14 Dec, 2021
From Park Ranger to SAP Consultant
Not all consultants follow the same trajectory, and John Fast is one example of someone whose path to becoming an SAP Consultant was not linear. Having grown up in a small town in Iowa, “surrounded by fields and fields of corn and soybeans and hog farms,” John’s high school curriculum lacked any specialized courses that piqued his interest. Outside of his standard classes, he enjoyed spending time outdoors, from hiking, fishing, hunting, and soccer. Fittingly, he achieved his BS in Natural Resources Recreation & Tourism Administration before later returning for his MBA in Business. He recalls, “I could be at school one minute, and 30 minutes later I could be in the wilderness on a stream-fly fishing trip. I was just in Heaven.” In the hopes of becoming a park ranger, John volunteered with The US Forest Service, who advised him to assist them with law enforcement. He began volunteering with the local police department and spun this experience into a position as a full-time Police Officer; however, he ultimately decided that it was not the right fit for him.
Had he been introduced to a STEM program early on, he would have been intrigued. He reveals, “I like to work with my hands. When Covid struck, I built my own office. I would have been some kind of an engineer. Mechanical, computer science...I’ve always loved computers. So, one of those types of majors would have been right up my alley.” Fortunately, John landed himself in the tech field regardless. He explains, “I needed a job, so I moved to Los Angeles and worked a few temp jobs until I found a full-time job with one of the clients from the temp agency. They were putting in SAP and made me a team lead on their Manufacturing Support Team where I led the production scheduling and inventory management team.” He continues, “At that time, the internet was new, and SAP was a new and hot software program. After 2 years, I was hired over the internet to become a consultant for a small company based out of Jackson, Mississippi.”
When discussing what appealed to him about consulting and SAP, he recalled, “The prospect of traveling and working with customers sounded fun.” After 25 years in SAP, he still enjoys that aspect of consulting—and more. He reveals, “I like to travel, meet new people, and do new things. Not every customer is the same. They’re putting in different solutions, they’re at different stages in their move to being a more efficient or technology proficient organization.” He shares, “They signed a contract with us, so at some point, their goals and our goals are in alignment. The challenge is to make sure how we get there continues to be in alignment along the way.” Above all, John enjoys helping customers to recognize “the future and the vision of what could be.”
Vision for invenioLSI
As our Vice President of Delivery & Customer Engagement at invenioLSI, John aims to spearhead company growth as he backs CEO Nader Tirandazi’s “great vision” for the company as “a force to be reckoned with in the public sector consulting market.” As someone who has established a strong network over years and years of working with customers on projects, John adds, “What’s really exciting to me is the chance to hire more people and grow the way that invenioLSI is.”
Over the years, John has become familiar with invenioLSI, recalling, “When people left my team at SAP to go to invenioLSI, I knew that they were going to a good place. invenioLSI has hired good people, you’ve had good people in management, and you’ve had good projects.” The move to invenioLSI was natural for John, whose passion for conducting bids, implementations, support, and go-lives aligns closely with the mission of the industry-leading SAP implementation partner.
Already, “There’s been some reorganization as we transition from a Partner-led organization to one with more formal structures and standards.” While maintaining our high-quality standards, “We’ll move away from a few people doing many things to having experts who specialize in doing things they love to do, leveraging their strengths and passion to raise our quality and effectiveness to new levels.”
He concludes, “I am really excited to join invenioLSI. It seems like every day there is something new, there is some little thing that I’m learning. I just want to say thank you to everybody who has been so welcoming and so supportive.”
Outside of the Office
John has just as much going on outside of work as he does in the office. He makes sure to enjoy the outdoors while he can in his spare time by taking care of his garden, clearing timber to stock up the woodpile, hiking, hunting, fishing, and riding his motorcycle. Recently, he has been preparing to officiate his oldest daughter’s wedding, which will take place in March.
He has also volunteered as a mentor with FIRST Robotics, a program that encapsulates his fascination with technology. The Highlands Ranch program compares to SAP consulting as it utilizes elements of modern technology to create innovative solutions. It exposes middle school and high school kids to new tools not only in engineering and math but also in music and fashion design. He speaks confidently of the high caliber of the students, explaining that as they discover their passions through FIRST, they advance along the path to becoming future industry leaders. Like our invenioLSI Grow program that gives Associate Consultants a chance to work in SAP, John shares, “The school is all about experiential learning. It’s very much hands-on,” which pushes students to think creatively. He continues, “It sets them up for the future because they have to learn how to look at design specs, do project management, and work with people.”
