For the debut episode of ASUG Talks: Candid Career Conversations, we are joined by Ann Largent, a senior solution engineer at enosix and an ASUG volunteer. In celebration of International Women's Day this month, this is part of a series of content focused on the experiences of women working in the IT world. 

We discussed how Ann got started in the IT industry, her experiences working as a professional in the SAP ecosystem, and her work as an ASUG volunteer. 

Here is a transcript our conversation with Ann: 

Jim Lichtenwalter: Hello and welcome to ASUG Talks, a podcast series featuring Candid Career Conversations with ASUG members who lead or work on SAP teams across the United States and Canada. My name is Jim Lichtenwalter. I am the ASUG content manager and your ASUG Talks host. In this episode I’m joined by Ann Largent, a senior solution engineer and SAP integrator for enosix, an SAP integration partner that helps customers unify their SAP systems with Salesforce Cloud Solutions. This conversation with Ann is the first in a ASUG’s series highlighting women professionals as we mark International Women’s Day. Ann, thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate your time.

Ann Largent: Yeah, great. Thanks Jim. So glad to be here, really excited to do this podcast with you. My name is Ann Largent. I'm a senior solution engineer here at enosix and I'm also chair of the Colorado ASUG Chapter here in Denver. I've been a ASUG volunteer since 2014 and I think we're going to dive into that history in a little bit.

Jim Lichtenwalter: Yeah. We love our ASUG volunteers and we will absolutely be diving that into that little bit later in the conversation. Moving back to your role, let's talk a little bit about what does your day to day look like?

Ann Largent: Sure. Well, it's busy. Let's just say that and it's ever evolving every day's different. I've actually been a solution engineer in the SAP Ecosystem since 2016. So I've been working remotely even before COVID came on and as a solution engineer, my day to day, like I mentioned, is always changing and there's always a lot going on. My current role at enosix, I've been here almost two years now, and it's a lot of fun. Most of my week, as an SE, is allocated to meeting with our customers—our existing and potential customers.

And this is one of the favorite parts of my job and my role as a solution and solutions engineer: I get to work with people learning about the initiatives they're working on, the projects that they're trying to enable to digitally transform, but also move their businesses forward by improving processes, for example, or moving forward digitally with things like moving from ECC to SAP S/4 HANA, or maybe they're streamlining their CRM systems with prebuilt integrations, that's what our solution is at enosix. But lots of different initiatives that companies are having, especially post COVID. And I could really talk about all these initiatives and talk topics all day. It really gets me excited about being in this space and our customers are doing amazing things.

Jim Lichtenwalter: That's great. Why don't you talk us through sort of your journey that got you to where you are in your current role?

Ann Largent: Sure. Yeah, I've had a little, a different role to jump into the IT world. I joined later in life in my early thirties. After college, I moved to Colorado. I've lived in Alaska for a bit. I've lived in New Orleans for a time. I worked as a waitress and bartender at all these different places. And let's just say, I have lots of stories to tell over a glass of wine, but I had a lot of fun during those years. And then when living in Breckenridge, Colorado, I was working as a waitress and a bartender, but I decided it was time to make a change. And I went to the local community college there and got my associate's IT degree and got hired on at Summit County in Breckenridge, Colorado. Amazingly they did decide, Summit County decided to implement SAP at Summit County. And I was lucky enough to get chosen to run the technical part. And that was my first job as an SAP BASIS admin. I remember the consultant that was training us was trying to give it through my head what user SAP was used for. It took a few months for me to finally understand, but we did implement SAP 4.5b back in 2000 and here I am, 22 years later, still happily a part of the SAP ecosystem.

Jim Lichtenwalter: Great. The role you're in right now, and we talked a little bit about this when I asked you to be on the podcast is, obviously this is a very male-dominated work environment. I'd love to know a little bit about what it's like being a woman in such a male-dominated profession, how that's challenged you and really how that's helped you grow in your career.

Ann Largent: Yeah. As we talked about when we were preparing for this podcast, it's kind of a hard question for me. They don't really spend too much time thinking about being a woman in this industry. Sure, it comes up every once in a while. And the actual good news as I was thinking about this question is I seem to be working with a lot more women in tech now than I did 22 years ago. So that's a great progress that we've made. And then from also from my experience, it kind of feels different in the past five to eight years. I really never get any negative or pushback just because I'm a woman, but absolutely working with different people from, not even just gender, but where they grew up, different countries where they lived, maybe even in the US can give people different perspectives.

