Move to SAP field not a bad idea

Taking a paycut to become an SAP consultant may not be such a bad move considering the long-term prospects, but you need to be patient about making career progress.

Looking for IT career advice? Post your question here, and we'll get our experts to answer. We regret, however, that some questions may not be answered due to insufficient information.

Q. I have completed my Bachelor of Commerce degree and will be through with my Executive MBA in December 2007.

Prior to my current job, I spent eight years in various sales roles with highly reputed organizations and my last held position was assistant manager of sales in one of the leading telecom companies in Bangalore, India. My last drawn salary was Rs 520,000 (US$13,198) per annum, which got revised after appraisal to Rs 800,000 (US$20,304) per annum.

Due to an interest in the SAP field, and to gain global exposure and to earn more money, I took on a role with one of the major Indian software companies two months back, taking a pay cut as a Junior SAP CRM functional consultant with an annual salary of Rs 300,000 (US$7,614). Of course, I did my own analysis of the new career prospects before taking up the offer, but after joining, I am now confused and wondering if I made the right decision.

Some unanswered questions are: How long will it take, or how many years of experience do I need to have before I can hope to command the previous annual salary package of about Rs 800,000? When will I get an on-site opportunity, or when will I be eligible for applying jobs in Singapore or the United States? Will my eight years of domain (sales) experience be considered during my next career move and will it help improve my earnings? Or should I shift back to sales for better career prospects? Since I am new to this industry, things look vague, at least at this point.

Career advice from Stella Thevarakam, regional HR director of ISS Consulting, a technology consulting company with operations in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia:
A. You would need at least five full cycles of complete SAP implementation experience before you can command a salary of Rs 800,000. Your sales experience maybe taken into account in the SAP line when, and if, you are required to do presales for SAP implementations. Otherwise, the answer is no.

To be able to work in Singapore or the United States in the SAP line, you need to have the above-mentioned experience before an employer would consider it a viable proposition to bring in foreign expertise into these two countries. If you are keenly interested to pursue SAP, then you should stay and be patient to get to that salary level. I would recommend staying in the SAP line, as this is a much sought-after skill and, therefore, very valuable.

Career advice from Shashi Bhushan Rai, managing director of Brahmrishi Technologies, a Singapore based IT services company. He specializes in IT consulting, enterprise system architecture, as well as software product development in various application areas.
A. The reader's choice of a career switch seems okay considering industry trends. Therefore, I won't recommend a rollback since the future is more promising with solid sales experience in the telecom sector, SAP training backed by an Executive MBA. You can develop expertise in Business Support Systems or Operations Support Systems to be able to secure a good position. Gaining skills is totally different from making money. As for working abroad, it depends on the needs of the specific country and industrial sector. Companies like Bristlecone specialize in SAP implementation in Singapore and other countries. I believe salaries for SAP functional consultants in Singapore fall within your set goals.

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