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Posted on behalf of Aleksandar Shumakov, participant in the scolarship program

I was waiting at a bus stop a few days before my first day at university with a couple of strangers. I didn’t know how to reach the city center so I asked them about directions. I probably looked like an obvious freshman to them as they were also students at my university. They gave me directions and afterwards we spoke about university and extracurricular activities I could look up – courses, programs, clubs, etc. Both strangers told me about all the activities they took up – and, let me tell you, they weren’t few. I quickly got used to the thought that I would need not only intelligence to survive in the world of higher education and professional excellence, but mostly ambition.

Those same guys told me about Study iT First. This is an SAP scholarship program, aimed at giving a head start (financial support and mentoring) to promising IT freshmen in the enterprise world. I checked it out and decided to apply, though I didn’t expect being chosen.

Two months and a few rounds of tests and interviews later, I attended the first exclusive scholar meeting. The looks on the faces of the other students (and mine, I bet) were full of curiosity and fear. We didn’t know what to expect from this unfamiliar environment. The Managing Director of SAP Labs Bulgaria, Radoslav Nikolov, encouraged us to take the most out of the program and use the support from our mentors to develop our skills and unleash our potential. After that we met our mentors – mine was the only guy in the room with a beard bigger than mine, Niki Samardzhiev. We looked like we would get along, talking not exclusively about technology and programming, but also about music, snowboarding and free time. Working with such a person is a pleasure!

The year blasted off and most of us scholars were stressed by our courses, so we didn’t take up a lot of side projects. I was exceptionally worried about my success there, but the guys from Study iT First had my back. Not only Niki, but also the organizers and the other scholars helped me raise my self-esteem and made me believe that I could achieve more. All in all, I finished the year with excellence and was eager to face the new challenges that I was going to be put up against.

What followed was two months of software development at SAP Labs Bulgaria during a student practice. I was teamed up with another scholar from the same program, Vlado, and we were tasked with creating a Contest Management application. We faced numerous challenges and were expected to quickly get the hang of deploying apps, debugging big chunks of code and working in a team. We got used to working in a friendly environment where everybody, even if not explicitly tasked with keeping an eye on us, helped us get the maximum amount of knowledge we could attain. At the end of the program, we and the other teams of scholars had to present our products and, knowing that, the competitive spirit was ever growing. Having said that, this experience raised our standards and expectations for a quality working environment.

Sometimes I ask myself what would have happened if I hadn’t entered the program. I wouldn’t have made a bunch of new friends, learned a lot more than I would’ve ever expected in such a short amount of time and understood what it means to be a part of a well-functioning team. And I wouldn’t have believed in myself. I would like to express my gratitude towards everybody involved in the program. I’d also like to turn towards the reader and say the following – Study iT First was the start of my career and was the first step in my professional growth. SAP empowered me to believe in myself. And if I could beat the odds to achieve my goals, everybody can.

Believe in yourself and stay strong!