And I think it's all valuable when we come together, because then we can solution problems together, but have different perspectives. And I think it's really valuable. One example, I always consider myself a big picture person. And then there's a lot of folks in the IT world that are, of course, very detail oriented, but having those different personality traits really is beneficial. We need big picture in the IT space, just as much as we need detailed thinking and a specificity to be successful.

Jim Lichtenwalter: Yeah. That's so great that you've seen more and more women joining the field. I think you said over the last eight years, you said you've seen more and more of them?

Ann Largent: Yeah. It seems to be in the last 10 years. I mean, I just think there's more opportunities. Tech obviously, so much more in our lives on a daily basis than it might have been in 2000, right. So I remember teaching one woman, oh, what a mouse was, she didn't know back in the day. So it's obviously as it grows and becomes more prevalent than so do the women in the industry as well. A lot of, and there's a lot of smart women out there, men too, of course.

Jim Lichtenwalter: Absolutely. With that in mind, what is your advice to women who are not only entering the SAP landscape, SAP professionals like yourself, but also just entering the tech world in general?

Ann Largent: Sure, yeah. Well, the best advice I would give, and really to anyone coming into the IT space. Sure, it might be other women in the field could be someone coming out of college, brand new and starting in the SAP world, or maybe somebody restarting their career in IT like I did back in my earlier part of my career. So I think my biggest advice for anyone in that space is really just being confident. And I mean, a couple of tenants that way. I mean, be confident that your perspective is valuable. Even if I don't, or we don't know the answer to everything, that's perfectly okay. Our ideas on how we might design a solution or solve a problem might be different than somebody else's proposed, but it might be our way, might be the exact correct insight to bring value to that business or to that project, right.

So always be confident to put your ideas out there and then the solution might bubble to the top. Also, when I say be confident, I think it's important to know your stuff. No one is going to be the expert in everything and nor should they be, but let's take advantage of all the free training resources that are out there, right, that ASUG and SAP, lots of available resources. Of course, you can always just look on the internet for blog posts, et cetera, but always keep learning. So that's what I mean when be confident by knowing your stuff.

And then the last piece of that, I think it's really important for us to ask questions, asking questions sometimes feels like we're asking for help, but I think we should think about it differently. When you ask a question, it should be really getting to the understanding the problem better, right. It's a way to clarify what the person might be asking or how we want to define the solution. And then I always look at it, asking questions as a way to learn more deeply about the technology or really what are we trying to solve. I can assume what we might be wanting to solve, but maybe somebody has a different perspective. So let's always ask questions when we're in the IT space, especially.

Jim Lichtenwalter: Yeah. And I think that's so good advice, especially the asking questions part for anyone starting any career. I have a journalism background and when I was in journalism school, I had a professor who worked as a writer in Boston and wrote about healthcare. And she always said, "There's no such thing as a stupid question." And that's something like I've really taken to heart. I think it's important for people to ask questions and raise your hand if you don't want to answer.

Ann Largent: Yeah, absolutely. I couldn't agree more.

Jim Lichtenwalter: Let's move now to your experience with SAP. I'd love to know what's your experience, not only learning a specific SAP solution, but coming to understand the SAP ecosystem at large, because this is something I kind of had to experience when I started at ASUG. I was sort of nebulously aware of what SAP was and what the company did and what the software could accomplish. But I really had to get up too quick, had to get the speed fast on the ins and outs of the ecosystem, and then specifically where S/4 HANA fit into the role of the customers and how our customers were leveraging S/4 HANA. So we'd love to hear your experience about how you sort of tackle that ecosystem and learned a specific solution as well.

Ann Largent: Yeah, you're right. I'm a huge fan of the SAP ecosystem. There's just so many advantages to learn and grow and just see how people are running their businesses and customers and understand how the world works. I think that's a huge part of learning SAP and being a part of that ecosystem. Personally, I've been fortunate to have a few different lives as an SAP BASIS in pseudo solution architect. At Summit County where I talked about, I was the BASIS person. I was the server administrator for the SAP system and the ABAP developer. So if anybody knows my ABAP skills, they're very frightened of me being an ABAP developer, luckily I didn't have to do too much. But then I moved on to consulting. And then I secured a BASIS position for over six years at a natural gas company here in Colorado.

