|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.|
What motivates giving back within a community?
Time is valuable so sharing it can make a positive difference in many ways. The real benefit does not come from what is received, but rather what is given.
There are many benefits including connecting to people and ideas by asking and responding to questions, participating in events (virtual and onsite), networking, presenting, and engaging which helps both the users and the contributors gain new perspectives.
For many active volunteers providing one’s time can help with the discovery of new passions or interests and help provide a sense of purpose by serving the community in small or greater ways.
Throughout the journey of Chris Rae, SAP Mentor, Founder and Chief Architect at SAP Consultancy DalRae Solutions, First Officer and Firefighter, he has always made it a point to give back to the community. Growing up in a remote location and needing others help made it all that more important to pass it forward professionally, locally, and globally.
Great to catch-up with Chris all the way from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
Steph De Camara Marley (SM): Hey Chris! Early in your career you participated in an SAP initiative with the Mulgowie Farming Company, and to this day, you continue to love agriculture. Does your early interest in technology and SAP stem from your university days or some other compelling event?
Chris Rae (CR): Stephanie, I’ve always been interested in technology; my dad worked in the industry with a deep passion for sensing the world. He would bring hardware home for us to play around with as kids.
When I moved to the area where I currently live (two hours west of Brisbane), the local farming company (Mulgowie Farming) heard about “this young guy who was good with technology” (it’s a very small place…!) and offered me a job in their IT department.
My interest in SAP comes from those initial days in IT at Mulgowie Farming, where I saw what a difference SAP could make in the smooth running of farming operations. Living in such a remote location meant that any help I needed came from the SAP Community. It was invaluable to me back in my early days in SAP, and that’s one of the reasons I’m so passionate about educating people and businesses through the Community – it’s my way of giving back.
SM: A few years back, your daughter Bella (who was 17 at the time), stood onstage during the SAP TechEd keynote (0 to 2:57 min) to share her development project centered around helping her peers in high school battle depression. Using what is now the SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP) and SAP HANA, she was able to help identify the people in her class who were at risk of depression (moving from an idea to a prototype in a matter of weeks). Of course, you and your family must be very proud! Is she still pursuing her interests in technology?
CR: We were very proud of Bella when she presented at SAP TechEd back in 2019; and were also very thankful and appreciative that she was given such an amazing opportunity at a young age.
It was a lesson to me in how SAP technology can be utilized to assist in real life issues, and I think that resonated with the audience.
You’ll be pleased to know that she is still interested in technology; however, she’s currently enrolled in a dual undergraduate degree in Architecture and Business at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), so she can learn to apply her technology skills in a business environment!
SM: As a firefighter with the Rural Fire Service Queensland (RFSQ), you are part of an elite group of volunteers. Thank you for your service! While most runaway from fires, you and your team run towards them at all hours of the day. How have you bridged your many lessons learned as a First Officer and applied them to business? Do you tend to go towards complicated situations to help get them under control?
CR: My experience in the Rural Fire Service (RSFQ) has taught me many things that I have applied to the business world.
I am fascinated by the way humans react to challenging situations, which I have seen a lot of in the fire service. We work on the basis that we can’t possibly have our best fire fighters operating 24×7, as they need to take rest breaks during a major operation.
As a result, we run these operations like a project, with planning being a major component. Understanding the resources that we have available and then planning accordingly are fundamental to achieving the best outcome. This process is very transferable to business.
And yes, I do always seem to gravitate towards complicated situations to get them under control. I’ve learned that when dealing with complex technical issues, getting to the root of the problem early is invaluable, much like life in general.
SM: How did you become an SAP Mentor? What has your experience in the program been like?
CR: My journey to becoming an SAP Mentor began by regularly getting involved in the ‘Demo Jam’ sessions of the Mastering SAP conference, which I did for about 10 years starting in 2009. The Demo Jam is an SAP community focused pre-event at the conference, and I almost always entered a demo (including one year when I presented with my daughter and my father!).
In addition to my visibility at Mastering SAP, I also tried to promote the SAP Community wherever possible, it was invaluable to me during my time at Mulgowie Farming. Being the sole SAP resource in the company in a remote location, I ended up relying heavily on the SAP Community network for answers to any issues or questions I had. I ended up helping out anyone I could on the Community in return.
Those two things combined led to SAP approaching me about becoming an SAP mentor, which I am extremely humbled by to this day.
My experience of the program to date has been nothing short of incredible. I get to travel the world championing a technology I am passionate about, and even had the opportunity to present to a group of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley on one occasion!
However, more than the experience, it’s the people within the program that have made it so beneficial to me. I have made connections that have become close friends because of the SAP Mentor program, and for that I will be forever grateful.
SM: Currently, you and your team manage some of the largest and most complex SAP Fiori applications running in Australia and around the globe. What are one or two examples of how you help customers and peers get started in developing a “user experience mindset?”
CR: Probably the best example I can give of how we get customers (and peers) to develop an experience mindset is to get people looking forward in terms of SAP’s current capabilities, rather than what it used to be.
SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP) is the driver of these current capabilities, so we start with a “SAP BTP First” attitude, and get our customers focused on spending their SAP budget on improving processes that impact their competitive advantage as a business.
We also point out that by utilizing SAP BTP, they are keeping their core ERP system clean, while still being able to innovate quickly and efficiently.
SM: You have worked with many top organizations in various industries (e.g., metals & mining, public sector, manufacturing) to drive business change through technology advances. What are the top 3 or 4 high-level considerations that you assess at the beginning of an initiative to help ensure the best outcomes?
CR: The three things we look at here at DalRae when we discuss the business problem with a client are:
- What is the underlying business process?
- What is closest match to this in the SAP world?
- Does this deliver or add to the client’s competitive advantage?
Once we frame the conversation in these terms, it automatically creates a forward-thinking mindset in the customer. This makes the engagement run smoother, resulting in better outcomes.
SM: Your passion for technology includes your active involvement in educating the next generation of “IT Gurus.” Clearly you take pride in bringing others along for the ride and helping them network. What advice do you give students and recent graduates that helps them with getting high quality programming and IT jobs, as well as a jumpstart in their careers?
CR: I am very passionate about developing the next generation of SAP practitioners and giving back to the SAP Community. My advice for anyone starting out on the SAP journey in a working environment would be:
- Be curious and demonstrate it. Show people you want to know how things work.
- Never underestimate the power of understanding business process, rather than just the code.
- Create a profile in the SAP Community and actively participate in it. Once you do that, leverage this by reaching out to any SAP Partner in your local area.
- There is a skills shortage in SAP resourcing currently, so good partners will almost certainly want to listen and engage with enthusiastic new entrants who can demonstrate a passion for the technology.
What is next?