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How to Become an Oracle Expert ?

dbaoftheyearYet another success of my career left behind, after being awarded as DBA of the Year by Oracle Magazine Editors’ Choice Awards 2009.

In this post you will find some tips I have been using throughout my career to become successful as an expert of Oracle RDBMS. Although fine grain details of the post are focused on Oracle RDBMS, it is not very hard to generalize those ideas to any expertise.

With my wishes of those tips to be helpful for young experts …

Fall in Love

I never thought Oracle software as a way of making money in first place. Oracle stuff is simply a natural extension of what I did as a 12 year old kid with QBASIC. Beginning at those days, “IT” has become my whole life. I never thought on returns or feasibility of my effort on it. The more time I spend, the deeper my love becomes and the deeper my love gets, the more time I devote.

One of the most popular questions I always see in youngsters mind is “Is Oracle worth putting effort to have an outstanding income?” To tell the truth, Oracle is may be one of the last resorts to be taken just to make “good money” as you think about bugs, crashes, nightly wakeups, etc. Instead I put my reason as “I am spending time as an Oracle expert because I love to solve problems about very large databases”

It is always a great challenge for me to look for a cost-effective, robust, and scalable solution for any kind of VLDB problem:

Search for the solution, find it, develop/architect it and be in proud with your solution when it lives on production…

Growing from Jedi Youndling to Jedi Grand Master

I think being a good player in enterprise arena or academy is strongly associated with finding an appropriate master for you. When I look back, I take myself as pretty lucky to have great masters at any stage of my career. Those masters will not only technically guide you, but also (and more importantly) they will give the necessary non-technical tips to make you successful in arena.

Obviously next step is to be a master. You might think this as a pay-back to community. But more importantly this is very critical to improve your own skills. It is appreciated that explaining a concept is pretty much different by knowing it in details. After starting to guide Oracle newbies, I have noticed that my presentation skills got improved. My expressive capabilities (reduction, simplification, exemplification, etc) for non technical people (managers, customers, etc) on technical stuff have improved. Finally it is a great motivation for me to keep my knowledge fresh.

Knowledge Share

As a child of a trader family, not to share our business secrets was always very essential. After choosing IT as my career path, I have understood that in order to become an esteemed expert, only way is to share knowhow instead of hiding it. Today’s web environment makes it almost impossible to hide a piece of information of our domain. Either you spread that piece of information and catch other’s interest or some other expert will do that.

Presenting, blogging, answering questions at user forums, or any other way of sharing your knowhow are very important for you to become a well-known member of community. At this point never underestimate yourself. Everybody, expert or newbie, have words to speak on expertise he/she works.

Put it in a New Form

Never hesitate to taste new things. It is also valid for Oracle Technologies (not just for food or beverage). One of my most important quotes in Oracle Magazine is

“I think to be a successful Oracle DBA, you should always be looking to adopt new database Technologies, but you should always need to be very conservative in testing those Technologies”

When I look back in my career, “new” always accompanies me. Here are a few of them:

  • Turkcell
    • First Oracle Database Beta Testing with 11g Release 2
    • First large size RAC project
    • Introducing ASM
  • Turkey
    • First and the only ACED in Turkey
  • World
    • Youngest ACED and DBA of the Year award winner.

Let first to know, first to try be all your desire.

Ensure that Your “Team” is Ready to Go Anytime

Keep in mind that all projects will have their own problems. You will either face with an unreported bug or stuck at some point on design. The question is how many people can you ignite in case that something fails. My way is to put as many distinct profiles as possible when I face with a problem:

  • Experts in my company
  • Oracle My Support
  • Members of ACS from our Oracle region, EMEA
  • Oracle Development Team
  • Oracle PM Team
  • Esteemed expert of community

As this profile list gets longer, one question might be how to alert that many people as it is required. One problem I always see is that people are trying to alert people as problems start. That is not a practical way that will work.

The way to take is to build up your network before any problem even before starting the project. You can build up this by attending user group meetings, conferences or sending emails to those experts and introducing your projects and yourself. You will have an army of experts ready to go for action if you don’t let them forget you.

DBA or Developer? This is the Question

Yet another popular question from youngsters is “Should I build my career path as a DBA or developer?” I first start working with Oracle as a SQL and PL/SQL developer, after that I managed a software team in a startup company and finally I have been working as a VLDB DBA.

All those stuff has nothing to do with technology and expertise. It is all about companies’ organizational hierarchy. They are simply “titles” to be written on your business cards. Systems like Oracle are so complicated that they don’t like titles. If you wish to have a “good” relationship with Oracle RDBMS, you should be a composition of

  • Good DBA
  • Good Developer
  • Intermediate OS Admin
  • Good Hardware Spec Reader & Benchmarker.

That is simply because any failure somewhere within the stack will return as a failure at RDBMS level. As an expert you should prevent this.

Return to Basics

Another question by engineering students during their undergraduate education is “Why do we take that many theoretical courses? What is their use in real life?” To cut it short I can simply say they are extremely important.

I can exemplify it with queuing theory (based on probability theory and statistics). I have seen many people in enterprise interpreting service time, wait time, number of waiting requests, max wait time, etc in different contexts like I/O, network, OWI, etc. erroneously.

Indeed, three basic chapters from any queuing theory book are sufficient to interpret them correctly:

  • T = E +W
  • Little’s Law
  • Markov Chains

Unfortunately, today’s hardware and software is hard to understand by just knowing 4 arithmetic operations. So taking basic probability theory, simulation systems, queuing theory, algorithm analysis, linear/non-linear/stochastic equations has a great effect on me to interpret/solve enterprise level problems.

DBA of the Year

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November/December 2009
Another recent title I have taken is that I have been chosen to be the DBA of the Year 2009 by Oracle Magazine. It seems that after being the youngest Oracle ACE Director, I also became the youngest DBA nominated with this award at the age of 26:)
Thanks to everybody, especially The Master Tonguc Yilmaz, for all their support.