And boy, did my SAP tech and expansion and knowledge have to learn and grow really quickly. The job at SourceGas was the name of the company. It was one of the greatest to my careers. There were so many amazing people I got to work with and that's where my real solution architect skills were developed and formed. We were lucky to put in a lot of new SAP tech at that time, we put in a SAP PI system back in the day, we had new CRM initiatives. We were looking at HANA back then, back in 2015, and we almost upgraded to there. But, while SAP always evolves, there's always new tech like SAP S/4 HANA RISE with S/4 HANA. There's still a lot at its core that still remains constant. So while there's always new things to learn, the core of SAP is very stable.

So it is a place where you can learn and grow, but that core functionality and that core understanding that you have will be valuable throughout your career. And at SourceGas, we did try as an IT group purposefully to always be moving the SAP ball forward in some way. We weren't necessarily bleeding edge, but definitely keeping up to date and advancing the SAP solution. And one key driver for that IT core team at SourceGas was really making sure the business was involved and finding solutions to help the business. Really, not just what IT thought we should be doing. We don't upgrade for upgrade's sake, you do it because it's really going to help the business move forward. And that's a great example and for folks going to S/4 HANA. They really need to understand how it's going to add value to their business and keep them going forward, so.

Jim Lichtenwalter: What advice do you have to SAP newcomers or people who are enrolled where they're now having to start to pick up any SAP solution for the first time? What advice do you have for them to ensure success not only in their jobs, but also leveraging and utilizing those solutions effectively?

Ann Largent: Yeah. SAP is a great place to grow and learn, and you have to really be open to that learning process. So I kind of say whether SAP would appreciate this or not, but it's like learning a new language, right, and most tech is. There's just a whole other vocabulary of terminology around not only the SAP technical components, but really the business vocabulary as well, like a pricing condition. That's not a term we use in going to the bank. We don't say a pricing condition, but so be open to learning, give yourself some patience while you're adapting to SAP and while you're growing your education for SAP and your knowledge base internally and your skillset.

And then I promise that once you think you know it all in SAP, there's going to be something new and exciting just around the corner that will come challenge you and really keep you sharp and keep you ready for that challenge. And hopefully keep you to be excited at working in this business. It's a gift to learn something new in your career every day. At one point in the middle of the 22 years here, I had a choice to go on a path away from SAP or stay in a career in SAP. And absolutely there was no decision for me. It was staying in the SAP ecosystem was the answer, so.

Jim Lichtenwalter: Great. You're so right about the SAP language, like it really is. It feels completely different sometimes. When you're involved in it every day, it become, it's fast how quickly you pick things up. It really blew my mind when I was like, "Wow, now I know all these acronyms and I know exactly what we're talking about here."

Ann Largent: Right. It's like going to Germany and learning German or learning German from sitting at my desk in Denver, Colorado. You're going to learn much faster in Germany.

Jim Lichtenwalter: Exactly. Yeah, you learn best when you're like you're on the ground doing the work. I totally agree. Let's talk a little bit about ASUG. We hinted at it a little bit earlier. You're a volunteer of ours. Why don't you tell us a little bit about your ASUG origin story? How did you first come across ASUG and talk to us a little about your experience with us.

Ann Largent: Yeah, well, you'll hear the excitement in my voice. I love being a part of ASUG. It's a valuable part of being an SAP expert in the field. I'm not sure I'm an expert, but really to keeping involved with SAP, knowing what's coming down, what's happening, what are other customers doing to solution being a part of ASUG is a key component to anyone's success in the SAP ecosystem. So I actually joined the Colorado ASUG group back in 2000 in Summit County in Breckenridge. And I’d drive down to Denver to the Denver meetings. We did actually host a meeting in Summit County. I got a bunch of folks to, from Denver to drive up by 70 to come for the day and have a ASUG meeting in Summit County. It was pretty great. It was at the courthouse. So we had old buildings and gold foil ceilings. It was a cool event, but back then ASUG was only open to SAP customers.

