ERP Developer/Admin Career Growth

Hi all! Would love to start a conversation about career development for our industry. I am 2.5 years into my Epicor admin career at a small company (i’m a one-man operation). My direct team consists of finance people, so no one really understands my job - which is why I love this community! I’m looking for ways to development my skills and be able to dabble in software development activities. I would like to be able to do customization without hiring 3rd party, write scripts to run on the server, expand on API capabilities, etc., but I don’t know where to start (especially with Insights pending this year).

Any suggestions? Languages to learn? Certificates to obtain? What has your learning/career development looked like? :slight_smile:

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Welcome!

When I started this journey I had been an IT guy for way too long already, so the “logic” part of how computers worked wasn’t too much of an issue. I’d also had quite a bit of experience in a support role… all that to say a lot of how your journey goes will be determined by where you’ve already been. As the IT guy I was usually under the Finance umbrella too… the advantage being, like you, that nobody had a CLUE what I did!

I am not a programmer by any stretch (as anyone here will tell you, with no-so-muted guffaws while doing so), but the background I had allows me to MOSTLY understand what people are doing, which I can then shamelessly steal and use. That’s encouraged! If the system you’ve inherited/lucked into/had forced onto you has any customizations that somebody else wrote, look at them… study them… find out what they do (and just as importantly, WHY your company wanted them in the first place!).

If you have access to the Education Course documents, then run yourself through them in the Demo database and see how data runs through the system. Have you played with creating a simple customization, like adding a UD field to a form? Have you played with a BPM, even as practice, to just display a message box saying “You did it!” when it hits your trigger? Knowledge of the tables/fields and business objects (have you ever done a trace?) are how, at the end of the day, most of us make our living… and all of it can be learned… but there isn’t ONE place to go learn it all. This forum is a great resource, the Education and Technical Reference documents (available on Epicweb) have great information, and there are user groups in many areas also (ask!)

Epicor is a great ride, you’ll have LOTS of fun while tearing your hair out and meet GREAT people who you’ll wish you were as smart as (I know I do).

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Hi Ernie! Thank you for the feedback. My educational background is math and computer science, so that has helped me a lot as far as understanding computer logic. I’ve done some light customization, such as adding UD fields and BPMs, but hoping to expand further. I’ll check out some of your suggestions!

Sounds like my best bet is digging into to the technical references and playing around in the test database. But I do wonder if anyone has had good experiences with more general training, like a class on C# for example.

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Hi Jacquelyn,

I’ve been in IT for over 35 years and have had multiple careers within the field including programmer many, many years ago. I’ve been working with the Epicor product for 11 years now…wow time flys!!

Several years ago, I took a C# class at the local community college to help with moving to E10 and working on BPMs, etc. I’m glad I did…not that I’m completely proficient at it, but it does help with reading code and figuring out how BPMs work.

Other than that, I participate as much as I can in local Epicor User Groups (I lead the MI-IN group), watch lunch and learns, and interact with the wonderful community of people here in this forum. I have learned so much about the Epicor product by asking questions. It takes time, but it’s definitely worth all the time I spent!

Always happy to help!

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Awesome, Beth! Thanks so much for the feedback! Glad to hear that you did end up appreciating a C# class.

I’ve gone from completely clueless at the beginning to predicting the system’s behavior just from experience, lol! Time and this community have been the best resources :slight_smile:

How do I get more info on your user’s group? My company (and hometown) is based in Indiana, but I work remotely from Colorado. I might be able to sync up an office trip with a users group visit.

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I started as a business coordinator at my company about 8 years ago, which was basically first big boy job out of college. I didn’t have an IT background at all (biology/pre-med) but was given the opportunity to help implement a portion of Epicor 9 for a few modules. I worked along side the IT director at our parent company as well as an Epicor consultant.

I was amazed with the possibilities presented with Epicor to replace our manual spreadsheet entry processes. We successfully implemented the software modules and I became the SME for the limited scope of what we used.

I was promoted to Business Analyst shortly after and began to get more into it with query writing and basic customization (my first being to turn an entire form the company colors, which was promptly shot down by the IT group :rofl:) but I had been bitten by the curiosity bug at that point.
I was able to be exposed to more and more technical aspects of the system and became the expert for all things Epicor at both my and our parent company. I remember asking the IT director if it was worth it to stick with this IT stuff and he said he thinks I should. I always laugh in retrospect about how right he was!

Eventually our company made the move towards independence from the parent company and the need for an IT manager became apparent. I was promoted into the role with a systems administrator as a report. At this point, I was a strong Epicor, .NET, and SQL developer, but I needed to expand my comfort zone to IT administration, leadership, and infrastructure as well. I learned about servers, networks, clouds, switches, data centers, hardware, you name it. There is no shortage of things to learn in IT.

