How did You Get Your First SAP Job?

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.

Enter SAP

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 byron@whypad.com 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.

Good luck!

Byron

15 Responses to How did You Get Your First SAP Job?

  1. Cristian December 2, 2008 at 5:21 pm #

    Hi Byron, your comments regarding the first SAP job were really helpful.
    Thank you very much!!!

  2. bizl May 18, 2009 at 10:21 pm #

    This was helpful to an SAP student hoping to become a tech consultant. Great post!

  3. HUMERA June 19, 2009 at 2:15 am #

    Hey Byron, your views on Finding a job in SAP at initial stage was indeed a turning point in my career, i was blank after my completion of training program on SAP HCM as iam holding nil experience on this platform but i do hold sound knowledge. eventually i planned to hold my career rope with this very same platform. thanks to you, wish me luck to fetch a job inspite of low job market but as you say we got to be creative, so thats what iam going to do….

    Thanks
    Regards-humera

  4. Byron Bennett June 19, 2009 at 7:39 am #

    Hi Humera,

    It is indeed a bad market right now, but companies will still need to fill all sorts of positions. It’s good to remember that your first position doesn’t have to be your last, so as long as you can see a path to where you want to go, don’t be afraid to make a few extra turns. The SAP world continues to grow, so the future is still bright.

    All the best to you and all the others out there in your situation.

    Cheers,
    Byron

  5. Djenni December 7, 2009 at 10:18 am #

    Hey thank you for your post it was very helpful. I am looking for my first job….just got a sap sd training courses and want to get experience in it. I have no experience…thanks for helping me if you can of course my email djenni00@hotmail.com

  6. Jerry December 13, 2009 at 11:40 am #

    Hi Byron, if I start a role in SAP master data creation and maintenance, do you think I am on track to a SAP functional role in the future or would I be heading the wrong direction? Thanks.

    Jerry

  7. Dinesh Chauhary January 1, 2010 at 8:36 pm #

    Hi Byron,

    Thanks for this useful tips. Its really great to know new idea to get into sap. About me, I am dinesh chaudhary did sap hr training course a year back and since than trying to get into sap field. but same
    experience thing is coming in a way.
    please reply to me at dinesh_7702@yahoo.co.in need advise to get into sap hr for first job.
    thanks

    Dinesh

  8. Lester January 14, 2010 at 2:09 pm #

    Interesting post. I got my job by hiring on as a seasonal truck driver. I had loads of business and computer experience, but no education or SAP experience and was about out of work. After getting to know the location staff, they recommended me to head office for an opening as a CSR using SAP. From there they got me into SQL query writing, and reports. Now I’m basically a database man.

    Sometimes things just work out right. This company definitely would never have hired me for what I am doing if they had interviewed me for the position. But sometimes you can start at the bottom and still get there. (This process took less than 3 years.)

  9. Adil Usman January 23, 2010 at 2:51 am #

    Hello there!

    Liked you article so thought about leaving a comment(although the post is too old and you might never look at it)

    I graduated in July 2009 with a BSc in Accounting & Finance from a University in Lahore, Pakistan. I was not sure where to go since I had a lot of interest in technology and somehow ended up doing Accounting & Finance. I decided that something like information management would be ideal for me(since it involves both these areas)

    Fortunately, i heard about a local company going through an SAP implementation. They already implemented ERP some 2 years back and now want to implement the Industry Solution for Utilities. I joined them as an assistant for this implementation project.

    I was initially happy since i had landed for a job that matched the job i wanted. However, I am finding it really difficult to learn since I dont have any knowledge of SAP IS-U(not even ERP) and there is no training program here. All i have are the manuals and i sit all day reading them to try and get an idea of SAP. However, i guess that i should be able to get control of things after sometime.

    Your suggestions would be highly appreciated 🙂

  10. Byron Bennett January 23, 2010 at 8:35 am #

    Jerry,
    Master data and creation can certainly be an entree to a functional role, as it gives you a great background in the underpinnings of the system from a data standpoint. It’s not necessarily the most direct route, but it can get you there. Make sure you excel, and when you’ve proven your drive and skills, make your wishes known to the right people. Good companies work hard to fit good people in where they fit best!

    Lester,
    Great story, thanks for sharing! Hopefully Jerry has read your story, since yours started someplace other than where you wanted to end up.

    Adil,
    Thanks for writing in! Hopefully the people you are assisting are smart and willing to share. They can be your best resource. The best advice that I know to offer you is:

    1) If you don’t understand something, ask someone. Don’t be afraid to look like you don’t know it. DO BE AFRAID to look like you’re not interested in knowing it. Be eager to learn! If you learn something, write it down. Don’t have to ask about the same thing continually.

    2) If you are asked to do something by one of your bosses, get it done quickly, get it done right! Bosses love people who they don’t have to keep checking in on to see if they’re getting the job done.

