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"The roots of Education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet". This is proverb written by my senior on my Autograph Book, during my Junior College days. I did not much understand the meaning of it. But over a period of time, I realized how much struggle, pain, patience, determination, commitment, time and effort is needed to learn new things in life. Nothing comes easy in life. Every step of the life is a struggle. Knowledge and education is no exception. In these modern days, Education comes with a price tag. You should have the passion to learn, in addition to that you should have enough financial resources, and else, your dreams would never be fulfilled. You may need to put enormous amount of effort and passion, even then, it may not be sufficient, unless you have enough monetary resources. SAP Education or Certification is no exception to that. The technologies are changing so rapidly and skills are getting redundant at a very high pace. Every consultant must be on their toes to learn the new technologies.

After introduction to HANA, number of consultants feel insecure and think they are lagging behind in bridging the gap of their skills. SAP pushing towards a lot with HANA, every consultant has no other option but try to mould them to learn the advanced technologies. The problem is most of the consultants are working long hours with travel, family constraints and added distractions like Facebook and Whatsapp. With all these, people find less and less time (might be some excuses) and not in a position to invest time and effort to learn new technologies. We have to leave excuses and find some time to get ourselves updated.

The days when I was working for a reputed Chemical Company in India, I was introduced to SAP in early 2000. It was 4.0 Version. Fresh implementations started in big corporate companies during those late 1990s. SAP was a buzz word in the market. Getting access to SAP Screen was a great thing in those days. Every technology enthusiast was only discussing about SAP. From the day 1 when I was introduced to SAP, a lot of passion had developed in me on SAP. Fortunately, I had given access to execute number of reports, as I was part of the Internal Audit Team. I was always eager to execute number of reports and compare them; the search was on always to find better reports. In those days, talking to the consultants was a great experience; we always used to look at them with a great respect. Any of their words around SAP were commandments and try to study as much as possible with limited available information. Those days were bachelor days, still I remember, going back to room only to discuss about the SAP system with other interested enthusiasts. Luckily, had a good company of friends who were always eager to help each other by sharing the knowledge.

Though I changed the company from the Chemical Company to a Metal Company, still the passion has not died in me on SAP. In contrast it was increasing day by day, almost like falling in love with SAP again and again. Fortunately, at the Metal Company, they decided to go for the SAP Implementation and luckily, I was part of their Core Team. Daily interacting with number of Consultants, end users and other stakeholders on the project has given me a fresh perspective in SAP implementation. Transforming ( yourself from an end user to consultant is something like transforming from Caterpillar to Butterfly. It is definitely not an easy transformation and this has become more and more difficult over a period of time. Due to the passion on SAP, I was always thinking of myself moving from End User Role to Consulting Role to better understand the technology around SAP. It was a burning desire, nothing to do with the money. I have realized and understood to become a consultant, I should definitely be good at configuration. That was the time when I decided to go for full FICO academy of SAP Training in 2003 with SAP Education Partner in Mumbai. I had to pledge whatever limited saving I had in my career with the bank for loan. That was still not sufficient to pay the fee. I had to pledge the personal gold from home with the banker to get the loan amount. Fortunately, I was able to get the leave from my employer to attend the training, but without any pay.

The objective of every certification or course is for a different purpose in my life. Certification is not necessarily mean to get more money or a big position. It might even possible after a passing a Certification, nobody would even care to recognize. At one point, you would even feel adding certification is adding another piece of paper to your list of Certification. Sometimes, you do the Certification, just to prove yourself how adequate knowledge you have. Sometimes, you fail the same Certification and become very adamant and sleepless, until you pass that Certification. Might be your first Certification is a tensed affair, but if you keep on writing a few, then it becomes like video game. How the kids are so enthusiastic moving from one Video game to the other, all the Consultants must surely have the same enthusiasm, if not more, to learn the new and advanced technologies.

I have so far passed 8 SAP Certifications (still feeling guilty for not appearing any in last few years). I have attended full length CPA course training; however, unfortunately, I did not get the Visa to appear the exam in USA. But, by the time I have the passport to visit the USA, I lost the tempo. Therefore, my best experience tells, once you decided to complete / achieve something, do not deviate yourself from it. You must strive harder and harder until you achieve it. I would be glad to share my personal experiences with you, how my 8 SAP Certifications are passed.

  • Solution Consultant mySAP Financials – Managerial & Financial Accounting

That was the time, 2003, I was desperately looking into shift from End User Role to Consulting. I had a strong belief that I had all skills to become a Consultant, but might be lacking the fundamentals around configuration in a deeper way. I used to read everything but still feel that something I am missing to become a full fledged SAP Consultant. Another problem I had that time was I used to live in a remote part of the country, not much access to opportunities outside world. I spoke to SAP Education Partner in Mumbai and decided that I should get registered for the full academy course of SAP FICO. I pledged everything with the bank and able to get the loan from them. It was a big gamble to put all my savings into stake. But, I am confident that it would help me to realize my dream and passion. From the day 1, it was only aspiration, just learn as much as you can, discuss with other peers, classmates, study and sleep. There was no time to think about any other thing. All day was busy listening to the lectures of the Tutors, try to understand them, take notes of everything possible, do practice questions, go home and prepare whatever be the best way possible. Unfortunately, I was never able to complete the hands on sessions at the end of each chapter, as no enough time for all to complete, as the configuration tables are locked by other users.

