User Assistance Development Manager
Tony has had, and continues to have, an illustrious career with SAP spanning over 20 years. The path he took may be unconventional and not fully planned at times, but looking back, he realizes this is exactly where he’s supposed to be.
Tony was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, but grew up in Moncton, New Brunswick — both small cities in Eastern Canada. The laid-back environment provided young children the freedom to chase whimsies and explore their natural curiosities. For Tony, this was music. From an early age, he was drawn to piano, clarinet, and the cello.
While the small-city charm offered him a sense of community and belonging, one major drawback for Tony was the lack of music and theater, which became more and more important to him as he grew older.
Naturally, when he went to university he studied music and envisioned one day becoming a music teacher. In addition to music, he was also drawn to Library and Information Science because he was very logical and valued systems and order.
Upon graduating from university with his second post-graduate degree, he accepted an offer with a Vancouver-based company that creates Library Automation software. His skillset was a perfect fit and he was able to work with some bright mentors that guided him in his career.
As he continued down the path of working in technology and software, his aspirations of becoming a teacher grew increasingly distant. He did, however, continue to nurture his passion for music. Tony is an accomplished musician and writes his own music (generally for theater), and is a published lyricist.
While gaining valuable experience in the tech industry, Tony transitioned away from Library Automation software and found himself at SAP (called Seagate Software back then) where he took on the role as Quality Assurance specialist. Over the years, he has done a number of different roles within the organization and has acquired a wealth of knowledge and experience.
Now as a User Assistance Development Manager, he has found a way to combine his background in technology and software, as well as returning to his roots of educating people.
When asked what advice he has for anyone looking to get into his line of work, he cites four main things:
- Learn how to communicate effectively, which includes writing clearly and concisely
- Work on your emotional intelligence and learn to adapt to various social settings
- Identify and remove any impediments to your creativity
- If you can, find an excellent mentor
Your job title is User Assistance Development Manager, can you define what that entails?
I manage the documentation team in Vancouver, and I project manage the SAP Analytics Cloud help releases. This mostly entails identifying gaps in our documentation whether it’s a new product feature or a feature enhancement. My team provides users, as well as internal stakeholders, with the technical steps to help them achieve their goals with the product.
Along with these duties, I’m also people manager, which could be anything from hiring and training my staff to having regular meetings with my team. It’s really about building relationships and creating an atmosphere of trust and support. This is an important part of my job that cannot be overlooked.
For me, it’s important to give back and act as a mentor to my team as many managers have done for me in the past. I need to be there for them, listen to any obstacles they may be facing both inside or outside of work, and offer advice which I think will best serve them.
You mentioned hiring, what are some of the qualities you look for when hiring a new team member?
Integrity is number one. I need to be able to trust every member of the team and know they are pulling for the same thing as the rest of us. Of course, in documentation, excellent communication skills are a must, but the ability to communicate openly and honestly in all situations is desirable.
Did you always see yourself doing this?
Not always, but all roads lead to Rome, as they say, so I can clearly see how I got to this role in this company. It’s work I enjoy, and I’m lucky to be here doing it.
What were some things you did at SAP earlier in your career?
I was originally hired as a Quality Assurance Specialist, creating test plans, mainly for Crystal Reports. I did that for about a year and a half before moving into the Documentation Department (which had been outsourced, but was brought in-house at that time). At the time, I was the third full-time employee on that team.
I was a writer for Crystal Reports for three or four years, before I became a manager for a small group of people who also worked on Crystal Reports and an OLAP product we had at that time.
Over the next ten years, or so, my team became bigger as the company was purchased by bigger companies and people in Documentation came and went. Eventually, I was responsible for all the writers who wrote end-user documentation as well as all the SDK writers.
For about a year and a half, I became a team lead for the group, but was no longer a manager. At the start of 2017, my management responsibilities were restored, and here I am today.
Who are some of the people you look up to, and why?
I look up to great humanitarians and talented creative people. Some random names of the living:
- The Obamas (humanitarian leadership)
- Lin-Manuel Miranda (creative and humanitarian)
- Stephen Sondheim (creative genius)
- Bill Gates (humanitarian and creative)
When you’re not at work, what occupies your time?
I enjoy playing piano, which is the main instrument I studied at university. I also enjoy reading, spending time at the computer, and indulging in my favorite TV show.
What TV show are you currently watching?
I’ve been watching episodes of a British comedy called “The Inbetweeners” (no longer produced). The comedic acting is refreshingly realistic, and the language used on TV is shockingly profane and hilarious.
What was the last book you read and what was something you took from it?
“Call Me by Your Name” by André Aciman. Essential takeaway (quoted from the novel): “We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything – what a waste!”
What does that passage mean to you?
For me, this passage articulates rather beautifully the internal struggle that many of us endure. Whether it’s a relationship, a sense of belonging, personal identity, or some insecurity, we often fail to recognize our worth. I’m reminded of another famous saying, ‘Life is about the journey not the destination.’ Our journey is who we are, it’s our experiences, our relationships, our insecurities, etc. this is what makes us unique and special.
Too often we covet some meaningless accomplishment or compare ourselves with others. We often hold these people or states up on a pedestal and feel as though we don’t measure up. Meanwhile, we’re unique and special in our own way. And so, we don’t have to rip out so much of ourselves to be at peace or to be happy or to please others, we should embrace who we are. This is one of the things that makes life worth living.
If you could spend the day with anyone dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Barbara Cook (Recently deceased, but a singer of infinite talent and soul – and a damned good sense of humor!).
What is something about you that would surprise people the most?
I can’t spell.