Since that time, I’ve had too many opportunities to count to develop software and systems that are used everyday at my company. I learn something new seemingly every day and I get chances to apply this knowledge.

I guess my point is that I feel Epicor was the launching point to my career and has helped me develop a skill set I never thought I would have had.
Epicor is somewhat niche software but C# and SQL are everywhere. ERP is everywhere. IT development is everywhere. My experience with becoming the SME, then analyst/developer, then manager, and at some point in a senior leadership position at my company is in no small part due to being given the opportunity to be in a technical role working with Epicor.

If you would have asked my 8 years ago if I was going to work in IT, I would have said no and couldn’t imagine working with a bunch of nerds. But, I am extremely grateful I do, given the excellent pay, work life balance, no school debt for graduate school (medical/dental/pharm school), and transferable skills. It’s pretty nice to be choosy of opportunities you choose to pursue.

So to recap; learn everything you can. SQL, C#, Epicor, business processes, supply chain, finance, IT. You’re in a position of infinite opportunity.

I’m in Colorado too! :slight_smile:

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I cant remember where I heard this but I read somewhere a good way to learn code is to pick a goal then go do it. Don’t pick the language or technology first. From an Epicor point of view you could take this to find a small task within your company that will be of benefit - perhaps a BPM to stop a common mistake, a customization to show some related data, a dashboard, an updatable dashboard, etc. Once you have a goal in hand you have the motivation to see it through. It also makes it real, I find the tutorials and examples are simplified and real world tasks quickly force you into the murky areas where the in depth learning begins!

Another approach I have used is to dedicate a certain time slot for the purpose of learning. Maybe eat lunch at your desk and work on something, or come in 30 minutes early a couple of days a week to work on it.

And as others have said this forum is a great resource. Most things I attempt have already been done by someone here and there is already a post that I can learn from.

Good Luck, have fun and ask for help when you get stuck.
Brett

PS Colorado is a wonderful place to live. I spent 2 years in Colorado Springs almost 20 years ago now…

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@jnbadger A few years ago Clayton Christensen gave a talk to his Harvard class about this. He ended up writing it up as a book called " How Will You Measure Your Life?" and you can read a synopsis here: https://hbr.org/2010/07/how-will-you-measure-your-life

You can also watch his Ted Talk about it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvos4nORf_Y

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I see 3 different disciplines you need here

  1. A working knowledge of C# and programming principles
  2. Knowledge of Epicor tools
  3. Specific technical knowledge of the Epicor architecture\internals

Some might argue that the last one come inherently with #2 but I would disagree. A fraction of what I’ve learned has been in an Epicor user\tech manual. Much of this can come from liberal use of a decompiler and examining the source code, but the real secret is to find a mentor. (most certainly unrelated, @josecgomez, have I told you lately that I love you?)

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Hey JJ!

I, too, am a Math and Computer Science major! (Started in Physics to do alternate energy but they deregulated oil in the 80s and that killed the market. Different era!) Way back in those days, CS fell under the Math department especially at smaller liberal arts colleges. But the liberal arts have helped me in ERP more than anything I learned in my CS classes.

While I don’t discourage anyone from improving their technical skills, let me suggest a slightly different path. The ‘E’ in ERP is for Enterprise. This means looking at the whole company and not just one area. There’s a GREAT book by Eli Goldratt called “The Goal” that’s popular in the APICS community. It’s a super easy read since it’s written like a novel. It describes his “Theory of Constraints.” The big take-away for me was the interest in the performance of the entire system to serve the needs of the customer and not concentrating on the performance of a single department. For ERP admins, this means learning a little about every part of business: know basic accounting (Trial balance, Income Statement, debits, credits, etc.), how salespeople think (:roll_eyes:) , how purchasing works, inventory management, production management, etc. What’s the goal of Driftboat? Who are their customers? How can you make it easier for them to do business with you? The departments in our companies rarely like to work with each other. (:wink:) I view the roll of the ERP admin is more like a therapist than a technologist. :rofl: : You become the person that sees the information flow through the company and can question why things were done the way they were and find improvements for the entire system.

As a technical person, we LOVE to provide solutions. It makes us feel valuable and it’s fun to conquer a technical problem. But sometimes, the best solution is telling the requester that while this makes their job easier, it might add non-value work up or down stream from them and a better solution for the company would look a little different. Knowing how your company works makes you far more valuable than any 3rd-party coder could ever be.

