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Career Story: SAP (Business Software) Consultant

SAP (Business Software) Consultant

Job Title: SAP Consultant

Type of Company: As an independent consultant, I work for a variety of companies. Most recently I have worked at a medical device company and a consumer beverage company.

Education: BS in Mathematics, Tufts University

Previous Experience: I started with a large IT consulting firm right out of college. Over the years, I progressed from a programmer to an analyst to a manager, working on large IT project. As a manager, I worked on a project where SAP (a large ERP system which is business software that integrates manufacturing, planning, distribution etc.) was being implemented and later supported. After having children, I relinquished my managerial responsibilities to allow for a little more flexibility in my work schedule. Instead, I took on more hands-on assignments with the SAP software. After 15 years with the large IT consultancy, I decided to go out on my own as an independent consultant working with SAP.

Job Tasks: I help companies support their SAP systems by adding new functionality and fixing problems with existing functionality.

Folks who use the SAP system at a particular company log requests to either fix problems or add new functionality to the system. The requests can range from really small things (for example, we always want two copies of invoices to print instead of one copy) to big projects (for example, a company wants to streamline their warehouse and shipping processes by implementing new wireless scanners that the warehouse personal can use instead of manually entering transactions into a computer).

When a request is assigned to me, I typically contact the requestor to make sure I understand what he or she needs, then research ways to satisfy their request in the SAP system. Ultimately I will program or configure a solution in a test system, test it, and ask the requestor to confirm that the solution will work. If yes, we implement the change in their 'live' system.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: I love problem solving, and this job is really about problem solving. SAP is a large and complex system, so there are often many different ways to go about solving a problem, and I enjoy researching possible solutions and figuring out which would be best. I also get a lot of satisfaction out of helping people by improving their system, which ultimately helps make it easier for them to do their jobs.

Job Tips:
1. Coursework that requires analytical thinking and problem solving skills is key. Some people think that you need a computer science degree to do the kind of work I do, but that's not really true. I've seen lots of math, economics, and finance majors do well in this type of work.

2. The big consulting firms (Accenture, Capgemini, IBM, ...) provide great entry-level opportunities to get into this type of work.

3. Another way lots of folks get into this kind of work is by transferring from the 'business' side of things into IT (Information Technology). For example, someone working in finance might get experience by providing the business user input on IT projects, and then eventually switch to the IT side.

Additional Thoughts: I think this kind of work rarely gets boring because technology is continually evolving, requiring me to learn new things.

Many people are surprised to know that I don't consider myself a 'techie' - for example, I can't fix my own PC, necessarily. For me it's all about solving problems, and technology is just a means to do that. I don't really enjoy technology for the sake of technology.

Great problem solving skills are a must. Also, good communication skills, both written and verbal, are key. Some of the issues I deal with can be complex, and if you can't explain the problem and/or proposed solution to other people in terms they will understand, you can't really be effective.

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