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Listening to episode 2 of the Coffee Corner Radio podcast - or is it episode 1 under the new name? - with uxkjaer & moya.watson prompted me to fire off this blog.

Jakob concluded the podcast by asking Moya - Stop, Start, Continue? Meaning what does she want to see the SAP Community Stop doing - Start doing - and Continue doing?

It got me thinking about what I would like from my SAP Community.

TL;DR - Opportunity.

I have working in IT pretty much since leaving high-school but I really only became a full-time developer in the early part of this century. A happy coincidence was that this was about when the SAP Developer Network was first launched.

Whilst I had developed in many languages over the years I would never have presumed to call myself a “Developer”. And despite almost 8 years working for SAP I had little experience building ABAP applications. But I did have a pretty good understanding of web technologies like HTML, JavaScript, etc. So I was somewhat prepared for my first big engagement as an “Independent Developer” building a Sales Force Automation solution for an electrical wholesaler who had a SAP backend system. They wanted their Sales Executives to be able to perform customer enquiries, order enquiries,  catalogue searches and placing of orders via their mobile phones.

Devices like this.


I was familiar with the SAP server-side scripting programming model - known as Business Server Pages (BSP) - so I was comfortable that the technology could support my design. But I was no ABAP expert. Fortunately the customer had an in-house developer so the plan was for me to design and specify the solution. Then I would focus on the HTML & JavaScript front-end and he would focus on the ABAP. In reality he found something else to do - either scared off by this new “internet” stuff or just by me - and I was up for all of it.

So where to start? Well I can tell you I made extensive use of the F1 key for quite a while. And I got better with each screen I built and each task I completed. You know how you can look back at code you wrote a year or so ago and get really embarrassed that you did things that way? I could do that by looking at what I wrote yesterday. Fun times.

And then there was SDN. What a fantastic resource it was for me. Fortunately the rest of the SAP world was discovering BSP pages at about this time too so there were lots of newbie questions from everyone, lots of interactions, lots of false leads, etc. as we all worked this thing out together. The BSP forum was one of the most active areas on SCN and it truly made us all better BSP developers the more we participated - especially me.

I started as a bit of a lurker. I watched and absorbed what was going on. Then - after a while I answered a forum question. It wasn’t a perfect answer but it was acknowledged and appreciated by the op. Someone else added to my response to complete the answer by addressing a condition I had not considered. So the op had his answer and I had leant something too. That’s pretty cool.

I also learnt how to present a forum question to get the best response. For example “Hey Experts - how do I make a twist twirl?” rarely worked. But - “Hi there, I want to make a twist twirl. I have searched and found this response but it doesn’t exactly meet my needs. I have tried reversing my twist and even hanging it upside down. Here is my sample code `my_twist->twirl( ).` but all I get is a little wobble. Can anyone help me please?”. It turns out showing your code, explaining your problem, and what you have tried to do to correct it works. It turns out people like to help others with problems. But people are not so keen to do your work for you. Give a man a fish… Teach a man to fish….

Special mention to brian.mckellar and thomas.jung who contributed so much to our understanding of BSP - but there were plenty of others too.

While I initially thought of SCN simply as a resource it was actually an opportunity. It was an opportunity to learn things better by explaining them to others. An opportunity to learn from hands-on practitioners. An opportunity to engage with the world-wide community of SAP developers. An opportunity to appreciate diverse perspectives. An opportunity to show people who I was and what I was like too.

Fast-forward a few years and I had the opportunity to join the SAP Mentor program.

The Mentors are representatives of the SAP Community so some of them were familiar to me - but many were not. Like earlier I sat back a bit at first and lurked - watching and learning from these people was an amazing opportunity. And, in part because of my earlier SCN experience, I understood a bit better the value of this opportunity and tried to make the most of it.

One of the most surprising things I found was the huge number of new opportunities the SAP Mentor program provided. The chance to meet and get to know other Mentors is an amazing opportunity. Many of them, most of them, I now call friends. If I have a security query I can contact Gretchen or Mikki. If I have a Cloud Platform question I know Matthius will help me out. When I am drafting an important but difficult document I can lean on Jon’s advice. And the list goes on. I have had opportunities to meet and engage with SAP Product Teams so that I can contact them if I have questions or concerns. And plenty of opportunities to meet with SAP Executives to hear their perspectives first hand and be able to ask them questions too.

And these opportunities have led to many other opportunities presenting themselves to me because I am part of the SAP Community. I know I have missed some but I hope I have recognised and taken advantage of most of them.

Like the SAP Community the SAP Mentor program is going through a period of transition and reinvention. Whenever people ask me what I want to see from the program I return to those times when I was lurking around and I noticed and took advantage of the opportunities that were presented to me. I want to see the same opportunities for the new people going into the program now. Well not exactly the same but the same sort of opportunities.

So what do I want from SCN? The same thing. I want SCN to serve up similar opportunities in 2018 as it did in when it was the SAP Developer Network. Opportunities to learn, to share and to engage.

Of course recognising and taking advantage of those opportunities is up to the individual.