SAP Mentor Spotlight Interview: Geert-Jan Klaps


The SAP Mentor Spotlight Interview Series highlights key strategic topics, such as emerging technologies, learning, and other topics, and provides insights from SAP Champions and SAP leaders on turning ideas into innovative approaches that impact people, process, and technology.

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How can goal setting tip the scale of your tomorrow?

We set goals for our careers, our health, and our lives in general. Goal setting is a purposeful and deliberate process that starts with identifying a new objective, skill, or project you want to achieve. Then, making a plan of action to achieve it.

Whether you’re setting personal goals or professional goals, goal setting helps us take control of our lives…our work…and our direction. It provides us with a focus.

The decisions we make and actions we take bring us closer to achieving our goals.

One day, Geert-Jan Klaps, SAP Champion and Innovation Architect at TheValueChain NV, found inspiration from a personal development coach, which helped him “flip a switch” and got him started on his own personal health and mindset journey.

Given his track record of contributing and making the lives of those around him easier, it was great to find out more about his motivations and interests which are positively impacting the SAP Community.

Stacey Fish (SF): From your university time at K.A. Redingenhof Leuven to Erasmushogeschool Brussel, what inspired you to take on a career in programming and as a technology enthusiast, which led you to your current role as an Innovation Architect at TheValueChain NV?

Geert-Jan Klaps (GK): Well, I’ve actually been inspired by technology since I was a little boy. I think I can say my enthusiasm started around age five, when I got my first Windows 3.11 computer. Over the years, that led me to being intrigued by computers in their physical form, playing around with building my own computers.

It wasn’t until I started my education at K.A. Redingenhof that I got introduced to programming. I started out with Pascal and C++, creating simple terminal applications. I was hooked on programming right away but wanted to expand more than just creating terminal applications.

That led me to continuing my education at Erasmushogeschool Brussel, specializing in what was called “IT Business Management Solutions” at the time. This specialization was primarily focusing on SAP in general, and programming within SAP (ABAP, ABAP OO and ABAP Web Dynpro).

For me personally, this was a perfect fit since I was not into gaming or pure mobile development, but rather into developing applications that would help people in performing their daily tasks.

SF: From a work-life balance perspective, we can all feel a bit of stress from time-to-time. One of your outlets is physical fitness and body-building and, as you have mentioned, the importance of “taking it to the next level.” How has your fitness interests helped both your professional and personal life?

GK: Recovering from a near-burn-out experience really opened my eyes to the importance of personal health and mindset. All my life I’ve always had a quite sedentary lifestyle and a desk job didn’t really improve my physical health, struggling with being overweight basically was my lifelong problem.

While going through that rough patch, I remembered the words from the soft skill / personal development coach, whose training we get through TheValueChain, who once told me: “Someone who works a physical job should decompress by reading books, someone who works a sedentary job should decompress by doing something physical.” That was the day I flipped the switch and started walking, starting my personal health and mindset journey.

Every day, I aim to get in my 10K steps daily and I’ve added fitness to further improve my physical health. When I’m talking about taking it to the next level, I’m actually talking about my own personal goal to get in the best shape I’ve ever been.

Personally, I feel better, more energized, and happier than ever. Professionally, I feel this journey improved my performance big-time. Still putting in the same amount of work, but not feeling exhausted after work really changes things. Feeling better in my personal life really brought back the joy I had while starting out as SAP Technical Consultant.

SF: How did you become an SAP Mentor? In this role, how do you engage with Community members?

GK: I’ve always been a fan of the SAP Community. For me, the SAP Community is the place I go to when I’m looking for answers. While in the beginning I didn’t really contribute to the community, a few years back I started by answering questions and writing blogs about my personal experiences. For example, when I looked into topics for which I couldn’t find answers in the community, such as Open Source (mini-) solutions I created blogs or responded to Q&A (discussion forums).

In my personal opinion, the best way to engage with the community is by writing blog posts about things you encounter and for which you can’t find a straight answer. Another thing I try to do is share what I have learned like the ABAP OpenAPI solution, the UI5 Library generator for EasyUI5 and more recently the Fiori Launchpad Sandbox for CAP.

