In an industry relying on cutting-edge technology, information technology specialists need skills and insight to help create business software solutions. As the field grows, there is also a wider scope of career opportunities for IT professionals wanting to broaden their horizons.
As one of the world's leading providers of business software, SAP offers bright career prospects for the right candidates. The company is always looking for qualified and experienced consultants that can add value to clients' businesses, says Rita Ho, head of education, SAP Greater China.
"Consultants are the backbone of our project teams," Ms Ho points out. "Once they have a good understanding of our company and the businesses they work with, they have the opportunity to move to different roles, ranging from pre-sale and implementation consultants to SAP trainers. Candidates with outstanding leadership qualities can move up to managerial positions, where they oversee staff and resources management."
Rules of the game
While the main responsibilities of SAP consultants are to design blueprints for business models, promote these to clients and oversee their implementation, job functions vary depending on position, explains Ms Ho. While a major part of a pre-sale consultant's job is to discuss products with clients and identify their expectations, support consultants are expected to provide after-sales services and support to make sure clients make full use of the applications.
"We have openings for candidates with differing capabilities and personalities," Ms Ho adds. "The best thing about our profession is that it offers exposure to a variety of industries. As IT professionals, we also must understand the infrastructure and operation of other businesses, from finance and marketing to logistics. Through serving our clients, we grow professionally and personally."
Ms Ho has enjoyed the broad exposure that has come with her job over the past decade. "Apart from learning about different industries, I've gained a lot from interacting with clients who possess diverse knowledge, skills sets and sensibilities. It's also rewarding to know that clients can also learn from SAP, as we bring new perspectives to what they do," she says.
Communication skills are essential to succeed in the industry, Ms Ho points out. Consultants who work closely with clients must be able to have clear discussions with their teams in order to come up with the best software solutions. She advises consultants to build their expertise in the industries so that they are equipped to tackle different aspects of the businesses.
A good entry point for candidates interested in the field is to obtain the internationally recognised SAP certification. The certification study programme runs for 20 to 25 days and covers essential knowledge in business solutions in the candidates' chosen areas of specialisation. Candidates become certified consultants once they pass the examinations.
In view of the programme's increasing popularity, SAP aims to launch an online learning programme in July. The e-Academy will cater for professionals seeking a more flexible study mode and Ms Ho predicts that it will be popular among aspiring candidates who have reached the intermediate level in their profession and are looking for new challenges or a career shift. In the longer term, having the certification can also lead to substantial financial rewards.
"Our industry is growing at an amazing pace as more medium-sized enterprises capitalise on our products. With our China business growing rapidly, we expect a large number of positions to open up for consultants, as well as new opportunities for aspiring managers in our regional teams," Ms Ho says. "Newcomers will find the financial incentives promising, since the demand for talent definitely outstrips the supply at present."
SAP also recruits university graduates for its annual trainee programme, so even inexperienced candidates have the chance to embark on promising careers with the company. The trainee programme serves as an introduction to SAP and enterprise resource planning (ERP) and offers on-the-job training that helps place newcomers in entry-level positions.
SAP also has a number of other vehicles to nurture qualified consultants for its expanding business. "We'll soon be running a series of seminars to introduce our work and the SAP certification to the public, providing an overview of the job functions, qualifications and attributes required in our industry," Ms Ho states. "Our upcoming June seminar will be accompanied by a recruitment exercise, as we are looking to fill a number of consultant openings in SAP and our partner companies."
With the future looking bright for IT professionals, Ms Ho advises aspiring candidates to equip themselves by strengthening their professional knowledge and practising to be good listeners. "Our ultimate aim is to further our clients' interests. To achieve that, we must truly understand the client's vision, turning it into a pragmatic and efficient business solution," she concludes.