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I knew I would have a good time interviewing Tom Van Doorslaer because we have similar interests such as gamification, social media, and user experience (and reading!). Indeed, we spent  over one hour on the phone, digressing from the questions I usually ask our Members of the Month.

Tom is a long-time member of SCN who exemplifies the community spirit by contributing quality content and helping spread the word about SCN. He draws people’s attention to content that will help them in their jobs and makes connections between SCN members and non-members (members to be? ;-)) This is a remarkable spirit and I know there are a lot of members out there who are doing this every day. It is nice to be reminded of this, and as a community manager it encourages me to keep doing what I am doing and supporting our members in their professional activities.

Tom, can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you live, who you work for, and other things you would like to share with the community (hobbies, fun facts)?

I am from Belgium, a small country in Europe. I work  as a Software Architect for GDF Guez, an SAP customer. I started in this role over a year ago, in September 2011. My opinions are not the opinion of my employer 😉 As part of my job I have to keep track of the trends in the market and look for new technologies to improve our work and productivity.

In my free time, I recently started playing golf and it’s fun because it’s a very competitive sport, and I am of a competitive nature 😉 I always strive to be the best in what I do. I’m not going to beat Tiger Wood any time soon, but it’s my personal challenge to be good and share my achievements with my colleagues and friends. I can be serious about the competition, but I still keep in touch with my inner child. I have a lot of toys at home, such as race cars etc. And even if I suck at it and crash my cars regularly, I like playing with them.

I also read a lot, I like fantasy books such as  The Lord of the Rings series. This is the archetype of the fantasy book, it has inspired a lot of authors.

When I write blogs, I always try to tell a compelling story and I also add humor, it helps make my story more fun to read and people will remember it.

It seems that Belgium and the Netherlands have produced outstanding community members. Think of tom.cenens and fred.verheul, both Mentors. Or roel.vandenberge and jan.penninkhof2, and others I may have missed. Do you know them well, and would you say you have a tight-knit community at a local level?

I do think that our way of interacting with each other is more familiar, because we speak the same language. I met Fred and Jan at TechEd this year and we had good discussions. It strikes me that for such a small country there are indeed a lot of Dutch people active on SCN and producing quality content. There’s also twan.vandenbroek and martin.gillet2, as well as others who are not on SCN.

Note from Laure:

Here we started talking about connecting as community members, and tom told me that he is actually an SCN advocate! He usually tries to share information from SCN to others and convince them to come to SCN. The information he sends to them is very valuable in their work and there are chances that these people will join SCN. Recently, before TechEd, yariv.zur wrote a blog about BPM and Tom shared it with someone and got them to connect with each other. How cool is that? In addition to spending time contributing on SCN, Tom spends time facilitating conversations without asking for any credit.

You were at TechEd Madrid and wrote about it already. Is there anything in particular that you liked during the event? Any new learnings?

Design Thinking was a new concept to me. After learning more about it at TechEd I decided to present a session about Design Thinking at the latest Inside Track in Belgium.

Everything influences user experience, not just ergonomics or fancy new screens. You have to put your end user centrally and design thinking teaches you to do that in an innovative way.

At TechEd there were opportunities to practice Design Thinking and that was very helpful in grasping the concept. Moving post-its around… it’s a great concept to improve your application. IT people think about functionality but we forget about how people interact with our applications.

I met with marilyn.pratt and jeanne.carboni, they were at the top of my list of people to meet. I came to TechEd mostly to network. I attended acouple of lectures and expert networking sessions, but no hands-on session. I need to watch a lot of videos now!

I’m planning to write a separate blog about the user experience as a Teched attendee so stay tuned!

When did you become a member of SCN and what brought you to this community?

I still remember. A great teacher tells you where to look, but not what to look for.

My first mentor in my first job was convinced of that principle. She taught me about nice programming and design. And told me to go to SCN and discover things by myself.

Back in 2005. I read a lot at first. I learned this way, and when I started having questions that had never been answered, I decided to post them in the forums. That was about two years after I joined. Then at TechEd 2009 in Vienna I met thomas.jung and asked him a question in person about Web Dynpro for ABAP. He was talking in such a passionate way that people came up to listen to what he was saying. I decided that I wanted to become an ambassador like Thomas. At first I started contributing on a local level, writing articles and presenting. Then I started blogging on SCN – it took me about 6 years to get to this point! People think they have no new information to share. It’s not true. People think they have to write very technical blogs with screenshots, details etc. It’s not the case. You can share anything you like about technology. Focus on the tools you work with and start giving feedback, then it happens naturally.

How does SCN help you in your daily activities?

It’s a part of my job, my management supports my involvement in the community. I spend a lot of time reading blogs, getting opinions from various people. Also, contributing helps me structure my own work.

Some people are very good at explaining things in an easy way. steinermatt is an example (NetWeaver Cloud), ohad.yassin has nice blogs (for example this one) on use cases of the NW Cloud Portal. I had no clue about it, that’s the kind of information I needed to explain the technology to my colleagues. thorstenster is very eloquent in his blogs, he is a good story teller and he is strong technically. john.moy3 as well (Mobile), he has a lot of knowledge and experience and shares a lot. He can convince the most reluctant companies about mobility!

How do you find the time to contribute to SCN?

I changed jobs at a certain point in my career, after 6 years of consulting, I couldn’t be very active when I was a consultant, and I had no work-life balance. Then I moved to the customer side and one big advantage is that we travel less and can spend the time on SCN

Today, because it’s my job, I have to spend time on SCN.

What do you like most about the community in general?

The people. So many different opinions, visions, ideas and insights, plus different cultures. It’s a great place to get new perspectives. Everything I read influences me.

You seem actively interested in many topics, ranging from Web Dynpro ABAP, SAP for Mobile, and Technology Innovation to more general, community-based topics in About SCN, Social Media, Gamification, etc. Would you say you have eclectic interests? What topic are you most passionate about?

User experience is what I’m most passionate about. Everything else fits in there. People want a good experience, work with decent tools. It’s not a bad thing to give IT a good working environment to achieve good user experience.

If a new member came to you and asked for your advice on how to be an active and respected member of SCN, what would you say?

They should look at their own strengths and start engaging in these topics. In parallel they should learn about other things. It’s an easy step to become active and get recognized.

Once you have gained broader knowledge, you can contribute structured work to help people on a different level. There are questions in the forums about architectural design that would be worth sharing with the community, the people who post it should start blogging! Don’t be shy.

Is there an SCN member you admire (OK… you can name a few)?

thorstenster really stands out.

And the entire team behind the community: Moderators, Advocates, Jeanne Carboni, Marilyn Pratt, you etc 🙂 Without your energey and commitment, the community wouldn’t be there.

Note from Laure: Me? Laure Cetin? I’m blushing. Tom made my day!

Easy question: Mac or Windows?

I was going to say Linux. But I just use it, I don’t know much about it.

I’ll have to go for Windows.

Note from Laure: It’s time for Tom to change laptop, if he’s so interested in user experience he should get a Mac demo and who knows, maybe he’ll switch to Mac. Now is a good time!

Are you on Twitter?

Yes, @tomvandoorslaer.

Sometimes I say stupid things. Forgive me 😉 “Everything I say could be a lie” is my disclaimer, to explain that these are just my humble opinions.

Every month, a member of the SAP Community Network is recognized for exemplary behavior: sharing knowledge with peers, being helpful and taking on additional tasks to support community engagement. See the list of previous SCN Members of the Month.