Go West – A SAP Functional Consultant’s ‘Coal-Face’ view of Western Australia

Posted on March 2014 By Paul Tarczynski
Paul Airplane

​ This is a guest blog by one of our valued and esteemed contractors, Paul Tarczynski. We trust you will be educated and entertained, as Paul, a long-time Melbourne resident, shares the story of his Western Australian adventures in SAP!

Hello from sunny WA! – it sounds a bit funny to say that as some 90% of my SAP contract roles in the last 15 years or so has been Melbourne based, as Melbourne is indeed where I live permanently. But here I am in Perth half way through my fifth long-term SAP contract, and I’m still occasionally scratching my head thinking ‘what the hell am I doing here?’. Would I be better off chasing roles in Melbourne rather than constantly commuting between Melbourne and Perth every week or two – even though the work here so far has been very professionally stimulating, challenging, and rewarding all along?

Let me tell you first before the usual thinking of the ‘mining boom salad days’ kicks in – Western Australia is not an easy market to crack for SAP functional consultants. This is more and more evident every week – as WA mining / oil and gas outfits riding mainly on less than stellar priced commodities are being closed, chopped, and sold off. The daily press has more doom and gloom then gold rush stories these days. Having said all that, as far as SAP market here is concerned – to paraphrase the old real estate cliché:

Experience is (almost) everything: if you are a ‘top gun’ (or close) in your SAP functional field of expertise – and I mean you ‘are’, not just you ‘think’ you are – it’s highly unlikely you will be walking the streets of Perth for too long. People with very hands-on, tangible, and well proven SAP skillsets are snapped up here rather quickly – of course there are exceptions to the rule, that’s why I put ‘almost’ in the ‘experience is (almost) everything’ bit above. And I mean solid skillsets, including configuration and cross-module integration skills, above and beyond the latest fad, whether it’s Cloud, HANA, or Mobile for example. Think strong FICO, MM, LO, PS, PM, SD, BI, BPC etc skills across at least 4 or 5 or more large scale SAP implementations. Additionally, if you have SAP certification, CPA status, IS-OIL knowledge, or Carbon Accounting skills – think of these as ‘value add’ propositions, don’t count on these getting you over the line by themselves.

If the above is not what’s cracked up to be entirely, it’s time for the ‘foot in the door’ strategy activation. It’s quite obvious really – see how best to progress your SAP functional career as a series of stepping stones. This may mean going for roles which are SAP end user testing, or master data maintenance, or business process focussed, as opposed to more configuration oriented or somewhat ‘pure’ consulting jobs. And this strategy does not mean cutting your daily rate – or an annual salary – to the bone – it’s not a race to the bottom, and you want to come across as a valued, well balanced professional rather than some el-cheapo rate desperado. Which also brings me to the next point:

Perth is never cheap at best of times – and these are not the best of times! Think at least 25% price hike on you East Coast groceries, accommodation, services – and most importantly beer! As I write this crying into my $11 pint of cerveza at a local pub, there are always ways to minimise the price pain. For example – stay away from renting a posh CBD / West Perth apartment, rent further out from the CBD (but close to the public transport) you can easily save $300+ in rent per week. Don’t take cabs from / to the airport – there is a perfectly acceptable bus service if you have time on your hands. Book your airfares as far ahead as possible. And with ATO’s compliments, utilise your Living Away From Home allowance while it’s still around! Here are some groovy advantages of fabulous Perth living:

Perth is an exceptionally clean, safe, friendly, and relaxed city. Chic suburbs like Subiaco, West Perth, and Fremantle are full of hipsters wining and dining at cool cafes and bars – while the ‘old money’ in Peppermint Grove and Dalkeith keep busy polishing their oversized diamonds. Swan river is a big magnet for sailing and boat tours. Cultural scene has picked up plenty of speed over the years, and there’s heaps of plays and opera at my personal fave – His Majesty’s Theatre in the City. And then few hours south, and you are in the best winery area of the country – Margaret River – full of cute B&B to stay a weekend and enjoy the bush and the beach (head for Meelup Beach just south od Dunsborough – totally awesome place). WA is also surprisingly green and lush, and very different in terms of greenery and lanscape from the East, and the weather is to kill for, most sunshine in Aust per head for my money! You are also very safe here – unless you are in a habit of frequenting seedy parts of Northbridge at 4am. Public transport is spotless, frequent, and on time, and patrolled by transit heavies to discourage assorted hoolies. And each of some three or four times I lost my wallet – as you do after a few beers – I got it back accompanied by a smile and ‘no worries mate’: unreal…. But back to the main subject of this little article:

The Road-Warrior lifestyle is massively overrated – most of the time I wish I never saw another airport in my life again. Entering a frequent flyer lounge fills me with a feeling not dissimilar to entering a bus depot. And the in-flight announcement from always the same old ‘Captain Speaking’ (as in ‘This Is Your Captain Speaking’) elicits the same level of excitement in me as yet another John Farnham Farewell Tour in the making.

On the other hand – Perth lifestyle and climate are absolutely fantastic, and my ‘Board of Directors’ (aka Wife and Daughter) really enjoy coming over here to visit. The scope and breadth of SAP project work here has been great so far, and I have advanced professionally as result a great deal. So is coming to WA worth it at the end of the day? I would say, on balance it is a strong ‘yes’, if you feel like taking a bit of a risk, are comfortable with a certain amount of constant change in your life, and enjoy some professional challenges that may pay off medium to long term.

Oh, and a few more small things:

  • Always be nice and return calls of SAP recruitment consultants – I know it’s hard to keep track of them as many come and go all the time – but you never know when they may pop up, and be of value to your SAP career;

  • Keep yourself nice – and try to be nice to everyone around you (yes I know this is tough sometimes), they may be your team mates / bosses / reference checks next (yes it is a small SAP world out there);

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously 24/7 – I don’t and it certainly works for me!