The IT industry has changed faster in the last ten years then the previous twenty-five. The Internet and the cloud have changed everything. You don’t have that baggage we old farts like @Ernie , @MikeGross, @timshuwy, @ckrusen, among others have! So my recommendations would be:

  • Read “The Goal”
  • Read “The Phoenix Project” which is very similar to The Goal except it’s about software projects.
  • Better yet, read “The Unicorn Project”, same author, continuation of The Phoenix Project.
  • See what people at your company are reading and ask them for recommendations.
  • Start listening to industry podcasts: DotNet Rocks, RunAs Radio, Azure Fridays, the MS Cloud IT Pro podcast, or MS Channel 9 shows like the IoT Show and the AI Show, On .Net, DevOps Lab, …
  • Learn C# and SOLID programming skills.
  • Learn PowerShell
  • Learn Git/GitHub or GitLab
  • Learn JavaScript and TypeScript THEN learn Angular (used in Kinetic) or other JS frameworks
  • Learn about DevOps
  • Stay on top of Security topics and teach your company safer computing.
  • I would recommend one of the basic cloud certifications: Azure 900 or AWS Cloud Foundation
  • Microsoft Learn is a fantastic free resource. Pick some Paths and run with it.

This is the same advice I’ve given my kids - who are about your age. My son is in a Ph.D. program for Computer Science but he also has a degree in Environmental Science. My daughter has a Biology and Psych degree and a masters in Ethics and looking like a Ph.D. in Public Health here soon. So try to have a good balance of knowledge breadth and depth. The balance is different for everyone but you don’t want to be only broad or only deep.

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My degree is in Electrical and Computer Engineering, and surprisingly I only had to take one Programming class. And back in 1985 they decided Pascal would be a good choice. During my Co-ops I taught myself C (the plain old K&R type), and this was mostly for embedded systems. While I was “proficient” at C (I could achieve the end goal of the program), I knew I was probably doing something back-assward, so I took a class in C while still in school. This was probably around 1988, and we actually used terminals connected to a mainframe at the University of Waterloo in Canada (Drexel, my school was in Philadelphia). I used to think taking a class on a subject that you already know (especially if self taught), was a waste. But I realized there was almost always somethig I didn’t know. And even if there was nothing new, it at least confirmed what I knew was correct.

Anyway… I’ve found experience to be the best teacher. The main reason I answer a lot of post on this forum, is for the opportunity to learn more details of what they are doing. I try to solve their problem and if I do, then I’ve learned something new. And If my solution “works” but is not the “best” way, others here are more than happy to enlighten me. And then again I’ve learned even more.

I proudly fall into the field of “Jack of all trades, master of none.” Mostly because I’ve worked at small companies (as few as 10 employees). I’ve never been a network or system administrator, although I’ve held the title of SAD (System Admin by Default :slight_smile: )

If you have the time, try solving other users problems. This isn’t the most structured method of learning or for career growth, but a good one for someone who’s more of a Jack-of-all-trades, than an expert in a narrower field.

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Awesome, thank you! Will definitely check that out.

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@jnbadger - I don’t think I can add much more that what my esteemed ‘baggage carriers’ have brought to the conversation other than to say @Mark_Wonsil makes a superior point in the need to understand the Enterprise, not just your department

Personally, I’ve been told that my real value to the company is that I can converse with anyone here, specifically about their job and how it interacts with others. I have the ‘big picture’ knowledge of how the enterprise works and that allows me to solve problems and provide solutions that everyone appreciates - even if I don’t have the skills myself but can find them in the vast consulting resources out there. I can talk about double-sided GL entries, Cost Methods and roll-ups, multi-resource scheduling, and Brazilian Customs paperwork (those who know, know what I’m talking about) - and I’m the SQL dba and Epicor Admin - but my C# is very weak…

I guess what I’m saying is that YOU don’t have to be the singular/sole solution provider in your company, but you should be the subject matter expert on cross-departmental functionality with respect to ERP. If you can discuss the issue, formulate the path to resolution, and provide the solution (even if that means getting a consultant), then you have provided true value to your enterprise.

Now, as a math and computer science major who loves logic puzzles and can code in 5 OTHER languages, I just love to get my hands dirty and play with all the toys inside Epicor. What my old butt needs to do though is really learn the stuff everyone is mentioning :slight_smile:

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Aaron, we have very similar paths! Sounds like I’m just a few years behind you :slight_smile: This was my first job out of college too. I temporarily took an application engineering/estimating role, but then jumped ship when we decided to implement ERP. I also have an IT director to look up to who has encouraged me to stick with it. We currently have a separation between the on-prem server maintanence (IT director) and the application side which consists of any and all developments, troubleshooting, and end-user training (me). But I hope to get more involved in the server side! I think that would help my understanding a lot.

So funny how similar our situations have been! Looking forward to the rest of my career and very encouraged by your comments. Thank you for sharing.