    Basically, be curious, be eager to get the job done, be sure you did it right (test, test, test), have new ideas and float them (you’ll learn a lot from understanding why your ideas won’t work). Be the kind of employee you want to be managing one day.

    Be the right guy, and the opportunities will open up and you’ll learn what you need to know.

    Cheers to all,
    Byron

  11. Nabeel May 12, 2010 at 5:27 am #

    Hi Byron,

    I am an MBA and an SAP Functional consultant with no prior experience in the field, I came to UK to find a future growth but I was unfortunate that when I came in the country Market was really crahed. I completed my certification in MM back in 2008 and I still haven’t got any opening in SAP. I don’t know who to consult where to apply, I am ready to work for free to gain experience. I even intend to enter any organization having SAP implemented on any level and any role. I have not lost my hopes, I have my firm belief that eventually I am going to be an experienced SAP consultant. Then we have another problem, we can’t get a job in any field unless you have strong references in that particular organization.

    Please guide me what should I do.
    Cheers.

  12. Byron Bennett May 12, 2010 at 8:53 pm #

    Hi Nabeel,

    This is indeed a rotten economy around the world, except for maybe Australia (I think I read some news where they’re expecting a budget surplus or something). There are lots of people with SAP experience who have been laid off from their jobs and are in the same position as you. You may hold a small advantage in that you are willing to take entry level positions, while many of those who have been laid off are unable to reset their careers back to entry level since they have houses and other financial obligations that require them to make larger salaries.

    But the unfortunate fact is that most countries are experiencing relatively high levels of unemployment.

    The only answer I can give at this time is to be persistent and possibly get creative. I’ve heard of some job seekers trying some very creative things to gain the attention of perspective employers. One guy created a website demonstrating his skills in marketing just for a specific job opportunity at a specific company.

    So, how might you get creative in the SAP space? Well, it depends on what skills you have. If you can program and you could make an iPhone app that did something cool like connecting to SAP and showing some workflow alerts, that could be something you could show a potential employer (I do realize that you most likely don’t have access to an SAP system to do something like this…I’m just trying to think outside the box for a moment).

    If you’re not a programmer, there are some essential skills that you could demonstrate on the web: 1) communication skills…there are tons of ways you could demonstrate this…blog posts, answer/participating in SDN forum conversations, etc.; 2) writing a tutorial on something you’re good at would be something you could point to…it shows you can communicate, organize your thoughts, and have a willingness to help others; 3) networking…building a network (not necessarily a Ashton Kutcher-esque Twitter following) demonstrates your ability to connect with other people (today’s world relies on relationships, and some of these might lead to a job) 4) collaborating in a project.

    Of course, just being persistent and paying attention to details as you apply for jobs will make you stand out as well. Companies will continue to need good employees, so you need to be that person, even if you’re not an employee yet.

    Never lose heart. Believe in yourself and your ability to learn and it will be contagious. You will get where you want to go, no matter what walls you may find. I leave you with this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo

    Best regards and best wishes,
    Byron

  13. Kevin June 12, 2010 at 7:42 pm #

    Hey Byron,

    As a recent graduate with a B.A in psychology, I’m trying to pursue a career in HR. Unfortunately, for particular companies that I want to work for, two of the qualifications include having a working knowledge of SAP and Microsoft Vizio, two platforms by which I have absolutely no knowledge in. I’ve tried the self teaching method but found that it’s going to be quite a while before I understand even a fraction of how to operate what seems to be a very advance and complex program.

    In this day and age, it’s getting harder and harder to find a willing company to take you under their wing and put you into an internship like program where you can learn SAP from the people within the company. These positions are rare at least in my experience of job-searching these past few months, and when their is an opening, it is highly competitive. It just seems to me, they are more willing to hire those who have the working knowledge and experience already as oppose to someone who has little to no experience. Just for reference, I’m in the U.S. and more specifically Southern California, so I can only speak to how the job market and opportunity is out here.

    Do you have any advice on how exactly I can go about getting some type of experience with this program and on a beginner’s level?

  14. Jit June 28, 2010 at 6:38 am #

    Hi Byron,
    I am really confused in my life.Can you please help me?I am 32 yrs single male from India.I am doing MBA in HR specialization(in correspondence) but I have work exp in pharma sales.If I enroll in SAP which module should I select?
    Also I am very much uninterested in continuing this job. Should I take risk to leave this job?
    I am very much interested in ABAP programming as well as it has lots of scope.I have knowledge of C Programming & some bit of Data structures through C.My sales exp is also not at all solid( Why I dont want to get into the details as that is some bit personal) So please advice me.

  15. nageswara rao September 28, 2010 at 9:09 am #

    i comleted mba with tally ;
    i have confuse one problem

    —-
    what i problem …….as a fresher is it ossible to get a job on sap…..
    if no ….so i have to do on tally job minmum 2 years then make try to sap job

    this is my problem could u plz suggest me

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