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Learning new skills while working day and night

I am a Functional SAP Business Analyst in Toronto, Canada and have been so for the past 5 years with two different companties. I originally specialized in FI/CO with some added experience in MM and FM. Today, I am responsible for configuration and maintenance in FI, CO, HR, and CRM for my company. I have developed and taught end-user courses in FI, CO, MM, Reporting, FM, General SAP Structures, CRM, Budgeting and Planning in SAP, etc.

Due to the market in Toronto, where salaries for SAP specialists seem quite low in comparison to our American counterparts, Toronto-based companies (at least speaking from my experience) are unwilling to provide any SAP training for fear of the consulting companies coming in and performing a "Brain-drain" (as this has been very relevant in this market).

Can you tell me what my options are for training/education in order to further my career? I am an avid learner and desire much greater knowledge than I currently have. However, with the long hours and sheer volume of responsibility, it's difficult to find time to read all of the books I have bought.
You are in a classic and tricky situation that SAP professionals often find themselves in: you know that you need to expand your knowledge base, but you are just too busy with your current work schedule to crack a single book on new SAP technologies. That's not a good situation for you. In the modern workplace, we are all "businesses of one," and an important component of running our own little business is investing in our skills development. When that strategic piece gets lost, we run the risk of finally getting done with the all-consuming projects, only to find out that ourselves with a pink slip and a stagnating skill set. In your situation, it seems that you have deep SAP skills, but your skills are also pretty broad. Because you're responsible for so many different areas in SAP, you probably understand the integration points between different modules - which is great - but I'd like to see a little more focus in your skills. It's the niche experts that are faring best in this market, not the "broad SAP skills" folks. I could see you getting deeper into Funds Management, Treasury, and Budgeting and Planning. These are sophisticated, emerging aspects of SAP's financial functionality that play to your core skills and also position you well for future employers.

My advice for you would be to save up money and take a "working vacation." Sign up for an SAP training course, perhaps in Philadelphia, and fly in for a week or two and gain some intense new knowledge and perhaps a certification. No, it's not the most fun idea for a vacation, but I think this kind of "immersion learning" is one of the best options for someone who is just too busy on a day-to-day basis. Getting more SAP training won't solve all your problems, however. Your brief description of your employer isn't too encouraging. I would suggest that finding an employer with a more progressive attitude towards skills development would be a consideration for you also. Otherwise, you really do run the risk that this company will "suck your skills dry" and leave you at the end of the day with a body of SAP skills that is not competitive with those who have worked in more cutting edge environments. Good luck!
This was last published in June 2003

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