Are you a CO native? I am a transplant and loving it!

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@bmanners Really like your idea of committing a certain amount of time per day to learning! I need to get more disciplined in my schedule. As I’m sure everyone here understands, working in ERP is a constant priority changing environment. :laughing:

Thank you for the advice and words of encouragement!

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Yeah, this can’t be stressed enough. Unfortunately some department always ends up feeling like it’s their systems, and all the other departments must work around what ever works best for the “owning” department. I’ve almost always found this to be the Accounting Dept. Their need for exactness, paper trails, and rigid structure, often make the other departments “bend” to what’s “best” (usually defined as the least work) for Accounting.

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Sounds like it to me too! You’re doing the right thing by networking here as well. It’s amazing how small the world can be when you know people.
I am a CO native, grew up in Grand Junction which is on the western slope. Looks like you’re in Boulder, that’s cool. I went to CSU in Fort Collins so didn’t spend a whole lot of time in Boulder but am quite familiar with it as well.
I work in Centennial kind of in the south end of DTC.
Keep in touch, the CO Epicor community is quite small! :slight_smile:

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To join the MI-IN Epicor Users Group, you will need to go to the EUG website (www.EpicorUsers.org) and locate our page in the Regional Groups. If your company is not a member of the EUG, you can sign up as a regional member with no fees. You will then want to go the Regional Groups section and find the MI-IN group where you can click the Join button.

FYI - we are having our first virtual meeting on Tuesday, June 2nd! You will need to register for it on the EUG site (it’s under the Events section).

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My path to where I am now took an odd path… When I started working in the computer industry some 40+ years ago, you only needed to know how to spell “Computer” to get a job. (Side story, i was once unemployed for a week, went to the unemployment office, found a 3x5 card on the wall asking for a computer programmer, Called the number, Interviewed, got the job, went to work the next day only meeting 1 of the 10 requirements for the job).
I worked for years as a “Computer programmer”. That’s what I thought I was. I enjoyed it. I was very good at it. I moved up the food chain from programmer, Sr Programmer, IT Manager, Back to Programming, then Programmer Manager, then MIS Manager… THEN the SWITCH… Sr Tech Support at Epicor, Tech Support Manager, Consultant… 21 years into Epicor, I am a Sr Principal Consultant.
While a programmer, I was at the cusp of the computer industry. I joined a company who had 200 people, and EXACTLY TWO Computer Keyboard/Monitors when I interviewed. My first day on the job, they put me in an office with a desk, Pencil, Razor Blade (?), and an unopened box with a brand new computer monitor/keyboard… My Assignment: Write software so we can run the company. Five years later, we had 50 keyboards & Monitors all running software I had written: many modules Sales Order, Production Control, Inventory control, Purchasing. As Side Projects, I had also written an Statistical Process Control program for Quality, I designed and programmed three different automated test stations for the QA Department. A few years later I completed the ERP Package with a revised Lot costing system, BOM/Routing, and a Mini-MRP system that gave all the suggestions we needed to stop manual PO/JOB Generation. School does not teach you how to write an ERP Package. it is only by getting into the muddy insides of manufacturing that you truly learn what goes on.
Very early on, one of my bosses gave me some really good advice.

  1. MBDA - Manage By Walking Around: he instructed me to “get out of the office, walk to the users desk to see how they are doing their job, and see how you can improve their jobs with the software”. This got me into the mindset of not just designing software, but LEARNING PROCESSES, and getting advice from the actual users. THEN when implementing, watch them use the software to see how it could be improved.
  2. Don’t limit your job to just IT work - Get out of your IT Silo. As an IT person, we can sometimes think "Well… that isn’t programming/DB Admin/etc… but in reality I found that IT is more about integration of all the departments. RESULT: an alert IT person can become THAT person who knows how everything works in the company. Gives possibilities to move up in the company into positions that you may not have thought possible. I have also held temporary positions of ProductionControl manager, Purchasing manager, substitute Director of Operations… Since I knew what they did, I could step into the positions… For ME? I became an expert in manufacturing and in ERP.
    Don’t get me wrong, I still love to program… I still write lots of BPMs, Dashboards, UBAQs, UI. But most of why I am who I am today is because I really understand the “Manufacturing machine” that runs most manufacturing companies today.
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@MikeGross @Mark_Wonsil excellent point!! That is exactly what helped me land the role. I started with an understanding of the company’s operations, which helped our Epicor implementation tremendously and has been my main point of value for all other ERP efforts. I’ve done a lot of report writing, process improvements, etc. And now my computer science side is bursting at the seams, ready to get back to more software-specific challenges! :slight_smile:

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