Steve Smith Full Circle: A Career in SAP

Posted by:
Marissa Dorros

Publish Date:
23 Feb, 2022

Steve Smith, invenioLSI Partner and EVP of Operations and Delivery, has been with the company for 18 years. That’s 18 years of first-of-their-kind projects and implementations, technological advancements, policy modifications, law changes, and security enhancements. His relationships go beyond quick chats about the weekend over coffee and lunch breaks; instead, his coworkers have become an extended family. Long hours, complex projects, and monotonous Boston traffic have taught him a great deal. As he prepares to retire after his 30-year long career in the SAP industry, he shares with us more about his experience in the world of SAP, why he chose this path, and how it has shaped him.

I sat down with Steve in his Quincy, MA home office, surrounded by shelves lined with various awards and pictures that serve as tokens of projects he has worked on in the past and trips he has taken with his wife and four children. A large orange cat lay curled up on the couch, softly snoring in the afternoon sun. Although a bit out of place in an executive’s office, the oddest aspect was not the presence of the cat, but instead the lack of phone calls, email pings, and buzzing that have come to create a kind of unofficial soundtrack to Steve’s life. It seemed like things have significantly quieted down for the once 5-day-a-week traveler and midnight oil-burning businessman. After settling into the now-calm ambiance, we began the interview.

You have come a long way since the start of your professional journey. What made you decide on a career in SAP?

About 10 years into my career at Digital Equipment Corporation as a Logistics and Plant Materials Manager, I was looking for a change, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So, I engaged with a professional career counseling company. 

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The counselors took me through a series of personality and other career-related questionnaires. When the data returned, they suggested I might make a good teacher. Now at that point, I was already immersed in the corporate business world, and entirely changing my career path was not part of my plan. The counselors next suggested consulting, which of course, is very much like teaching but would allow me to utilize my business skills and background. I liked the idea of that and started looking.

At the time, SAP was just hitting the scene, and I had heard about it because some of Digital’s manufacturing plants were starting to use it. It seemed like the hot thing. So, I started looking in the newspaper—yes, the newspaper, you know that black and white paper that use to be dropped off on the doorstep every day. In the job section, I saw Plaut Consulting was hiring. I answered the ad, and the company hired me on the spot with no SAP experience. The rest is history.

That’s amazing that they hired you right away, but they must have seen something in you! Although it sounds like you were successful in quickly getting started with SAP, what is one thing you wish you had known before jumping into your career?

I wish I understood myself better. I am an entrepreneur at heart, and that is the way my mind works.

Is your entrepreneur mentality the reason you started your own company, ValueStream, in 2000?

Yes, exactly. It can be difficult for entrepreneurs to work for other people. Yet, for the first 15 years of my career, I did just that. l learned a lot and thrived, but always knew I had to do my own thing.

In 2004, you decided to partner with LSI Consulting—now invenioLSI. What made you come to that decision?

SS Blog QuoteI met the LSI team a couple of years after I started my own business while working at MIT. I first met SteveRoach [former LSI CEO], and we got along great and had a lot of fun together (sometimes too much fun). It was Steve that suggested that our companies would be better together. He put me in touch with Shyam Jajodia, who I instantly liked. From there, we put together a deal that has lasted over 20 years. I have never looked back. My partners at invenioLSI are not only my workmates, but I count them among my best friends—a rarity in business today. I would join invenioLSI again in a heartbeat. It was probably the best business decision I ever made.

Throughout your time at the company, what was the most challenging aspect of your job?

The responsibility, especially to the employees. As a company owner, you are responsible for the livelihood of entire families. When times are tough, it is natural to think about yourself and your well-being. As a business owner, you need to set that aside and do whatever you need to do to keep the company going. Every partner at this company has, at times in invenioLSI history, had to risk their security for the good of the company. The work I never found that hard. The responsibility of running a company can be enormous and can certainly keep you up at night.

What was the most exciting project you worked on?

Well, I can tell you the most different. While working for Plaut Consulting, I did an implementation for the worldwide headquarters of Jehovah's Witness. Who knew a religion would need SAP? They were a big organization and very secretive. We went live without ever seeing any live financial data. We built the whole system using dummy data, and the customer converted live data after we left the building. Being in Brooklyn, NY (pre-gentrification) was a blast. Flying into Newark, NJ every week, not so much. It was a pretty bad airport at the time. But overall, how do you beat a gig in NYC?

Now that you are preparing for retirement, what are you going to miss the most?

The day-to-day with my friends at invenioLSI. This has not just been a career for me. Some of the strongest personal relationships in my life are with people I work with at invenioLSI. And while I will miss the day-to-day, from my view, I will have these relationships for life.

It’s funny that you mention lifelong relationships because it sounds like for many years, you were a pretty busy guy. How did you balance a demanding career with a family?
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Well, this is where I have to give a shoutout to my wife Cheryl because at the beginning of my career, I traveled every week, and if not for Cheryl, there might not have been much balance. She was my first business partner. She ran my first company while raising 4 kids, as I traveled and worked 12- or more-hour days. She was always supportive. She allowed me to work and take risks while she picked up the slack. Cheryl provided the balance in the family, so when I did come off the road, we were both able to focus on family. It’s a partnership that has worked for 37 years, and I am grateful for the sacrifices she has made.

How will you stay involved at invenioLSI?

I am still a stockholder in the company, so I will always have a vested interest in the success of invenioLSI. I will be on call to invenioLSI for help and advice as needed––I am not changing my email or phone. I have always had an open-door policy, and that door will remain open for anyone who needs it.

There is no doubt Steve has had an incredible career in SAP and at invenioLSI. The work has always seemed to come naturally for him. Perhaps it was his teacher-like qualities that made him so good at what he does. Maybe it was his family—being a husband and a father—that made him compassionate and understanding when it came to running a business, or maybe it was the thrill of the ever-evolving world of software that kept his interest for all those years. As I began to pack up, I noticed a quote in a frame to the left of Steve’s desk. The quote was from Calvin Coolidge and read, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On!’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” This quote perfectly sums up who Steve is, why he does what he does, and why he will always have a place in the world of SAP and at invenioLSI.

Steve Smith Quote 4



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Blog Author

Marissa Dorros

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