The advantage of being an SAP professional today is that there are plentiful resources out there to help you learn your trade. Books and classes abound, claiming to be able to give you all of the skills you need to become a great ABAP programmer, consultant, systems administrator, and more.
Professors who were around back before computers were a standard household item now teach university classes for people gearing up for careers that revolve around technology and computers – items that were previously a luxury and now that society cannot do without, particularly in business.
Reading books and taking classes are a great way to get a good foundation in whatever area you hope to build your career. However, it is also extremely important for you to obtain hands-on experience and to study the work of those who have gone before you.
Compare this practice to how an author might approach her career. Most people who write books do so because they read something that inspired them to write. The idea to write would not simply occur to someone who never read anything. And, typically, many authors are not only inspired to write because they read something they liked, but also because they read something they disliked.
How many people have you heard declare that they are writing the next great novel because, honestly, they could produce something ten times better than the horrible stuff out on the market today?
Then, consider what an author might do in order to assist her in writing that novel – she probably reads other novels in that genre to see what other authors are doing and how they approached a given topic. Whether fiction or non-fiction, authors are not just writers; they are voracious consumers of the written word.
Is this how you approach your career in your given IT field? Certainly, you should take classes and other means of professional development to stay up-to-date on emerging trends and new technologies. IT is a field that is constantly being updated and improved. But what about history? If you administer an SAP system, is your company’s version the only one you know? Did you work with the prior release of SAP, or have you at least been able to take a look at it to see how different it is from the current release?
Authors read other authors’ works in order to keep a fresh perspective on their own work. They want to see another writer’s take on crime fiction or psychology and to see things that may not have thought of before. Seeing these ideas gives them ideas of their own to work with that they can then carry into future stories.
This is why, if you get a chance to look at something you do in IT from another perspective, you should always take it. Can you see if another ABAP programmer might approach a problem from a different angle than you do? How is another company’s SAP system implemented compared to how you helped implement the processes in yours? What networking solutions are out there that you had not explored for your own company?
You may think getting access to this information is tough; in many ways, you would be right. Most companies are not too keen on sharing their secrets with outsiders – after all, if you work for the competition and another company has a better way of doing something, they certainly would not want that information to fall into the wrong hands.
However, you might consider even looking at companies in different industries – clothing manufacturing is very different from agricultural processing, but if they both utilize some form of SAP or computer networking system, why not see if you can pick the other administrator’s brain or get a tour?
You obviously are not in competition. If you work on the programming side of things, consider looking to open source programs that are available for perusal – simply to see how other programmers have attacked different problems. By studying the work of those who have gone before you, you will continue to hone your skills and gain valuable insights that will help you diversify your skill set and remain a valuable asset to your company.