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Breaking into SAP as a University Graduate Print E-mail
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In this section of our Classic SAP Career Q and A, Jon Reed shares some highlights from comments he has given over the years to those breaking into SAP as recent college graduates. If you have further feedback on this topic, please post it as a comment on one of Jon's SAP Career Blog entries.

What if you are a recent graduate? Can you break into SAP?

One thing I always tell recent graduates is: "go where the opportunities are." Don't worry so much about whether those opportunities are in SAP or not. For example, a college graduate with good programming skills might be able to get a position as a junior-level person programmer at one of the larger consultancies. That might lead to work on enterprise-level projects. And whether those companies are running Oracle Apps or SAP doesn't really matter when you're getting your feet wet. The key is to grow your skills early so that you are in position for the most challenging jobs possible.

I often recommend that recent graduates apply to larger firms and companies that have structured training programs. These programs can get you further into business software implementation. But you always want to stay flexible on your role until you get further along.

Is it better to get a Master's Degree before breaking into SAP?

Some graduates think that having a Master's Degree will give them an extra edge in the SAP market, but I don't think that's a good reason to get an advanced degree. I would base career planning more on your ultimate interests. The reason to get a Master's Degree is the intellectual know-how and the long-term career objectives.

 

If you'd like to be pretty high up the corporate food chain someday, such as in CIO level, then a Master's Degree is probably a good idea. As far as when to get that advanced degree. I know you can always finish a master's part-time down the road (and even get your company to pay for it), but I'm a fan of getting schooling out of the way before life gets too hectic.

A more relevant question is: do you need a master's degree to succeed in an SAP consulting career? The answer is a definitive no. A small percentage of SAP consultants have a master's degree, but most of them don't. What successful SAP consultants have in common is not an advanced degree, but years of hands-on project experience focused on a particular niche that relates well to their overall skills and interests. I will say that 99 percent of SAP consultants have completed their undergraduate degree, so getting the four year degree under your belt if definitely a good idea.

If you have a master's degree in business or information technology and you're wondering what part of SAP to focus on, it doesn't matter much. Again, you go where the opportunities take you. Don't get too stuck on SAP. Focus instead on getting exposure to enterprise-level software that tackles key business problems. It could be SAP, it could be Oracle, it could be another area entirely. Take the most challenging jobs you can find. If you choose skills over money and keep pushing and learning about the latest technologies, you'll be surprised how well your career unfolds.

 

What if you are a recent graduate with no technical skills? Is a SAP Basis role a good option to pursue?

I would say no, *unless* your employer wants to give you some skills exposure and put you out in the field. If you have a business analyst background, it's generally better to pursue a functional role. But if the company is going to train you, a switch to the technical side could make sense - if you have a high degree of interest and aptitude for that type of work. As I'm fond of saying, "go where the opportunities are." This applies especially to recent graduates who need to seize the chances they get. Some graduates ask me if it's too late to pursue Basis given that SAP is transitioning to a NetWeaver architecture. It's true that it would be better to get exposure to NetWeaver systems than classic Basis, but either way, you're looking at a lot of the same technology with a different name. SAP is evolving gradually, and as a Basis expert, you should be able to evolve along with it. Basis is one of the "least proprietary" SAP skills because you get some exposure to overall technical systems management, such as DBA and system security.

 

What if you have an MBA and a logistics focus? Which areas of SAP should be targeted?

Someone with an MBA and an interest in logistics has a lot of options in SAP to consider. For example, perhaps the emerging SAP RFID area could be a hot field for someone of this profile to pursue (with some focus on classic RF until the RFID piece heats up). SAP logistics areas are hot right now, and this goes beyond the core SD/MM area to include Warehouse Management (WM), Inventory Management (IM), Plant Maintenance (PM), and other "niche" areas that more and more companies are pulling into their SAP application set. The MBA doesn't necessarily help you to land a logistics job, but it doesn't hurt either. The key is to develop a career concentration in logistics that spans over multiple projects. The best way to look at it: you are a logistics expert that specializes in using SAP to optimize a company's logistics execution systems. If you approach SAP in that manner, it will fit in well with your MBA focus and make you a sought-after consultant. Companies will know that you don't just have SAP configuration skills, but deeper logistics know-how to share.

 

Does a recent graduates have a chance in SAP, or should they consider other options?  

I answer questions from new college graduates from time to time, and my answer is always the same: at your age, don't limit yourself to SAP. One good reason for this: to get SAP experience, you'd have to take a full time job at a company implementing SAP, because you won't get hired by a consulting firm to be an SAP consultant these days. Your job is to go where the opportunities are. At your age, all things being equal, I would like to see you get a business process/applications consulting job of some kind, probably with a large consulting entity. The advantage of consulting is that you will get a chance to get exposure to a range of projects and industries. This will make you more marketable, and will also give you a sense of the options available to you before you decide on a career focus. If you are just determined to break into SAP, I would recommend getting some type of SAP training or certification. It won't come cheap, but the know-how would help you to get a better handle on SAP and show employers your strong level of interest in an SAP career. Another option is simply to buy and read as many SAP books as possible - there are a lot of good ones out there. As you browse through books and web sites, remember that you will need to figure out a focus within SAP to concentrate on. Ideally, this focus should link up closely with your core business interests and skills. There's nothing wrong with targeting a career in SAP, but as a recent graduate, the best option is to choose the best job opportunity you're presented with, SAP or not. Experience is king. Get quality job experience, and you can worry about getting into the SAP side of things later on.


 

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