A question that is often asked is, how do you get an SAP job? There is a very simple answer to that…get some SAP experience and the rest is fairly straight forward. Experience is a major part of the equation in the job world. And almost everybody who has ever applied for a job has thrown up their hands at some point and screamed, “How can I get experience if they won’t hire me?”
But we do get jobs and we do get experience. It may not be easy and we may have to be creative, but it happens.
In this post, I’d like to ask you how you got your first SAP job. Post a comment and share your experience. If you’d like, send me an email with your story and I will post it as a guest post with a genuine link back to your blog.
We all start out without experience. Nothing encourages people like stories about real world experiences. Maybe your story will help somebody.
How did I get an SAP Job?
I’ll get the ball rolling by sharing my story first. It is probably very similar to that of many people, so give me a shout out in the comments if this sounds familiar to you.
I probably shouldn’t go this far back, but it’s my blog and I like telling the story 😉
From English Teacher to Invoice Processor
Back in 1996 when I first applied to the company I work for, I was a bit over educated for the position I applied for, but I was a little desperate. I had a business degree, a couple of years towards a Masters of Divinity, and I was doing student teaching for a secondary school English certificate in the state of Texas, one education course shy of the finish line. I was teaching 10th, 11th, and 12th graders English and lit. in an inner city school in Ft. Worth.
What I discovered was that I loved grammar and literature and kids, and even teaching. But I did not love Mickey Mouse rules and I certainly didn’t love enforcing them. So, I applied for a job doing accounting. There should be some irony in there somewhere. I finished student teaching on a Friday and started work as a vendor invoice processor the following Monday.
The Discovery of a Computer Junkie
Thankfully, my boss’s boss decided I might be a better fit elsewhere and they moved me to an accounting student job in short order. I don’t think I would have survived long in the other role as it required way too much organization for me to be effective.
As an accounting student, I got a PC with Excel on it. At the time, our company was running its accounting on a complicated spreadsheet developed in Lotus Symphony. Symphony was DOS based, and by 1997, it had become outdated and rather ugly compared to Excel. I had fallen in love with Excel, so I started rewriting some of the smaller spreadsheets in Excel just so they would be pretty.
This had the fortunate advantage of giving me some experience that would open several doors in my career down the road.
A Finale for Symphony
By 1999, Symphony hadn’t been supported by its publisher for several years. Of course, at the time the whole Y2K shakedown was in full swing. Someone in my company called the makers of the software to find out if it was Y2K compliant. They couldn’t believe we even had to ask. This prompted us to go looking for accounting software.
At the time, I was supervising the accounts payable department in our Richmond, VA district. I had gained the reputation for being proficient with Excel, having built a budget system while in Dallas. Our District VP had put in a good word for me with our Controller and this earned me a transfer to St. Louis to help implement a new General Ledger package called Clarus (a product later bought by Geac).
Clarus was the first step for our company to move from the most bizarre means of accounting imaginable to something remotely similar to what you might find in a text book.
In 2001, the company was running out of space on it’s Bull mainframes. There was a lot of doubt about whether we could replace our in-house developed Sales and Inventory system with an off the shelf ERP, and we gave our consultants and the ERP vendors a rough time selling us on it. After 9 months of arduous due diligence, we decided on SAP.
From a selfish standpoint I was elated. The experience we were all about to gain from working with SAP was about to significantly enhance our market value on the open job market. When I was chosen to be the GL guy on the implementation team, I was even more extatic. Voila! My first SAP job and real live implementation experience.
Eighteen months later, we went live with a major implementation of SAP, and I transitioned back to Corporate Accounting with responsibility for our accounting and financial reporting systems. After a few years there, I have transitioned back to IT. I have found that having business and technical expertise puts you in a unique position to bridge the divide between IT and the business.
The Moral of my Story
I imagine that a lot of you got your feet wet with SAP in a similar fashion. If you’re lucky enough to be at a company implementing SAP or Oracle and you get on the implementation team, the experience you get is priceless. Don’t get me wrong, being on an implementation may not always be pleasant. The deadlines, budgets, personality, and stresses can take a toll, but it is a priceless experience.
You don’t have to find a company that is going through a new implementation to get SAP experience. To get the experience you need for an SAP job, you might just find a company running SAP and work to get a non-IT functional job in the area that appeals most to you. Companies usually provide their end users with pretty thorough training. Once you master how to use SAP, you can start angling for positions within your IT organization to work on configuration or as a Business Process Expert.
One thing to bear in mind is that adding technical skills to functional business process skills makes for a killer combination. In today’s SAP, it pays to understand the business processes in addition to the technical details of configuring the system.
With over 40,000 companies out ther running SAP, there are lots of opportunities to get the kind of SAP experience that will help you land that first SAP technical job. You have to try really hard to find a major company today that isn’t running SAP or Oracle or JDE.
In a Nutshell
In simplest terms, don’t be afraid to take the long view for getting where you want to go. You should certainly apply with consulting firms for the jobs you want, but don’t be discouraged if they are looking for people with experience. You may find that getting real world business experience in an SAP environment gives you an even greater edge than going straight into consulting or IT.
The End-User job world is wide open to solid people with solid abilities. Companies will teach you how to use SAP. If there is a functional area that you are particularly interested in, be it Finance and Accounting, Purchasing, Logistics, etc, then work to get a job in your chosen area as an end user. Once you’re in, your aptitude and interest in working with the system will differentiate you from your peers and move you in your desired direction.
Let Us Hear From You!
To those of you who are SAP veterans, let us hear your story. Leave a comment…or if you’d like to do a guest post and get a link to your blog, send me your story in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll put it up as a guest post upon approval, of course.
To those of you hoping to land some SAP related employment, Good Luck! While the US and global economies have been suffering in a bad way, the global SAP market for skilled workers continues to demand more workers than are readily available.