Q

Switching to SAP from pharma/life sciences

Jon Reed advises a would-be SAP SD pro on the best path into SAP from the pharmaceutical industry.

I am currently into pharma/life sciences sales with eight years of experience, including two at the managerial level. I am planning to go for SAP SD certification. Will my previous experience be of any help, particularly in pharma implementing SAP, as an SAP consultant so that my career could take off from there or I will be starting from the zero level?
It's always good to figure out how your previous background can help you in an SAP role. The SAP consulting market is in growth mode right now, but there is still a lot of competition from experienced SAP consultants. That means anyone breaking into SAP needs a well-thought strategy.

In your case, I like your thinking in terms of your pharmaceutical background. SAP has had a good amount of success in the pharma industry. In theory, having a pharma background could help you get onto an SAP pharma project. However, it's not so easy to specialize in a particular SAP industry. Most successful SAP consultants do seem to move across a couple of industry verticals as needed to find good projects. On the other hand, it...

wouldn't hurt for you to look into the SAP pharma projects in your area and see if there might be a role for you somewhere.

Since you are a sales person, you might want to target an SAP mobile sales deployment project or at least look for a company that is using SAP to manage its sales and marketing initiatives. As for how your sales background relates to SD, that's a question I get a lot. Sales backgrounds can help a little bit with SD, but most of SD pertains to sales order and advanced pricing configuration. I tell sales folks to consider pursuing SAP CRM, where there is more functionality that is focused directly on sales, marketing and campaign management. Having said that, you may want to consider pursuing a sales-related role in an SAP environment. SAP software salespeople are doing pretty well right now, thanks to the big upgrade push that is happening.

This was first published in February 2007
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