The examination date has come; it was a nerve breaking tension with full of anxious moments. Though I had given my best for that day, still some hesitation, because of the first exam, never know how it would be. Many questions were ringing in my mind, what will happen if I fail? Forget about the money, it was a question of prestige. Start praying all the Gods in the world to help me at least this time. Examination has started; most of the questions are answered. It was last ten minutes before concluding the exam and it was nerve breaking tension like thriller movie. Very eagerly looking at the screen for the result and I was so happy to see the message on screen with ‘Congratulations’. What a relief!!!!

  • Solution Consultant – Financials – Strategic Enterprise Management CPM & BPS (SEM 3.5)

Fortunately, got into Consulting Company in Mumbai and then moved to another consulting firm in Bangalore. Still, I was only looking ways to go to the next level by learning a new technology in the market. At that point BPS was a niche skill and people were really loved to do it. Then I contacted another SAP Education Partner in Hyderabad, but the course was very expensive. I had no other option, but to attend this course somehow. Then again I took person loan and registered for the course. The first day I realized that the tutor does not have much depth on the subject. All the participants in the class were Senior Consultants in FICO area; everybody was looking panic at each other. Each person has paid huge amounts to them and the Institute Management was so reluctant to accept the low quality. All the attendees have protested, and then they got some other tutor for few days. Those sessions were also horrible. Finally they got another tutor; he was a bit better, but not the best. We have no other choice but to proceed and complete the course. BPS area was better overall, but when it comes to CPM, mostly they read the whole curriculum books. Before the exam day, nobody was really confident, but hoping to some miracle would pull us through all. We had only option to go through the curriculum books madly all day and night. The day has already come and everybody is pumped with high tension. Again the movie 1 is repeated, looking eagerly for the examination result. Last 10 minutes are nerves break and looking at the screen eagerly. Three Seconds., Two Seconds., One Second .., and then “Congratulations” on the screen. Those few moments are very precious, will be cherished forever.

  • Solution Consultant – mySAP BI Business Warehouse 2002

Already enough spent with trainings, had no much choice to attend another expensive training at full length academy. This time I thought of learning another technology on my own and give an attempt to attend the Certification on my own. That time the latest SAP BI Certification was 3.5, but it was a bit advanced that time. Therefore, I decided to try with SAP BW 3.0. Certification and then contacted SAP Education in India. They had their own reasons / rules for not allowing me to directly apply for SAP Certification. I had no other choice, but somehow to check my knowledge levels. Then I contacted Singapore SAP Education and I did not have any positive response from them. Then I contacted Malaysia SAP Education and they happily agreed that I can pay the exam fee and attend the exam. I have applied for the Visa, the travel day has already come, I have travelled from Bangalore to Chennai to KL. The minute I landed in KL, I was duped by some unscrupulous people and I lost all my Malaysian Ringgits with me. Luckily my debit card has worked and I was able to withdraw some local currency there and found some hotel. I thought of visiting the Exam Centre a day before to avoid the surprise the Exam day. The taxi driver showed me all the streets of KL and left me at a place and it took me four hours to reach me back the hotel. Again the tension day has come and completed answering all the questions. Reached the last 10 minutes stage, but to my surprise, I was not feeling that much nervous. I was little anxious, but not much nervous like before. My only tension was not on the exam result, but how to face my colleagues if I fail? The wait was over and luckily again the same ‘Congratulations’ screen. I was happy because I travelled so long to write my SAP Certification, luckily not failed.

  • Solution Consultant – SAP Solution Manager 4.0 – Solution Manager Implementation Tools

After moving to UK at that point of time, I understood the numbers of clients are actively using the Solution Manager. I was of the opinion that I should at least have the basic understanding of SAP Solution Manager and collected the available information on the internet. I was helping myself in understanding the functionality of SAP Solution Manager. Finally, I understood, it has lot much functionality than anticipated by me. There are also few more certifications in that area at that point. This exam was not full length exam with 80 questions. This exam only consists of 40 questions. Personally, I found that the difficulty level on this exam was too low. Most of the questions on the exam are with answer ‘Yes’ only. I hardly remember if I put any ‘No’ answers to the questions. On the exam itself, I had the feeling surely I am going to pass the exam. Hence, I did not feel the tension for result, cherished myself with the ‘Congratulations’ message.

