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Getting stuck between "SAP implementor" and "SAP manager"

SAP configuration and SAP management are separate focuses every SAP professional must choose between. Jon Reed, SAP careers and certification expert, explains how to decide based on your current skills and future goals.

I am an IT manager, with an MBA, for a small multi-national company that has implemented SAP worldwide using the big bang approach -- PP, MM, SD and FI/CO in one calendar year.

During my three years in this position, I have served in capacities such as an SAP Project Manager (for the Americas...

region), member of the Finance Design team and member of the SD implementation team.

Due to the small size of our SAP team, I must perform multiple activites including Sarbanes-Oxley analysis by assessing systems configuration for key business processes and IDocs analysis for EDI configuration. This has provided a good foundation in SAP but makes it difficult to develop a niche as I oversee consultants and analysts and must jump in to assist as necessary.

I have had some interviews and the smaller boutique consulting firms want more configuration experience and the larger firms seek more managerial experience. I am at a career crossroads.

It sounds like you are getting some excellent experience. But I think you have also summed up a classic dilemma: getting stuck in between "SAP implementor" and "SAP manager". It's not the place you want to be, and you know it.

Yes, you are at a career crossroads of sorts. Assuming you want to stay in SAP, you need to decide whether you want to pursue SAP configuration or SAP management. Based on your description so far, it seems to be your changes are better to pursue management since that is where your biggest skills seem to be from what I can tell here. Plus, you have an MBA, which also helps you in management areas. So, you simply need to find a way to build on the management side of your experience further. It may be that you can continue to take on bigger leadership roles at your current employer. Or, perhaps you can find a more challenging job working for another SAP customer.

As a general rule, when you can't get hired by a consulting firm, the best thing to do is to move to another SAP customer site in a more enhanced role. This will help you get more SAP skills under your belt. And while job-hopping can hurt you in some careers, when you are targeting consulting firms, a bit of movement from job to job is usually good because it means you are getting exposure to multiple projects - an important criteria for consulting firms that are hiring. As long as you keep those moves to a minimum and make sure they are strategic, they can only help you in the end. And in a couple years, you can apply to a consulting firm again. I'll bet you'll be successful the second time around.

This was last published in September 2006

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