Tell us about yourself.
I am Karthik Trichur Sundaram, and I live in Pleasanton, CA, with my Family. I work as an IT Business Solutions Management Director with Applied Materials HQ in Santa Clara. Before this, I was working as Platinum Architect with SAP America. I have worked with various areas within SAP for the last two decades. I started my career as a Maintenance Engineer with Largest Optical Fiber & Cable Manufacturers in India. Then I worked with an Austrian Machinery and Systems Manufacturer, where I commissioned many Optical fiber cable Manufacturing plants across the globe. Then I ventured into SAP Consulting and have worked with Various SAP Technologies and modules as a Functional Consultant, Architect. I also have executed and managed large projects and initiatives in various leadership positions. I graduated from the College of Engineering, Trivandrum, India, in Electrical & Electronics Engineering and then Completed my MBA from Boise State University, Boise , US.
What was the reason for moving to SAP from a Hard-core Engineering background and experience?
I have been traveling extensively for various troubleshooting and commissioning assignments across the globe. I was also looking to move to Europe or US and leverage my experience and background. So, ERP consulting was an ideal option as I got certified in SAP plant maintenance which was an area where I could leverage my previous Maintenance and shop floor experience and learn how to integrate it with Information Technology.
Do you need a relevant domain or Industry experience to be successful in SAP?
That’s a great question. I believe so. Also, SAP Solutions or expertise is not about configuring the system but how successfully we address the business requirements with industry best practices. Initial domain experience helps one understand the business process and procedure. ERP Offerings like SAP are already packaged and do not need coding from scratch. However, the main challenge with SAP implementation is configuring and selecting the right solution to run a business efficiently. Manufacturing or Shop floor, Sales, Logistics, Finance & Account domain experience can help ramp up the SAP skills and help converse with the business language. Ultimate success in any endeavor is always the timely implementation and use of software solutions which addresses business needs, provides a return on investment, and helps enable the business to transact large volumes with transparency and profit.
What is your advice for Students and beginners who want to start and be successful with their SAP Careers?
SAP uses ABAP as its programming language, and many technical areas within SAP, like UI, Middleware, BTP, etc., require a passion for coding and design. These areas may not need domain experience and yet are mostly in demand. SAP ERP career option is excellent for learning about the overall Industry ecosystem. Though Consultants specialize in a particular module, they still must learn basic facts about finance and cost accounting, Supply chain and Logistics, Quality assurance, and Manufacturing. SAP ERP implementations require a lot of cross-functional collaboration and are a great place to learn to work as a team. Also, SAP provides an option to realize career goals in Information technology without programming or coding requirements.
What are the benefits of choosing working in SAP ERP as a career option?
I will share it from experience and a general view; however, it cannot be generalized to one and all. First, SAP Projects are completed within a timeframe and mainly need functional experts and managers at the customer site. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about the customer and industry domain’s business model and end-to-end process. Also, because of the fixed budget and schedule, SAP Consultants are supposed to be fast learners and excellent communicators. SAP Experts should quickly learn the business process and pain points and should be able to think from the large picture and long-term perspective. Also, SAP Experts should be able to work under pressure and convince others about solutions from an independent mindset and not be influenced or intimidated by senior leaders from the client side. It requires diplomacy and skill to achieve the desired results, which ultimately would be beneficial in the long run. SAP has always been in demand as a career option since I started more than two decades before. SAP did survive the great recession, and there was always a demand for SAP experts with solid skills. Also, SAP Consultants are paid well either in FTE roles with Software firms or when working as independent contractors. SAP Technology experience also provides an excellent career progression up to C suite if someone is interested. Also, the SAP version, technology, and offering are continuously revised based on the latest industry requirements. So, there is never a dull moment for SAP professionals willing to learn and improve. Finally, one of the most significant benefits is career movement in non-IT companies in leadership positions. Most senior SAP experts like me can move to domains like Semiconductor, Telecom, or Oil and Gas as CIOs, Program Managers, or Directors.
