Ask the Expert

Gaining SAP expertise without a mentor

I've been working in SAP, PM module, for 3 years. I have experience in Workflow, Document Management and SAP helpdesk. I don't have the opportunity to receive SAP training because my boss doesn't understand the need of a good training in this module, so the experience I have is only working with one of our clients. Besides SAP groups, I don't have any colleagues to ask questions. What am I, a junior consultant or senior? I never had a mentor, only my desire to learn more, but my skills are only developed at the same time of our client needs and I'm never a step in front of them. What can I do? In our country the jobs in this area are scarce so the choices are limited.

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It sounds like you've faced a lot of challenges obtaining SAP skills. I want to applaud you for working so hard to develop your skills without any mentor to guide you. In terms of your experience, I would definitely call you a junior consultant. You do have three years of SAP experience, but it is spread out amongst several different areas. In the long term, you need to try to become a bit more focused and develop a core expertise in a marketable area of SAP. But of course, the most important thing is just getting all the project experience you can. So, even if you have trouble getting the training you need, understand that as long as you are getting some hands-on SAP project skills under your belt, you're not in bad shape. The thing to be real concerned about is bench time. As long as you are on the project, you are "in the fight." It sounds like your options outside of your current employer are limited, and I'm not sure if you have enough SAP skills to move to another country and work in SAP. And you might not want to move or travel internationally anyway.

The bottom line is that when you only have one real employment option, you're not in a strong bargaining position to demand training and career resources. I'm going to recommend a different tactic in your case. I would recommend that you treat this current project like the "gold" that it is, given your lack of available options. Do everything you can to excel and stand out on this project. Go the extra mile always, work late, teach end-users, help out the technical team with any functional specifications they need. Do all that you can to be the very best consultant on the project, so that you can stay on that project as long as possible. To stay on top of your game, you will probably have to turn the Internet into your "virtual trainer" and "virtual mentor." Watch the webcasts on the SearchSAP.com web site. Read the expert columns. Ask relevant questions from experts and post your own comments and thoughts to user groups. Do your best to develop a "virtual team" of people you help via email who also help you. Basically, make the best of a tough situation and keep accumulating skills. And always remember that hands-on skills are much better than training. I know lots of folks who have SAP certifications who would love to be in your situation on a project site instead. And if you ever tire of your current situation, all you have to do is circulate your resume and apply for other SAP positions. If you get other offers, you can consider leaving. The market will always give you a gut check. If you don't get any other offers, then keep applying the strategy I recommend and see where it leads you. It may sound simple, but you should never underestimate the impact of outworking, outlearning, and outperforming your colleagues. Best of luck to you!

This was first published in November 2003

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