what they want?" I've done that more than once. Sometimes it turns out really well, and everyone loves it. Sometimes they don't. Without my functional knowledge and knowledge of our business, I would not be able to suggest things like that.

          <sigh> I'll try and catch that one goose. One thing at a time. That's what I tell others. Now I'm glad you reminded me to tell myself.

          • Sep 04, 2020 at 05:14 AM

            Glad to hear that some of my words make sense to you. With my mid fourties I didn't think I have wisdom to share ;-).

            We do have to delve into the business side more or less. The business often doesn't exactly know what they want. Safe what they need. I'm glad that in my current project I have an able Business Owner. That's a luxury. But still we discuss all requests and try to find a sound solution. If a process is trash('We always did this that way!'), you end up with mechanized trash that causes lot's of work and trouble for years to come.

            Many projects fail because the IT says: 'give us proper demands!'. And business says: 'give us the solution already!(with out of the universe expectations)'. Result: Mutual accusations, no progress and a deep distrust for the future. If nobody moves a little to each other, this will not change.

            Our work has been successful because all sides swallowed their pride and discussed on equal terms. Acceptance of the diverse skillsets and the willingness to understand the different views. Some expertise of the other side is beneficial for that.

  • Sep 03, 2020 at 09:10 AM

    Back when dinosaurs ruled the earth... ok, when we had mainframes and dumb terminals... we had analyst programmers. What they did was: talk to the endusers, gather requirements, agree on what was needed, develop, test, test, test, go live.

    Some people were better at the talking and defining requirements, some better at developing. But it was expected that everyone would do the whole process - sometimes in teams of course, so skills were best utilised.

    Techies were the systems programmers - look after the OS on the mainframe, building utilities (like being able to shut down systems in the right order and bring them back in the right order, instead of relying on operators to do it manually correctly), making sure the applications worked properly etc. This is what I did for three years, then moved to user support as windows 3.1 gained traction.

    Then in '97 I was getting into the SAP world. The first project I worked on, we were pretty much analyst-programmers. But after that there was a sharp split between the analysis and the programming. My personal theory is that's because the big consultancies were involved. Programming means you have to create something that does something - easy to measure. Cut that out of the equation and you can be much fuzzier. Just produce lots of paper and charge $$$$.

    Fast-forward to 2020 - I'm a technically minded person, but I think it's all relative. To someone in the business, the business analyst is technical. So we could have something like:

    Not technical:

    • Business
    • Business analyst
    • Functional analysts
    • Technical analyst
    • Coder
    • Basis


    So, yes, I'm a techie, but my boss - he's more techie than me. And I can do, to some extent, all of the above list!

    • Sep 03, 2020 at 11:52 AM

      You are without a doubt technical.

      • Business
      • Business analyst
      • Functional analysts
      • Technical analyst
      • Coder
      • Basis

      Yes, I can do all of the above to some extent. I'm doing all of the above except business. I am in a small company. Lately most of our Basis is outsourced. Yippee! I was never really good at that.

      And you are so right... I had a dumb screen and a "mainframe". I did know CL and RPG and that got me about everywhere. My title was Programmer/Analyst. ;)

      I'll still think I'm a techie. Even though I do all of the above. Plus interface with out consultants. My boss is a techie too! And he does all of the above. It's kind of nice. When it comes to time estimates, I don't have to argue (Um discuss - yes that's it) about how long something will take me. Of course, we do have consultants and their estimates are so much higher than mine. And that helps too.

      I've landed in several different roles in the past. Project manager, manager, functional analyst, and I believe there is a couple more that I don't remember. Oh and I was a consultant for a bit too. I always end up on the technical side of things. But I think it depends on the day. Today I feel technical as I'm getting to do another fun thing. Workflow! Susan Keohan

      Also contrary to the way I wrote this. I don't think it's bad to decide you are not that technical. No matter what I'm learning in this new HANA environment. We are on-prem so I get to still do some basic ABAP programming too.

  • Sep 03, 2020 at 01:36 PM

    I was reading the answers to this thread, and a phrase came to my mind...

    But you try and tell the young people today that... and they won't believe ya'.
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