So it was a fairly small installation at that time of SAP, of ASUG members in the Denver community. And I drove down to Denver on a regular basis for those meetings, because I just think it's so important to learn from your colleagues, what they're doing and how they solution things. Then did have a couple of years where I was a consultant and because ASUG was members only, or SAP customers, I kind of wasn't in the ASUG arena that during those couple years, but once I joined SourceGas, I quickly came back as a member turn went to the meetings and then partners were now involved in the ecosystem at ASUG. So that was really a benefit. I think the partner piece of it is really valuable.

We as part partners and I'm not talking about me here, but we see a lot of different use cases and how we work with a lot of customers and how they solve different problems out there and solution. And so there's a lot of valuable education insight we get from our partner members as well, as well as our installation members. So once I came back as a member, after joining SourceGas, Chavone Jacobs, she's run the Colorado Chapter successfully for a long time. Gosh, since 2002, something like that. So she's just amazing. And she's grown the chapter over these 20 years. Well, one day she called me because we'd known each other when we were on back in 2000 together, she needed help with one of the Colorado meetings to kind of work on the catering. So I helped her with that.

And then I've really been on the Colorado Chapter ever since, that was probably back in 2013 or 2014. And it's just been a joy to work in the chapter. We have a ton of fun in Colorado. We have a regular group of attendees that come to every meeting, hot breakfast and sappy hour are must at the Denver, Colorado, ASUG, every in-person meeting and we've grown our team with Chavon, Barry, Steven myself. And we really have a lot of fun and we work together as a team to define and divide and conquer for putting on meetings and events. And, oh, we also run a charity Rockies or avalanche game every year to support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society here in Denver. So we're always trying to give back as a ASUG Chapter.

Jim Lichtenwalter: That's great that you all are so involved in, like it has such a... The chapter has such a tight lineage. I've always wanted to do a chapter meeting and obviously because of COVID, haven't been able to do that since I started at ASUG, but we just hear so much great stuff about those chapter meetings from our volunteers or from the attendees who go to them too.

Ann Largent: Yep. It's like a tech family. It's SAP family. When you go to most ASUG meetings, a lot of people know each other, Chevon is famous for saying, "All right, everybody's got to get up at lunch and meet somebody they don't know and go sit with somebody else." So that's a great advice.

Jim Lichtenwalter: That sounds like a great environment. You're an ASUG volunteer. As we talked about a little bit earlier, how has being an ASUG volunteer been such a rewarding experience for you?

Ann Largent: Well, all the great people that I've met through ASUG events in Colorado, of course, but you know, SAPHHIRE and the ASUG Annual Conference, pre COVID, of course. I'm lucky enough as a pre-sale solution engineer that I get to actually go to other ASUG meetings in the US and Canada. So that's a benefit. So when I go to any chapter meeting, it's the same feeling, right? We're all not just colleagues and not just professional peers, but really consider each other friends. And there's kind of just a bond there when you're at an ASUG meeting that everybody's trying to learn together and grow and really improve their role through the chapter. And so all the ASUG Chapter meetings I've been to, they're all great events, all a little different, but lots of fun. I know Topgolf is a favorite event that I love to go to, always there's excellent SAP educational content.

Jim Lichtenwalter: Yeah. It always makes me laugh whenever I encounter either older volunteers, people who used to be volunteer like David Wascom who oversees content at ASUG used to be a volunteer. And so it's funny to see where they go off and do.

That is all the time we have today. I think we had a really great conversation about a lot of different things that you do, not only for ASUG, but in your career, but again, wanted to thank you and say, I appreciate your time here today.

Ann Largent: Well, thank you, Jim. I hope everybody really takes a good look and comes to an ASUG meeting virtually or in person in the next in 2022, especially we're here for you. We want to always have more attendees. You don't have to be an IT tech person to go to an ASUG meeting. We want everyone from the SAP ecosystem to join us. So please know that all our chapters are very welcoming and we hope you join us. Thanks again, Jim, for the invitation, it's been really fun.

Jim Lichtenwalter: Wonderful. Fun for me too. Thanks, Ann.

That brings this ASUG Talk to an end.

Thank you, Ann, for joining me today, and sharing your career experiences, challenges and how the ASUG community has helped you advance as a professional.

In our next ASUG Talks episode, you’ll hear from Cindy Seaburn an SAP systems analyst for Duval County Public Schools in Florida in a Candid Career Conversation about her experiences there and in other roles.

Be sure to join me for the next ASUG Talks. And remember to generously share these compelling conversations with other ASUG members, your professional community and industry networks.