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What's next for an ABAPer interested in functional SAP?

I am stuck in mid-career. I don't know what to do or how to do it. I have nine years of IT experience with more than four years of SAP as an ABAP programmer. I am interested in becoming a functional SAP consultant. I'm having difficulty figuring out how. I don't see any possibilities with my current company. How should I proceed toward becoming a functional consultant? I have a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering (seven years of study), but no domain experience. All of my experience is in the IT industry.

I am stuck in mid-career. I don't know what to do or how to do it. I have nine years of IT experience with more than four years of SAP as an ABAP programmer. I am interested in becoming a functional SAP consultant. I'm having difficulty figuring out how. I don't see any possibilities with my current company.

How should I proceed toward becoming a functional consultant? I have a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering...

(seven years of study), but no domain experience. All of my experience is in the IT industry.

The best way to become a functional SAP consultant is to gradually transition from within your current company. In your case, that doesn't sound like much of a possibility. Your SAP technical background can help you in a functional SAP career, but the big challenge is making that transition into the functional side for the first time.

As an ABAP programmer, you have probably worked in some modules more than others (for example, FI/CO). If that's the case, I would pursue that area on the functional side. You may have to divide this transition up into two phases.

The first phase might simply be to move to a company that is a bit more flexible in terms of long-term roles. You might have to take an ABAP-FI position in the new company, but if you are confident over time they will help transition you that could be a good move. And some companies have roles for programmers where they serve as the liaison with the functional team members for reporting and other customizations. So, it would be ideal if you can get experience in that role and get a bit more exposure to the functional side that way. You may also want to invest in some configuration training and certification.

With all that in place, then you need a good break of some kind. For example, I talked with a programmer recently in that position who had some training on SD configuration. He was pulled onto the functional team when another team member went on maternity leave. So there are ways to position yourself for that "lucky break," which is rarely just luck, but often the result of careful planning. Just remember that sometimes a career change like this requires a couple of moves and several years to implement. Good luck!

This was last published in June 2006

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