Give examples of Some of the significant, challenging, or exciting projects you worked on.
There are quite a few. Last few years, I have mainly worked on Digital transformation projects and cloud solutions. I was also fortunate to work on the latest offerings from SAP and first-ever implementation projects like Asset Intelligence Network, Digital Vehicle Hub, etc. I have worked for the Largest Telecom provider in the UK, the Top Five Oil and Gas Majors, the Largest Mining and Metal Conglomerate, Utilities, A&D, Automotive transformation, Specialty Chemicals, Specialty Tools, Semiconductors, Medical Devices, and Manufacturing. I also got an opportunity to work as a lead Architect for SAP A&D Model company, where we defined best practice processes and architecture in Model company offering across the globe. I also worked on Product development for Oracle, which is used for SAP & Oracle Integration. I have also served on the judging committee of many events like Stevie, Webby, and Digital Transformation awards. I have also published some scholarly articles and contributed to blogs. One of the most challenging and satisfying non-SAP assignments was in Automation and Hardware during the early phase of my career. I commissioned the first optical fiber to the home cable manufacturing plant (FTTH), including drives, PLCs, PID Controllers, and a Central operating system using Profibus protocol.
Is there an opportunity to travel and explore the world with SAP consulting as a career option?
Yes, absolutely. As I mentioned earlier, every project will need experts at the client site till the SAP project goes live. There are different types of tasks: greenfield first-time implementation, Brownfield implementation, Upgrade, Digital Transformation, or Support. Most large companies Use SAP and can expect to travel as much as they want and explore new paradigms. Also, there is an option to move to a new country or travel to a base location each weekend. I started my SAP Consulting assignment in the UK, where I spent around two years with my Family. Then I traveled to Tokyo, Norway, and around 20 states in the USA. I worked on Projects in Australia, the Middle East, South Africa, Canada, Singapore, Germany, France, Portugal, Brazil, and India.
Apart from all the good things, can you think of bad experiences or challenges you don’t like with your SAP Career and recognition?
Any field or job has challenges, and one must overcome them to go to the next level. However, I can list some experiences I overcame with diligence. Customers or Executives may need advice or answer a question, which may have yet to have an immediate answer, as there are multiple ways to solve business problems using SAP. Also, once you expand your global network with customers, colleagues, and partners, they can make many different requests for advice around the clock. Though it’s rewarding to solve big Business and technology problems, it may sometimes be overwhelming. Time management becomes critical if customers or partners always want to work with their preferred expert, though it may be considered an honor.
How can one learn SAP Technologies and land their first Job?
It can sometimes be challenging in any domain, especially IT, to land a job fresh out of school or college. However, if you work in any industry using SAP for your day-to-day operations, you can learn SAP as an end user or Super user and gradually move into consulting as an expert.
Also, for people passionate about coding, it should not be long before they can start working in a technical area within SAP. Another option is to get certified by an SAP-authorized certification center or institute. SAP Certifications are value add and provide an opportunity to explore additional areas and Domains. I got certified two decades before, but to stay relevant with new technologies, I continuously upgraded myself with certifications in different versions, including the latest S/4 Hana versions. I also expanded my profile with SAP certification, followed by project experience in Plant Maintenance, Asset Management, Sourcing and Procurement, and Project Systems. Quality Management, SAP Activate Methodology, SAP Industry 4. Now and training in SAP BTP.
Any Final Message for our readers?
To have a fulfilling and long SAP career, one must be passionate and continuously upgrade their knowledge and skill. Each login in the SAP system allows the user to learn something new daily. SAP or ERP Consulting involves designing and solving business problems affecting the organization in a big way. Quick answers or solutions may not be the best approach and brainstorming and evaluating multiple options with the larger team can always help to be successful. Like any other technology, sometimes one may encounter technical or human challenges like a frustrated customer or bureaucracy. So apart from technical acumen, effective communication, listening, honesty, integrity, and collaboration can help with growth and provide a promising career.