To summarize, I try to share things that can make other developers’ lives easier.

I try to be active within the SAP Community as much as possible, although time is not always in my favor here because of my busy schedule. Typically, I try to check my messages and follow-up my answers at least once a day.

SF: Enjoyed checking out your blog, “A Fiori Launchpad Sandbox for all your CAP-based projects – Overview.” Can you expand upon how you use the SAP Cloud Application Programming Model (CAP) (e.g., access to languages, libraries, tools, out-of-the-box solutions)? Do you consider it key to have your own local development environment to test integrations using the SAP Business Technology Platform?

GK: Personally, I’m using CAP to create small side-by-side extensions for customers using SAP S/4HANA Public Cloud. Recently I created two side-by-side extensions leveraging the event driven architecture by combining SAP S/4HANA Public Cloud with SAP Event Mesh.

Recently I changed function from SAP Technical Consultant to Innovation Architect at TheValueChain NV, so in the near future I’ll be looking into CAP from a SaaS point to support customers.

From a development environment perspective, I use both SAP Business Application Studio and my own local development environment using Visual Studio (VS) Code. I’m fully convinced that I’m perfectly able to do my job using SAP Business Application Studio, but the technology enthusiast within me wants to see things running locally on his own computer.

One thing I was missing when using my local development environment was the graphical modeler, so I was really happy with the recent announcement that it’s now available as a VS Code extension as well.

SF: In your blog, “Application Lifecycle Management in SAP Business Technology Platform,” you state that “a good application lifecycle management strategy can save you a lot of time and money in the long run.” When you address the implementing and operating of SAP and non-SAP cloud solutions, what are a few high-level examples of what to look for at the beginning of an initiative (e.g., source code management, managing development requests, transports, etc.)?

GK: For customers new to application lifecycle management outside their system (e.g., coming from classic SAP backend development), I always recommend starting with the basics.

The basics for me start with setting up a GIT repository using GitHub, GitLab or Bitbucket. Once that’s in place, start looking into a good linting tool (e.g., ESLint for SAPUI5-based apps) and setup automated linting checks to make sure your source code is formatted in a proper way and following the same development guidelines across your projects.

A tip for SAPUI5 based apps: you should at least activate the settings recommended in the development guidelines. To me personally, these two things are the absolute basics.

From there on, you can start looking into taking things to the next level and start implementing automated (unit) testing and automated deployments. A good starting point can be SAP’s Project Piper to go for an Open Source solution with a lot of flexibility supporting cloud, on-premise and hybrid solutions.

Other solutions worth exploring, GIT-based Change and Transport System (CTS) for backend developments, Change Request Management (ChaRM), SAP Continuous Integration and Delivery, and SAP Cloud Transport Management.

SF: You put a premium on continuous learning, whether through online trainings (e.g., OpenSAP) or certifications, tinkering with code, or simply asking questions. What tips and tricks do you give to students and recent graduates who are looking to pursue a career in technology consulting and ultimately land high-quality jobs?

GK: If you’re pursuing a career in technology, always remember that you’re on a never-ending learning journey. Technology and new innovations evolve so quickly, in my opinion it’s important to choose your personal areas of interest and try to keep up with everything that’s happening within those topics.

Personally, I keep up with my areas of interest by reading blogposts, following openSAP courses, SAP Community calls (e.g., the monthly UI5ers Live sessions) and watching the weekly SAP Developer news videos.

I also try to challenge myself by setting some goals in terms of certifications – I try to get certified in all my areas of interest. Each year I check out which new certifications are available and which certificates I can renew.

Not as much for the certification itself, but rather for forcing myself to go through the latest courses related to my areas of interest. The certificate itself is a nice cherry on top of the cake.

Another important thing, learn by getting hands-on experience. Whether it be by following tutorials or by challenging yourself to work on a personal project, hands-on experience is the best way to get familiar with the technology at hand.

Last but not least, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Everyone started their career with little to no experience, so find yourself a mentor within your company who can help get you started and point you in the right direction.

Also, don’t forget to use the SAP Community to look for your answers. There are a lot of people out there that will try to help you out!

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