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SAP's SDN helps one techie come into spotlight

A Colgate-Palmolive developer went from using SDN to blogging and presenting at SAP events. It all started with one application.

Dan McWeeney, a programmer analyst in global information technology – finance for Colgate-Palmolive, has traveled...

to Las Vegas and Europe to present at SAP conferences and is a blogger on the SAP Developer Network (SDN). It all started when he looked to the SDN when developing an application.

McWeeney's application is a drag-and-drop interface for modifying BW (business warehouse) data using Ruby on Rails (RoR) -- a Web framework based on the Ruby programming language. Because he could build on work done by another member of the SDN community, the interface was easy to develop without being a RoR expert, McWeeney said.

McWeeney built the application to help his manager with resource allocation, often a complex task in his department. It replaced a system of spreadsheets and different offline resource planning applications that didn't connect with the SAP systems. Formerly, it could take a full day get a rough cut of employees' responsibilities for the coming year.

New York-based Colgate-Palmolive, which had helped to produce some of the initial content for the SDN Web site, encouraged McWeeney to get involved with the SDN community. The company has also allowed McWeeney and his colleagues to release open source developments like SAPlink -- a project that enables custom developments to be more easily packaged and distributed across systems.

Colgate-Palmolive counts over $11 billion in yearly sales in 200 countries and territories from its ubiquitous consumer products like toothpaste, soaps and detergents.

Others in SDN also urged McWeeney to blog about his developments and he has since written about everything from BI (business intelligence) to Ruby and ABAP programming.

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McWeeney became further involved in the developer community when he gave a demo of the RoR solution at TechEd. It was so popular that he gave an impromptu session in a meeting area later in the conference.

"The peer interaction was phenomenal. These people weren't just chatting over coffee, they were programming," Christopher Hearn, product marketing director for SAP, said, relating a story about a group of developers who stayed in the meeting area programming all night.

McWeeney's sessions were so well-received that SAP has invited him to participate in other events, including Tech Ed EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Asia).

While TechEd was a big part of McWeeney's experience, developers who don't have the luxury of attending these events shouldn't be discouraged. McWeeney advises any developer interested in getting involved to participate in communities like SDN. Hearn concurs.

"Getting involved in SDN, with people like Dan McWeeney, and conversing with them will get you noticed," Hearn said.

Blogging is also a way to get noticed.

"Writing blogs is a great way to communicate with lots of different people," McWeeney said in an email. "If you get enough support for an idea on a blog, you can get SAP to help."

At first glance, contributing ideas and solutions to a community of people from other companies may not seem to make a lot of sense for developers or their employers.

However, all developers benefit from this kind of collaboration, according to Hearn. It offers new approaches to common problems using the latest technology -- without the marketing-speak that can often permeate information coming directly from software vendors.

For his part, McWeeney feels his involvement has helped him improve as a developer.

"Speaking in front of people has been great," he said. "Sometimes it can be hard for technical people to step out from behind their monitors and explain why technology can help solve problems. Speaking at analyst events and to people who aren't technical makes me understand their problems and helps me craft better solutions. That will always help my career in the long run."

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