  • Technology Consultant – SAP NetWeaver – SAP Security (2004)

I have had the pleasure of working in SAP Security Area, so, I decide myself to do something with SAP Security Certification. At the point the above mentioned examination was available and registered myself to write the exam. This exam is not complete SAP Security examination with user management and roles. ADM960 course does contain the area of Network Security, Cryptography, Encryption, Secure Network Communication, Secure Socket Layer and Single Sign On (SSO) etc. This exam comes with a challenge to the above areas. Working on the SAP Security would not help you totally. Particularly, the above areas should be thoroughly read as there are number of fundamentals concepts to be learned. I have given the exam first time and failed with less of 2 percent marks. This main reason for my failure is I have not put much effort on the above ADM960 fundamentals. Then immediately I rebooked the certification. This time I made sure that I have gone through the fundamentals thoroughly and thankfully end up with ‘Congratulations’ message.

  • Solution Consultant – Financials – Financial Accounting with mySAP ERP ECC 6.0

Most of the clients have upgraded from 4.7 to 6.0 and using the New GL. Though working on New GL, I felt that now it is high time to get it certified with ECC 6.0. Earlier SAP FICO Certification does not contain New General Ledger (New GL) and Asset Accounting area. Further the earlier version of SAP Certification is the lighter version of the SAP FICO without much depth. By that time I worked number of years on SAP FICO, before attending exam, I was pretty confident that I am going to pass the examination. I have not much read the curriculum areas, except brushing lightly the areas of New GL and Asset Accounting. I realized that if you are fundamentally strong and have the work experience, unless you mess up the exam very badly, in all cases you are going to pass the examination. Fortunately, my gut feeling did not go wrong and luckily had a chance to see the ‘Congratulations’ message.

  • SAP Certified – Associate Business Foundation & Integration with SAP ERP 6.0 EHP5

Those who has contributed in the areas of SAP Certification on SAP Community Network (SCN), they used to give a free SAP Certification examination. SAP has given me a coupon to use for SAP Certification, thankful to SAP. I thought of using this free SAP Certification coupon so consciously without taking much risk. I should write a valid Certification which is connected to my skill set and at the same time, I should make sure that I am going to pass the Certification. After lot of research, which certification to go for, I decided for this Certification, the prime reason selecting this is, it covers the integration points between the modules, touch only the fundamental concepts, no lengthy materials to study and the pass percentage must be possible minimum. This certification ticked with all those criteria and selected for this. Honestly, I did not go through any materials as such except refreshing the fundamental concepts. Though this exam looks very simple, unless your fundamental concepts are really clear, the examination questions would be really tricky. Thankfully, I was glad to see ‘Congratulations’ screen again.

  • SAP Certified Application Associate – Management Accounting (CO) with SAP ERP EHP4

Those who have SAP FICO or FI Certifications, they are all usually eager to pass the CO Certification. The CO Certification is not as simple as FI Certification. CO is more of conceptual understanding, whereas FI is more of Configuration related. Therefore, those who are willing to write the CO Certification must be good in conceptual understanding of the subject. I was only able to refresh the available materials and had no much chance to go through in detail. However, the questions in the examination are tricky. When attempting the examination, I felt that I would have done the preparation in a better way. Though I was confident in the exam that I would pass, but, I felt that a better preparation would have given chance to get better score. Time was definitely not a factor; it was completed well within the time. Last half an hour was to just verify whether all the questions are answered or not. Then the exam session has reached the last final moments, little anxious, but thankful once again for that lovely ‘Congratulations’ Screen.

The gist of the lessons learned during all these Certifications are:

  • If you are attending the courses, always make sure you maintaining your own notes from the important points explained by the tutor.

  • Before you joining a course, ensure that you the trainers are up to the good standard. If the trainers are no good, better not to continue the remaining sessions.

  • Always take care of your logistics, go a day before to the nearest place of the Exam Centre. Try to avoid long journeys on the date of examinations.

  • Proverb says, ‘Even if it is a small snake, you have to hit with the long stick’. Similar way, even if the exam is too easy, never compromise on the preparation and reading.

  • When you find two similar examinations, always go for the one which has the less pass percentage. Passing is very important here, but not the very latest course. I do not find much difference between EHP5 and EHP6 Certification.

  • Never under estimate the power of preparation and reading. If you do not prepare well / read, then, even if you are champion in hands-on experience, most likely chances are that you may fail.

  • If you are having Certification only, but no real experience, it may not help you. But, if you have real experience, but no certification, it may still help you. But, if have real experience with Certification, it would be bonus.

  • Learning is a continuous process, all the learning must be supported by the evidence from the third party, hence, Certifications are must.

  • You should have the same tempo, until you pass your Certification.

  • Read religiously your SAP curriculum books as many number of times as possible.

  • Only insecure people will call ‘Certification is waste of money’. Ignore them. Be Positive, Think Positive and Stay Positive.

Good Luck to you all.