German ABAP expert Martin Fischer is a Business and SAP Portfolio Manager at BridgingIT, SAP Mentor and a host of the SAP Coffee Corner Radio podcast. He recently sat down with us to talk about how he got started with SAP and discuss the career path of an SAP consultant.
I started to become interested in computers and technology when I was 16 or 17. At that time, I was about to start an apprenticeship in business administration at a wholesaler for tires and other technical products. I had had some Visual Basic for applications lessons in school before, so I started supporting the financial department by writing a macro in Excel or Access, I don’t remember for sure.
The head of the department got interested in my skills at that time, and they were about to start an SAP project to implement SAP FI in SAP 4.6c. That was the coincidence that got me started in the whole SAP ecosystem, and it’s been 20 years since.
I worked on that project for one and a half years and took over the responsibility for running that system. A year after, I decided to study computer sciences and business and, during my studies, I became more interested in software development. So, I thought, OK, I have a background in SAP, and there is a need for ABAP developers: why not look for a job in that area? And so, I did.
I joined a consultancy in Zurich after my studies and was there for about a year. Then I moved over to Capgemini and was there for three years. Now I have been with BridgingIT for almost 10 years. I left the development space and moved over to more architectural stuff, as well as team leading responsibilities. I am not programming for the whole day anymore. Actually, I seldom program now. But it’s still in my roots, and I like to dig into the technological details.
Becoming the team lead of my former colleagues. There are a few of them who have much more experience than I do, so it was a bit of a challenge for me. I guess it wasn’t that much of an issue with them, pr at least I had that feeling. But for me, it was different.
The second one was having to care about more people and things in many aspects. So, consulting, finding the right project assignments for my team, etc. It was a bit hard because the role involves some pre-sales and that part was hard in the beginning to learn. Also having to accept that I don’t have that much time anymore to focus on my technology topics. Now I have multiple other topics to devote time to during the day, and I had to accept that I will, over time, lose the deep knowledge of the latest technologies.
But now, after more than four years, I have accepted it and I’m fine with it.
The possibility to drive things in the direction I want to, or which I think is the correct one. Of course, I don’t decide that all by myself, but I have a bit more influence than I did before.
I also enjoy very much the interaction with customers, so the pre-sales part that was so challenging in the beginning turned out to be something I really like. I’m much more confident in these discussions now. The first times, you are very nervous. At least I was. Nowadays it has become more of a routine, and I really like it.
There are many things you have to learn for the certification exam that you don’t ever use again. That’s actually one reason why I’m not really convinced that getting many certifications is real proof of qualification or knowledge. I’m quite sure you can get the certifications if you do a proper preparation for them and learn the stuff they will ask you for. But you will not really be able to work with the technology you are certified for. I rate experience higher than certifications.
I would say at the point in time I did my certification, as a junior, it was a good thing to have it because, especially if you work for a consultancy, it helps you to get better project assignments. Some customers are still looking for it. But, in the development area, I don’t see the need to do all the certifications that come with the technology. I don’t see the value in that.
Sometimes you have to do it as a partner to maintain your partner status. That’s another reason why sometimes you have to get certified.
But, from a career perspective, I’m not a big fan of certifications. I think there are better ways of getting a deeper understanding of what you are doing. Get involved in small projects, do a POC, get your hands on the latest technology somehow.
The program has changed a lot over the last 3-4 years. I’m now almost at the end of my 4th year in the program.
There’s a new program called SAP Champions which took over the community focus and the focus on the outside community, which was also part of the Mentors program. The program now focuses more on providing feedback to SAP on certain topics.
It’s an honour to work with all other mentors in the team because they are all very experienced. The international aspect is also very valuable for me because you get to hear things going on in the United States, Australia, or Asia, and things are different in different countries, so it’s also something you have to learn.
Stay curious and never stop learning. That is very important. And work in something that you like to do. I am lucky to have a job I really like. I cannot imagine investing so much time in something I don’t really want to do.
I think that’s very important. More important than more money, etc. If you have passion for your job, money, at least in technology, comes along.
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