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Former Member
Mar 26, 2012 at 05:23 PM

Storytime! How did you get your start in SAP?

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We see many questions in this forums from recent college graduates seeking advice for how to break into the SAP marketplace. I'd like to hear your story! If you are currently working with SAP configuration, programming, security, or system administration (not end user): how did you get your start? This thread is for stories. I am also starting another thread which will be for abbreviated versions which will be more easy to tally.

I'll start...

My journey started as an undergraduate. Although I studied microbiology, I was an ardent computer gamer. As a side effect, I learned about all things PC related including building machines from scratch and the ins and outs of DOS as well as other operating systems. All of this was essentially a hobby.

In 1989 I graduated with a BS in Microbiology and proceeded to UCLA to pursue a PhD in Biology (genetics but part way through I switched to X-ray crystallography). As a poor grad student, I supplemented my income by building computers and installing software for a small client base in Los Angeles. Also, in my first year of graduate school, we were all required to take an "Computers in Biology" overview class. The graduate student who taught it was horrible! I volunteered to teach it the next semester and continued to teach it for the rest of my time at UCLA (under the guidance of the magnificent Professor Simpson.)

My interest in the intersection of biology and computing grew and I frequently helped faculty and students with their computational problems. When the person who ran the computational facility retired in 1994, I knew the systems better than anyone else, so they asked me to take over. I stopped short of my PhD, earned my Masters and agreed.

In the years that followed at UCLA, I spearheaded major advancements to the data center and to the university's approach to instruction (I helped the Biology department migrate instruction from chalkboards to powerpoints/web sites among other projects.). A friend of mine asked me one day what I knew about SAP. I pulled the most recent over-sized Computerworld issue off my shelf, flipped to the back, and showed him the advertisement that claimed SAP consultants earned between $100 and $200 per hour. He immediately went for an interview and was hired. I continued at UCLA for another year or so until my friend called me one day, out of the blue, and told me SAP America was hiring and that I should check it out.

My projects at UCLA were running smoothly and had pretty much plateued. I was confident that others could carry on what I'd started, so I researched SAP in a bit more detail. The SAP architecture and the idea of helping companies improve efficiency appealed to me, so I applied.

I was hired by SAP America in 1998 to work as an SAP Basis consultant. At the time there was not enough SAP talent out in the world, and hiring experienced os/db administrators with no SAP experience was the only way for SAP to get the necessary employees. I'd say at the time I was pretty typical for the new hires. Most had 4 to 6 years of system administration or database administration experience. We had a mix of UNIX and Windows backgrounds in the class. I underwent a 13 week training ordeal and was placed with a senior consultant at a customer site. I worked for SAP America for 12 years before I had to get off the road. During that time I worked over half a dozen go-lives, worked with dozens of customers, lived in Germany for over a year, moved my family 8 times to support projects, and built a network of friends and colleagues that I cherish. Today I work for a small SAP firm who focuses on one geography. This has allowed me to continue with SAP work but stay off the road.

One note: In 1998, there was no pool of experienced SAP Basis folks on the market from which SAP could pull. SAP America did a few more New Hire waves but I think the last I remember was 2004 or so. After that, SAP only hired experienced SAP folks. I conducted the lion's share of the technical interviews for my region (SAP's technical consulting practice was broken into 4 or 5 national regions at the time), so I can tell you my experience was that most applicants to SAP from about 2005 and on got their start in the SAP support group at a customer. I'm curious to hear the stories others in this forum have to tell.

Please include the year you started serious (not end user) SAP work. If you were hired into the position, please relate how your work history/experience compared to others who started in your organization at about the same time if you can. Also, please mention if/when you were certified. I certified in Basis in 1999 and again in 2004 I think. I certified in Solution Manager in 2010ish.

Hopefully we'll get a good mix of functional, programming, security, and basis stories. If I missed anyone (training? org management? project management?) feel free jump in. Don't forget to register the short form of your story too! The question is open to all!

I hope this will be enlightening!

Best regards,

--Tom