|The SAP Mentor Spotlight Interview Series highlights key strategic topics, such as emerging technologies, learning, and other topics, and provides insights from Mentors and SAP leaders on turning ideas into innovative approaches that impact people, process, and technology.|
Ever wonder how things work? From time-to-time it can be interesting to dissect the cause-and-effect of things around us by staying curious and solving problems.
From a business outcomes and IT perspective there are many considerations such as integrating data and business processes; building value chains; innovating with industry best practices; and foremost, delivering value to customers, employees, stakeholders, and the overall organization.
For some, it is fine to know that an app or solution simply works. And for others, they want to get to the source and root-cause by diving deeper to understand the underlying principles.
For Martin Fischer, Business Manager & SAP Portfolio Manager at BridgingIT and SAP Mentor, he developed a mindset early on in his career to explore “how things work” and take a more holistic approach. It was quite interesting to learn more about his views on obtaining core expertise, as well as the importance of pro-actively broadening his horizons.
Allie Trzaska (AT): From your days at Ulm University of Applied Sciences to today, what inspired you to pursue a career in programming, which led you to your current role as Business Manager and SAP Portfolio leader at BridgingIT GmbH?
Martin Fischer (MF): It started before my studies when I did some early training in business administration. During this time, I had the opportunity to join a project in the financial department and support their SAP R/3 4.6C implementation project team. After that intensive time, I decided to study business and computer sciences, during which I realized that I was really interested in software development because I like to understand what happens “behind the scenes.”
I never considered myself to be a very good developer, but there was one big thing I had that gave me an advantage over some others: passion! It was never enough for me that a program just did what it was supposed to do. I wanted to really understand why we implemented it the way we did. That’s an important mindset to have if you want more than just writing code.
As you asked about inspiration, I could sum it up in one sentence: it’s just a great feeling when you worked on an app and it does what it is supposed to do in the end!
AT: You and your colleagues have solid momentum over the last 2 years with your Coffee Corner Radio podcast series. While some start these types of initiatives and fade over time, you and your team continue to go strong. What topics do you plan to cover going forward?
MF: Often, the topics for episodes develop over time. If a subject keeps me thinking for a while, I try to find guests who have expertise or an opinion on that topic.
Once I find a guest, then the recording of the episode is the easiest part. Some very special episodes are the ones with analyst Holger Müller. Over the course of the pandemic, the podcast served as a good way to talk to people that I might usually meet at conferences or SAP Inside Tracks.
We did a few episodes after events like SAPPHIRE, or other interesting news, like changes to the board. It turned out that this was approximately every three months, so that’s the rhythm that we try to keep. Another reason we have such momentum is that we are a team of three, so each of us does episodes on our own. With that being the case, the time effort is divided by three 😉.
AT: How did you become involved with the SAP Mentor Program? What does being an SAP Mentor mean to you?
MF: I followed the very early SAP Mentors on the old SDN (SAP Developer Network). I really admired them, and I still do. If I remember correctly, it was in 2014 when I visited my first SAP Inside Track in Munich. There, I met many of the German SAP Mentors at that time. After my first SAP Inside Track, I was a regular participant. Long story short, I ended up getting nominated to the SAP Mentor program and was selected in 2017. A big reason: active engagement in the community.
It was an honor to get selected. But for me, there is some responsibility that comes with it. The program has changed a lot since I joined. In the past, community activity was a big part of being a Mentor. Now, the program is more about mentoring SAP in doing the “right” things. I see us as a voice from the community towards SAP which can include the board, leadership, or product management teams.
In my opinion, we are a very important voice because there is no “management filter” in-between as there might be in a sales cycle or if, for example, someone in higher management talks to the C-level of a customer, and so forth.
All of us Mentors are very experienced in working with SAP products and technology. Furthermore, we are very passionate about what we are doing and most of us still have hands-on experience. To sum it up…the Mentor Program provides a way to use my voice in a constructive way to help inspire change for the better.
AT: You once compared program developers to sports athletes, mentioning that developers “compete everyday but train rather seldom” whereas athletes take a lot of effort to train and then perform. What are a few tips that you consider for continuous learning? How do you keep up with emerging technologies?
MF: Where did you find that quote? I actually like it, but do not remember saying it 😉 To be honest, I have suffered keeping up with the latest programming skills in the past couple of years…But that’s because my focus at work changed a bit.
I try to keep up with trainings, even though it was never as easy as it is nowadays. I listen to a lot of podcasts, read blogs, and try to motivate myself to do openSAP courses.
AT: DSAG (The German-speaking SAP User Group) published a white paper on SAP B/W4HANA. To achieve an analytical vision with tangible outcomes, what considerations do you suggest from a security of migration standpoint? What’s an example (or two) of a small step that can be taken to gain better insights, realize the value of data, and innovate from one source?
MF: That’s a tough one. I think the answer here might be the classical consultant answer: it depends!
From a technology standpoint we often answer such questions with “product A will be the solution.” That’s something we should avoid.
Currently, I see many customers who start data strategy, data lakes and big data initiatives. I’m sure the ones with the vision of “I want to do more things with my data because all others do it” will fail.
I used that statement to be a bit provoking, and this now makes it more obvious.
The initiatives should start with a clear vision and business driven use cases with what they want to achieve. In parallel, you can already start to analyze which data sources are already there.
Furthermore, almost always, the quality of data should get improved. Because the “bad data in, bad data out” paradigm applies even for the best AI (Artificial Intelligence). When you define your business use cases, start to think about architecture and solutions. This is nothing new, I would say it’s the classical approach (e.g., suggested by TOGAF – The Open Group Architecture Framework).
But reality shows me that the basic steps are often the ones that are missing.
AT: It is great that you share career advice to students and recent graduates in your podcast, “The Career Path of an SAP Consultant.” IT consulting can be a challenging field to gain traction in, especially early in one’s career. What are a few techniques that developers and other IT professionals should consider to obtain a high-quality job and launch a meaningful career path?
MF: My main advice: stay curious! And never think that you have learned enough. And another piece of advice: don’t focus only on your personal “main technology.” Becoming an expert in one programming language is important in the beginning of a career, but there are so many important concepts which are worth looking at in other technologies.
The pandemic and the sustainability awareness changed the travel side of things, but for me, not being home on the weekdays was the normal for over nine years. Having a family now, my focus has shifted, of course, but I still realize that I’m not the guy for an internal IT department…I need the challenge of changing topics, customers, and technologies.
So, my advice is to be aware of your expectations and try to find the best match. Perfect jobs are very seldom. In my job, I try to apply the “love it, change it or leave it!” method. We spend so much time working, so, if possible, we should like what we are doing — at least most of the time!