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You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks — My Journey from an ABAP Developer to a Fiori Developer

This past Thursday, I had the opportunity to attend the Minnesota ASUG Chapter Fall meeting.  I always make it a point to attend, as the content is so good that I’ve never failed to learn something new.  I also enjoy reconnecting with my colleagues and meeting new ones.  At this particular meeting however, I had the privilege of contributing back to the community by presenting on my journey from an ABAP developer to a full-stack Fiori Developer.  I think I learned more by leading a session than by attending.

What did I learn?  A ton.

  1. I’m not the only developer that has struggled with the transition from ABAP to Fiori technologies.

A consistent theme from talking with my fellow SAP professionals was learning SAPUI5 (the platform for Fiori applications) is intimidating to ABAPers, and for good reason.  It’s a completely different environment than we are used to.  If you are not fluent in JavaScript, you have to learn that.  If you are not familiar with how web apps are built (i.e. Model-View-Controller), you need to learn that.

  1. We all struggle with finding the time to learn new technologies.

There’s a general estimate that IT departments spend 80% of their time on maintenance and 20% on new projects.  Trying to fit learning a new technology stack in that 20% is stressful.  If we don’t have a bucket of time set aside for training, we need to make time outside of normal business hours.  With all of our time obligations, that can be very difficult, and learning the tech stack is not an 8-hour task.  It’s a real time commitment to which you have to dedicate yourself.  Remember when you learned ABAP?  You didn’t do that in a couple days.  Learning SAPUI5 requires the same dedication.

  1. We are all capable of learning SAPUI5.

You learned ABAP, right?  You can learn SAPUI5.  I did.  I’m not an expert, but like any other skill, it takes time.  It’s a process, not a race.  Proficiency over pace.

I don’t have the answer for every question, but I can offer the following advice and points of encouragement.

  • Focus first on learning OData and the SAP Gateway. This is a natural transition for legacy ABAP developers.  The backend gateway code is written in ABAP.  You will need to focus on learning OData modeling, but if you’ve built a relational database before, the concepts are similar.  Learn the terminology (“entity” instead of “structure”, “property” instead of “field”), and you’ll get there quickly.  There are some nuances in building expanded datasets, but there are tons of great blogs out there to help you.
  • As you work on backend tasks, you will have to interact with front-end SAPUI5 developers. Ask them questions.  Walk through scenarios.  As you delve into SAPUI5 for yourself, these discussions will give you lots of “a-ha!” moments.
  • Learn JavaScript before jumping into coding your own SAPUI5 applications. I made the mistake of starting an OpenSAP introductory-level course on building Fiori apps before learning JS.  It was a humbling experience.  I was able to copy-and-paste the code and make the application work, but I learned nothing.  I ended up pausing that course in order to go learn JavaScript.
  • Go at your own pace. This isn’t the fable of the tortoise and the hare.  Neither path is correct nor incorrect.  If you can learn JavaScript in the morning and build your own SAPUI5 app in the afternoon, that’s awesome.  I’m envious.  I spend a couple hours per day over the span of a month or so reading and doing exercises to become proficient.
  • Utilize the resources available to you. The internet is full of blogs and free training courses on JavaScript, XML, and SAPUI5.  There are more books available than I can count.  If you learn better in an instructor-led environment, Mindset offers a week-long boot camp that covers both front-end and back-end Fiori technologies.

You can learn this.  All it takes is that first step and the dedication to keep moving forward!

Check out the presentation here:

[slideshare id=81289251&doc=asug-olddognewtricks-171027161618]


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Mike Berg is a Senior SAP Developer at Mindset. He leverages his 18+ years of experience across various SAP technologies and functional areas to bring optimal solutions for customers to light. Mike focuses on bringing the best user experience possible to users, which in turn maximizes ROI for the organization. He does this by emphasizing the correct technology, be it Fiori, Personas, or other, and by optimizing application performance and ease-of-use. Mike is a regular contributor to Mindset’s blog and development tips newsletter, as well as a speaker at SAP Sapphire and ASUG events.

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