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Switching from hardcore network support to SAP

I want to change my field from hardcore network support to SAP. Since SAP has so many areas and modules I am little confused about choosing the right path. My background includes CNE, MCSE and CCNA, and I'm currenly undergoing OCP traning in the DBA track. Can you please tell me what would be the right path for me in a SAP career? Is there any support jobs available in this area? Ideally, I want a job where both my Oracle and network support experience will be used.

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Yes, there are many areas and modules within SAP. But you can simplify your focus by understanding this: your chances of breaking into SAP are greatly increased if you can target the area of SAP that would give your current skills the greatest "leverage." For you, the most relevant area of SAP is the Basis specialization. "Basis" is basically SAP's proprietary phrase for technologies that pertain to systems administration, performance tuning, software installation and support, security, and DBA functions. Often there is an "EAI" component as well, as the Basis administrator helps to ensure the overall systems landscape is "open" and that SAP is communicating effectively with third party software programs through whatever messaging systems or exchange protocols are being used. For some Basis folks, there can be a heavy DBA expertise, for others, the database knowledge is less deep. Obviously, the term "Basis" is kind of a catch-all that covers more skill areas than any one person can master. One way to look at it is to think of Basis jobs as encompassing all the major SAP technical skills EXCEPT for programming. Clearly, from the general Basis description I've provided here, many of your current skills would be relevant to SAP Basis positions. If you go into SearchSAP.com's career section and type the keyword "Basis" into the job search function, you can scroll through a number of Basis jobs that will give you further insight into the types of skills that are required and the types of technical backgrounds companies are looking for.

Of course, in today's highly competitive SAP job market, identifying the area of SAP you are going to target is only a starting point. You still have to get that opportunity. The good news is that the Basis job market has held up, at least to a degree, during the "outsourcing" craze, because it's a lot harder to outsource your technical landscape than it is to outsource a programming assignment. Although the jobs are out there, you will find that SAP hiring managers are going to expect a lot more SAP experience than you currently have. That may prompt you to consider getting training and certification, but if you've read my previous columns, you know that certification is no guarantee of an SAP position - far from it. Your best chance, as loyal readers know by now, is to be hired by an SAP user that finds your current skill set relevant. Don't worry if your job is not SAP-specific. With your technical skills, if you get on a major SAP project, your work should at least touch on SAP, and hopefully, over time, it will bring you closer to pure SAP roles. Training and certification may help you in that transition, but more in terms of providing know-how that you may be able to draw on when the time is right. Keep in mind, however, that as you think about breaking into SAP and increasing your knowledge base, you should not only master the Basis toolkit, you should also be learning everything you can about the Web Application Server and NetWeaver, SAP's "next generation" technical architecture that will gradually replace most Basis functions. I'm not going to go into detail about that technology in this answer, but I have addressed these topics many times in previous responses which you can scroll through.

This was first published in November 2003

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