In IT, being a freelancer is very common; due to the nature of project work or other life commitments. SAP is an area in which a quality freelancer can really thrive. We sat down with one of our SAP freelancers, who has 20 years' experience, to find out more about SAP and working under a contract employment model.
"After getting a degree in computing, I started my career as a training assistant, but I've always liked to fix things. I used to fix my own car when I first started work as I couldn't afford the garage, but the process of getting something fixed and working; that is the biggest joy."
"At this point I hadn’t done any programming in SAP, only the programming I had learned at college. Between 1992 – 1999 I progressed from knowing nothing of SAP to being an SAP ABAP team leader, learning SAP and business processes as fast as I could through many clients.
"Since then I have worked across a range of different sectors, working as an ABAP programmer, team leader, solution architect and finally as a technical delivery manager. I don’t do it for the money anymore, I love what I do. I do it for the art of problem-solving and the challenge of delivering something fit for purpose to the client. That's more important to me.
"I'd say that when it comes to soft skills, time management is key. You must work well under pressure and be comfortable managing deadlines. Attention to detail, stakeholder management, and trustworthiness are also important skills when working in SAP. It's important to know your limitations and keep a holistic view of the bigger picture. Every SAP project you work on will impact the entire business.
"I chose to work contract because of the flexibility. I have the choice of where I work and can fit that around my lifestyle. There's also plenty of variety so I can grow my skills by tackling different projects. You're always stretched professionally with client demands. Sometimes I surprise myself with what my team had achieved."
Is there a difference between short term and long term contracts?
"Sometimes a client has a short-term need. They might be in a demanding position and need you to go in and troubleshoot. At times like this, experience really helps because you need to deliver as soon as you walk through the door. You need to be able to listen and understand the issues quickly and offer a clear solution that covers all the problems.
"You need to understand the system you're working in and quickly solve the problem. When the pressure's on like this, being able to draw on industry-specific experience is often what makes the difference.
"In a long-term contract, you're typically re-building, or part of a much bigger team. While the result will be the same as a short-term contract, you need to tackle it differently. The first thing you need to do is know your stakeholders and build relationships because you're going to have more time and have to deal with issues that are complex, which can impact more people.
"That's why understanding SAP philosophy is so important to being a good SAP consultant. You need to understand all the problems, where they can happen and how changing one thing here will not affect things elsewhere. Just like tuning a car engine, if the mix of air or fuel is out of proportion, it's not performing or even running!
"If you have the opportunity, walk in the client's shoes and go through the entire process end to end by shadowing people who have to use your end product. This will give you the best understanding of your client's needs."
"SAP is all about finding solutions and problem-solving."
"The best part of my job? I meet great people. I have travelled the world and worked with some amazing people on great projects. And of course, I get paid to do something I love.
"For people looking to start in SAP, I'd say always learn and remember the basic skills. IT is changing all the time, so you need to stay on top of new developments, but never lose sight of the fundamentals.
"If I could go back I would tell my younger self something, it would be to learn a language - specifically German. So many SAP manuals are written in German! Learn German and listen more.
"The one thing that matters to me about working with a recruiter is that they work with me to find the right opportunities and develop my career; a good agent is not easy to come by. Matthew Gilbranch has always done that and he also checks in on me regularly even when I am not working for him to see how I am. Relationship management is so important to me.