Think that IT professionals are boring? Think again! Finding your special place in the sprawling IT industry can be your key to a varied and colourful career.
By Daphne Ong
Patrick Lim is an Application Specialist in Singapore Computer System Limited’s (“SCS”) SAP Competency Centre, and his job is anything but monotonous. The polite and modest young man shines with surprising enthusiasm and obvious zest as he speaks about his work, which he describes as “challenging, vibrant and fast-paced”.
A typical day in a not-so-typical job
As a key consultant of a support team for a SAP customer, Patrick begins his typical work day by checking the SAP system for new problems. He then proceeds to assign the different issues to his fellow consultants and they act to resolve the issues, sometimes through emails or phone calls. Throughout the day, he will check his email to see if users have accepted their proposed solutions to the issues.
His role allows him to interact with both users and colleagues. Such division within the support team is necessary, as the users of the SAP system come from different business functions. “Even within, say, logistics module, we have sub-tracks like materials planning, purchasing, inventory management and warehousing,” he explains. “We need different consultants to handle different issues.”
SAP is a business software suite, which stands for “Systems, Applications and Products in Data Processing”. It is a vital element in the operation of large organizations as it serves as the enterprise application that manages information related to the company’s daily operations.
Patrick is part of a growing team of SAP consultants in SCS, which has identified SAP as a core competency that SCS is looking to expand. As Patrick says, “SAP is a very specialised and exclusive field in IT as not a lot of people are working on it yet even though it is a growing fi eld. Many universities don’t teach SAP, so being able to learn it on the job would certainly give one an edge.”
“So, you’re in IT, huh…”
When asked if he’s encountered any people with misconceptions about his work, he nods emphatically. “Definitely! I have friends who, after learning I’m in IT, will call me up and ask things like, ‘Help! I’m having problems with my computer, internet, viruses and so on!”
The biggest misconception people often have is they think anything to do with IT has to do with computers and that it is a desk bound job. That is a myth that needs debunking. Getting around meeting users and clients is a major part of Patrick’s job in order for him to understand their business requirements and providing solutions. There is also an element of project management in his work.
Having what it takes
Patrick had not expected to end up here initially. Prior to entering IT, he had been a trainee pilot in the Air Force. His experience in the Air Force taught him invaluable skills applicable to his present job such as being quick minded, determined and other leadership skills. It was after his short stint with the Air Force that he decided to fall back on his interest in computers and obtained his degree in IT. From there, he joined SCS and embarked on a career in SAP.
Obviously, academic qualifications in IT and some skill in programming languages are needed to get into and excel in the area of SAP. “However, the most important requirement is personal attitude. Being interested in the area of work tops the list. Being able to keep an open mind to learning is also crucial as you have to be able to learn and understand many different business processes in different companies. We customise SAP for our various customers, and you have to be very open to accept all this,” notes Patrick.
Overcoming early challenges
As a fresh graduate starting out, Patrick inevitably faced hurdles in the initial phase. The learning curve was very steep as everything was very new to him, and here is where his open mindset helped him in working his way through to get the right results and resolutions.
The training that SCS provided him gave him the boost he needed. The company sent him on a course whereby he obtained his SAP certification and set him on the road to leadership.
His most important tip for newcomers is to stay positive. “Firstly, always maintain a positive and open mindset. Secondly, treat all situations and problems as opportunities rather than obstacles. You learn from every problem that you solve.”
One particular experience drove this message home for him. One time last year, Patrick and his colleagues had to go back to the office during the weekend to provide overnight support for a project. Instead of being upset that their weekend was burnt, everyone was very positive. They ended up staying till the wee hours, yet they were still able to joke and continue to solve issues together.
Staying afl oat under pressure
The IT industry is notorious for long hours and periods of high stress, and no one knows this better than Patrick.
“One very good way to cope is to share with colleagues, friends or family. I think it’s very important to take time out on weekends just to chill out with friends or family and do something instead of just talking about work,” he says.
Sports also provide him with an outlet to relax and keep fit, and he indulges in tennis, in-line skating and swimming. He admits that with the long hours in the IT industry, it is hard to find time to exercise, hence it is mportant for him to maximise his weekends.
The next step
Patrick seems clear on his path of advancement. There are two options he has identified: he can either stay as a consultant, doing primarily what he is good at and become increasingly technically proficient in SAP, or he can move on to a management role.
Alternatively, if he chooses to, it is possible for him to move to a different function or department if he sounds it off to his management.
But currently, he is happy where he is, providing support to different group of users. This has helped him learn how to handle different kinds of people. In fact, he says that this is the best and worst part of his job. Encountering someone difficult can be discouraging and demanding, but it can be rewarding as well.
“Sometimes, when you solve their issues and they get back to you and show you they’re grateful, you feel that you’ve not only solved their problem but have also made another friend,” he says.
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