Yet, the kids are not the only ones that benefit from this program—John has also learned a thing or two, particularly about leadership. As someone who is constantly working with people as he manages and advises teams, he appreciates the diversity of the students he works with, which has taught him how to approach different learning styles and personalities. In addition, he has gotten a taste of different generational styles. He explains, “Because they are a part of the younger generation, they’re experiencing things differently than I did at that age.”
Leading with a Team-First Mentality
In order to remain cognizant of others’ differences and circumstances, John advocates for team building so we can “establish interpersonal relationships amongst our individual teams, across teams, and with our partners.” He explains, “We work together, as individuals, toward a common objective of satisfying the goals and wishes of other people…at the end of the day even if the software works great, the person has to accept and use it.” With people as the customers and end-users in mind, we must remember that people are also the ones doing the implementing. John reminds us, “We’re people, not resources.” He advises project leaders to be frugal, but not cheap, meaning that we should not “squeeze too much out of people just to maximize the project.”
John recognizes his employees’ devotion to the company and the sacrifices that come with it, making the empathy he demonstrates toward his employees a key aspect of his leadership style. His coworkers are not only billable at a customer site 40 hours a week, but they also devote time to travel, keeping their education up to date, mentoring others, and helping to support the company in other ways. He asserts, “I don’t want to have a meeting just to have a meeting…I do not want to be another thing that is added to their list if I don’t have something to say.” He elaborates, “I want to remove as many of those burdens to their lives as I can. I want people to be a team, I want them to know that I have their back, that I’ve been in their shoes…hopefully the people that work with me know that I do care about them.” John continues to explain that being a true team member is about “being that person that people can trust and know that I have their back.”
In addition to establishing a foundation of empathy, John believes that effective communication amongst team members is key to fostering a positive team environment. He aims to be “as communicative and efficient as possible;” for instance, he values the importance of acknowledging all the hard work and ways that people are helping each other out. He says, “People go the extra mile all the time. Working long hours, weekends and going outside of their job description to get things done.” He says, “Even if it’s a shoutout in a team call to say ‘Hey, thank you for doing this. You didn’t have to. You stepped up, you really helped me out.’ To me, that’s the essence of being a team.”
John also ensures that he explains to his team members the reasoning behind his decisions, so they can understand the impact of what they are doing. He states, “How you say something is often as important—or more important—than what you are saying.” By understanding both the content and what you are trying to convey, you can form a more effective, well-rounded message. John elaborates, “You have to pick your words carefully and with intent.”
He states, “I’ve learned that I like my job more, and the people who work with me more when we work together as a team. People challenge and inspire, people strive and accomplish goals, people learn and grow. When these things happen, the company grows too.”
Drawing from his experience on a growing Global Public Sector Management team, John points out that patience and flexibility will be key for invenioLSI employees to adapt to working efficiently on an international team. He adds, “We have to understand that culture will have a larger impact on how we do things. Not every part of the world does everything the same way or even speaks the same language. Being aware of cultural differences, time zones, terminology, and sometimes being aware of political events helps people to relate to each other to build a bond or comradery.”
Advice from a Seasoned SAP Consultant
John is at the point in his SAP career where “The screaming baby on the plane doesn’t bother [him] so much anymore.” With all this lived experience, John loves to share his knowledge with the people who are early in their careers. He reveals, “It’s amazing because I get the same sense of energy and excitement from our GROW team that I do from those kids in the high school robotics programs. They have so many questions. And they have goals, and they have dreams, and they’re vocal about it. They say ‘This is what I want. How do I do that?”
When it comes to accommodating employees’ career goals, John recognizes that people who are happy doing their jobs will be more productive. To help them get to that place, he is eager to open a line of communication with employees of all levels. He shares, “Hierarchy doesn't mean a whole lot to me...I want to call them and say, ‘Hey, you have my number now, any time you have a question or concern, the door is open. Call, text, write anytime. I do respond.’”
John thoroughly enjoys interacting with both customers and employees and answering their questions. He raves about the thrills of SAP consulting, sharing, “It’s not just the new software, it’s the organizational change that goes along with it. It’s the openness, it’s the transparency, it’s a shift in the mindset for a lot of organizations.” As John aims to “approach things in a way that helps the company,” he asks himself, “Is there something more I can do?” With this mindset, John will take invenioLSI and our customers far, and along the way, he will help his employees grow—even if their path is not linear.
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