Coaching: An SAP Consultant Reports

Astrid Michels

Astrid Michels joined ai informatics in Berlin as a business process consultant specializing in SAP on October 1, 2012. Before this, she was an internal consultant at a solar energy company, where she was responsible for controlling, IT management, and setting up a service company. At the time, she was thinking about becoming self-employed, but a program of coaching sessions with Hype Group helped her re-assess her professional situation, find a position that she enjoys, and advance her career. What made you try coaching?

Astrid Michels: I came across coaching by accident. I was actually intending to become self-employed, but Frank Rechsteiner from Hype Group approached me and asked if I had considered applying for a permanent position in consulting. If so, he would help me.

Could you describe your experience of coaching?

It lasted two or three months. We sometimes met once a week, sometimes less frequently. It was a process, an interactive dialog that I actually found very enjoyable. The subject matter for our meetings arose out of our initial discussions and progressed through our subsequent appointments, augmented by a range of optional offerings and the results of my own self-reflection.

It is all very exciting, but you must be prepared to be open and go with the flow. You have to be totally honest too; otherwise you’ll just end up fooling yourself. You have to reflect on what you have discussed with your coach and take those reflections with you into the next discussion. It’s certainly not a walk in the park, nor is it a pleasant way of spending a few leisure hours. You have to be committed: prepare for discussions, work through them in your mind afterwards, and take the time to attend your appointments. That’s the only way of successively achieving a coherent and usable result.

How did you approach job interviews? Did your strategy change?

I prepared for interviews during my coaching sessions by determining exactly what I wanted and what I didn’t want.

Read on the next page: Concrete tips for your career planning

When did you decide to accept your current position as a business process consultant?

I had applied for various jobs that require a generalist’s skills. This is the kind of expertise I can offer, and it is always very much in demand. But I am also very meticulous by training. During my coaching sessions, I began to see the possibilities that could arise for me out of this mixture of seemingly opposing characteristics. That’s why I decided to choose a job that would allow me to use my skills as a generalist with an eye for detail in an effective and useful manner.

A role in the SAP environment, where integrated SAP expertise and a detailed knowledge of business process requirements is necessary, is a perfect fit for my profile. That’s why I opted for a position as an SAP project manager specializing in SAP business processes.

What was the added value of coaching for you?

Clarity. Coaching makes you realize what you want and gives you focus. I’d never had a career plan before. I’d always done things that I thought seemed interesting. I’d developed into more of a generalist. Coaching helped me “zoom in” on the position as a process consultant specializing in SAP, and I can envisage immense opportunities to create added value there, both for myself and for the customer.

What advice do you have for others?

I recommend writing down your professional history in résumé form and noting down possible options for the future. Where could I go next? At the same time, you need to think about the impact of your career plan on your personal life. I would take things step by step: Write down your professional history, list your personal qualifications, go through what-if situations, and consider positive and negative factors. That’s what I did. I also identified the hard and soft factors at each potential employer. You need to put all of this down in writing so that you have a clear picture of the critical deciding factors.

What’s your conclusion?

I’m very happy with my decision and my new job. Coaching is not a road map that you can simply follow. It’s a process that you must work your way through, and the results are surprising. Back in June, I’d never have thought that I would join an SAP customer in a management position.  Since August, I know that linking my SAP consulting knowledge and my management expertise will give me the best chance of furthering my career. This is the ideal environment in which to combine generalist skills and detailed knowledge.