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Young ABAPer considering career change

I am a recently certified ABAP consultant (Age 22). I have no prior IT experience but I got a job as a trainee ABAPer. I have been working here for 2 months but I feel there is no growth in this company. The market outside is very bad, freshers are easily rejected. I'm very much worried thinking whether I have wasted my time and money, to add to my misery I'm not an engineer, I'm a commerce graduate with a PG diploma in computer applications and SAP certification in ABAP. I don't know how I'm going to make it in this tough SAP market because I heard from many people that SAP ABAP is on the downslide and rapidly digging its grave. I also heard that there is an MBA in ERP with SAP as major in a University in Australia. Would it be good for me to study further or would it be better if i continue with the job on hand? Or would I be better off adding additional skills like Java Programming etc?
You are 22 years old with your whole career ahead of you. Just because you got some ABAP training does not mean you are obligated to go into SAP, or even into the IT world in general. Whether you change your career focus or not is beyond the scope of this column, but you are definitely correct to take a close look at all of your options before you make long-term commitments. As for the future of ABAP programming, I have answered many questions on the future of ABAP programming, so if you look through my previous month's answers, you will find many detailed suggestions there. The end result is that the ABAP programmer of the future is going to be a hybrid of ABAP, Java, and SAP-related Web development tools. So yes, it's good to think about acquiring Java, XML, and a range of Web-based development skills. I don't agree that "ABAP is on the downside." But what HAS changed is that the rates for ABAP programmers have dropped dramatically, and offshore outsourcing has changed the ABAP market dramatically. In other words, many of the ABAP jobs of the future will not be in the U.S. - they will be overseas, in offshore settings. There won't be very good rates available, but there will still be plenty of ABAP coding. SAP is still heavily based in ABAP, and that is not going to change anytime soon.

As far as the MBA option is concerned, that is a different direction. I do tend to believe that all things being equal, I would rather have an overall business process background than a technical background right now. The main reason is simply that technical skills seem to be commodifying at a more rapid rate than "business analyst" type skills. In other words, the "global economy" seems to be having a greater downward influence on the rates for technical people than for functional types. If I were becoming a software implementation specialist, I would be focusing on putting together a collection of skills that could not be easily outsourced to the lowest bidder. That means developing sophisticated communication skills, knowledge transfer skills, business process expertise, and niche technical skills on cutting edge products. It's a challenging career path, and you'll have to stay one step ahead of the curve the whole time, but it can be done. Good luck.
This was last published in June 2003

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