Im currently studying BSc (Hons) Computer Science in South Africa. I would love to do SAP certifications. Are there any career advancement paths in the world of SAP? For example; Software Developer, then Project Manager, then IT Manager, then CIO/CTO?

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There are two classic paths for career advancement in SAP. Generally speaking, to use SAP as a career advancement tool, you need to be willing to work as a salaried employee, either for (1) a consulting firm or (2) an SAP end-user. The career path you described is a typical advancement path for technical SAP folks who are working for an end-user – although you have left a couple of steps out. I would describe that path as: ABAP or Basis specialist, then technical team lead, then hands-on technical project manager, then hands-off SAP project manager, then IT manager, then CIO/CTO. This is how the technical advancement path could look for you. You will note that the big crossroads is when you jump from a hands-on technical project manager to an overall SAP project manager. At that point, you're leaving your hands-on SAP career behind. Once you take that step, it's hard to backtrack, as the "currency" of your technical skills will go down rapidly at that point. This is why many SAP specialists have avoided taking the leap into hands-off leadership roles. But that's a personal decision. At any rate, that is a typical SAP advancement path; but remember, these advancements won't just "happen" to you – you'll have to prove your worth and show your company you bring a lot more to the table than just technical skills. You'll need strong communication skills, deep business process knowledge, and a range of leadership skills in order to make the "SAP advancement path" work for you.

This was first published in August 2003

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