Katie Butler, 28, is very familiar with the term "frequent flyer" as she travels between Benezette and Chicago as part of her job with Ryerson, a worldwide metals distributor.
"My job requires about 90 percent travel, so you never know where you are going to find me from one week to the next. I have actually traveled to 23 different states for work in the past four years," Butler said. "I would say at least 60 percent of the time I am in Chicago, but I don't officially live there. I am only in Benezette about eight days a month at the most."
As a member of Ryerson's Business Process Optimization Team (BPO), Butler acts as an SAP trainer (Systems, Applications and Products) with a focus on Sales and Distribution (SD), a module used to enter quotes and orders into the system.
SAP is a data processing program which aids industries of all sizes in running more smoothy and efficiently through its many applications and services.
Butler explained that SAP consists of numerous program modules which a company can choose to implement, depending on their needs. Among those are warehouse management (WM), which helps companies pull and ship products based on expiration dates; production planning (PP), used to release and confirm production orders within the plant; materials management (MM), used to procure metal from mills as well as create coils into standard-size sheets for stock orders available for when customers call in orders; and logistics execution (LE), utilized in shipping material to customers.
She added that several companies in the area utilize SAP, specifically OSRAM Sylvania.
Butler was hired at Ryerson five years ago as an inside sales representative in the Philadelphia office, where she worked for one and a half years before she was pulled as a trainer on the implementation team.
"In a way, SAP choose me," Butler explained. "They were in the process of converting to SAP when I first started. Since I was new and did not have a customer base, I was named the SAP power user and all of the questions were filtered through me."
As a result, Butler has a good understanding of how things move through SAP and how to adjust business processes to accommodate them in SAP. After about a year on as a power user, Butler was placed on the BPO team where she has worked for just under three years.
"I feel very fortunate that even though I kind of stumbled into it, I found something that I really enjoy doing," Butler said. "I think that the most interesting part about SAP is that you can track a sales order all the way through, you can see what was done to the order, who did it, and when they did it. Then, if you really wanted to, you could reverse the order and start again."
As part of her main duties, Butler's team is responsible for SAP training for new hires and for new locations. There are also times when they work to convert data from an old computer system into SAP.
"We have a nice little 1200-plus item checklist that we have to run through to know that we have everything covered and daily conference calls to see where we stand on those tasks," Butler explained. "Rollouts not only mean long hours, but also quite a few challenges; we can run into a business scenario we haven’t seen before and have to figure out how to make it work with SAP. We do a lot of prep work for the rollouts and GAP analysis, but there always seems to be that one thing the location forgot to tell us about – it keeps you on your toes."
Butler's team has also developed an assessment tool which they use to determine the strengths and weaknesses of a location after they have installed SAP.
The team will also conduct specialized training for that location and work with them to create an action plan to bring them up to speed in those particular areas, as well as maintain all training documentation and test new changes to the system before they are installed.
Recently Butler completed a course in the Sales and Distribution (SD) configuration, which she explained is similar to programming.
"In the background of SAP, there are various tables and settings that you can modify. Depending on how these are configured, SAP will do different things. It is kind of crazy how something can be easily changed with a simple entry in a table and no ABAP (programming) code needs to be written," she added.
Butler is a graduate of Elk County Christian High School, Class of 2000, and holds a bachelor of science degree in marketing from Penn State Behrend which she earned in 2005.
Katie is the daughter of June and Andy (Bart) Sort of Benezette, and the granddaughter of Dorothy and the late George Heigel and Jane and the late Paul Sorg, all of St. Marys. She is the aunt of Jack Butler, the son of her older brother Ben and Christy (Buchheit) Butler.
According to Butler, her family has had a great impact on who she is as a person and her successes.
"I have always been taught to never give up, always give it my all, and to not worry about others, but focus on myself and what I can do differently," Butler said. "My mom has been a county commissioner for almost 20 years and she has definitely served as a role model for me by showing me that once you figure out what you want, that you just have to go for it no matter what it takes; risks are worth taking."
She emphasized that she would not change where she grew up for anything and that it would seem strange to her to not know everyone in her graduating class.
"I begin a lot of our trainings by having everyone tell us an interesting fact about themselves. Mine is always that I’m from a town of 200 people and 800 elk. It’s always fun to watch everyone’s reaction," Butler said. "I often get an, ‘I thought you were from Pennsylvania, you don’t have elk there.’ Sometimes it is very obvious that a person in the training class has a preconceived notion of what someone from a small town looks like and acts like. I enjoy breaking that stereotype."
Growing up in Elk County, Butler was a volunteer with the American Red Cross, where she said her training career actually began as an instructor in First Aid, CPR and lifeguarding courses at the St. Marys Community Pool, where she was a lifeguard throughout high school and college.
"I think my favorite aspect of the job would be how rewarding it can be to see others get excited about learning something that is going to make their day-to-day job so much easier. It’s fun to give a training and then afterwards have someone walk up to you to say, 'I had no idea you could do that and it’s going to save me so much time!'" she said. "I also work with a really great group of people; that makes the long hours a lot easier."
When she first began training Butler said her biggest challenge was training individuals at a company who had been there for 30 years, while she was just a recent college graduate.
"It took a lot to gain their trust," she added. "I had to quickly learn about the industry to prove to them I not only knew SAP, but I also knew about the products we sell and the different scenarios we can go through on a daily basis."
Butler noted that one of her career highlights is developing a flexible order entry screen in SAP, which she embarked on approximately one year ago. Throughout the process she was very involved in the layout and testing of the new screen.
"I was responsible for rolling this new functionality out to the various locations," Butler said. "It was a very interesting project to work on since it was something that the field wanted for quite some time.
Butler stated that Ryerson includes locations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and China. There are 40 locations currently using SAP, with at least another 40-plus that have not been converted. She added that Ryerson is the oldest business in Chicago, behind only the city's famed newspaper, the Chicago Tribune.
In the future, Butler hopes to gain additional experience in the configuration side of SAP. She has her first configuration change going into the company's production environment next week.
"It’s pretty rewarding knowing that a minor change to the system is going to make someone more efficient. I am a realist, too, though; I know that not everyone is going to like the changes you make, but I guess that just comes with the territory," Butler said.
As for those looking to follow in Butler's footsteps, she said that while her job is very rewarding, people should be prepared to miss out on quite a bit of things while on the road.
"Most of the time, you will see the inside of a hotel room more than you will see your family and friends, but as a result I have been to a lot of places I never would have gone," she added. "I guess like with anything, there are pros and cons."
Outside of work, Butler enjoys playing volleyball, which she also played while at ECC. She is a substitute player in a volleyball league in Chicago, which she said allows her to see some playing time on the court every now and then.