How... By doing things I didn't really want to do at first.
I do lots of talks now, but before 1993, I hadn’t done many (many being virtually the same as “none”). One of my first big talks was at IOUG in 1994. It was in Florida (hey, I’ll be there on Monday, deja-vu). I had the first technical session of the week. The room sat around 1,500 people and it was mostly full. My presentation was on “server side exits in forms”. If you are an old time forms program, you remember “user exits”, you could link in code written in C and call it from forms. This was the same concept, only the code ran on the server (it was external procedures in version 7, I wrote it, it actually had an Oracle part number. You could order this thing and get it shipped to you. I still have the shrink wrapped package).
Well, anyway there I was scared to death of public speaking (still am to some degree, love/hate relationship). I would get physically ill – and seeing that many people in room, I was in really really bad shape. I had a 30 minute talk with slides, and a 20 minute demo. The talk – it was a disaster (I should have kept the feedback forms, they were brutal). I froze. I read my notes. For 30 minutes, I read – verbatim.
But then came the demo (I sometimes joke now that I have a "no demo clause" in my contract). I was running Windows for Workgroups 3.11 with Oracle 7.0.something beta for Windows. (note to self: beta software = bad idea, especially on an OS that starts with W). So I’m going along and it is going great. No notes, but I have a keyboard, I’m sitting down and I almost can pretend no one is there. Then, the GPF. Remember GPF’s? The white box, blue border, big grey button in the middle? Now, imagine one about 30 feet high on a big screen in front of now hundreds of people (to this day, I try never to walk out of a presentation if I can help it. You want to ruin someones day, walk out of their session, better yet, talk while you are walking out). Well, it was all over then.
I've gotten much better I've been told. But it was something I had to literally force myself to do. I can relate to Carly Simon in that regard, but the only way to overcome it was to -- Well sign up for it, commit to doing it and doing it. (theme going here).
I guess I just sort of evolved into where I am today -- there was no grand plan, no roadmap. As Woody Allen said "80 percent of life is just showing up". (warning, theme appears again)
[quote src=Woody Allen, A life in film, Richard Schickel]
By this Woody means that if you put yourself in the way of opportunity -- make yourself available to ... some task you think you might be qualified for -- something good may come of the fact that you are there and that someone else, perhaps equally qualified, is not. The corollary of that idea, of course, has to do with not showing up -- not finishing your play or novel, not going to the audition, being so shy or insecure that you dare not risk failure
I read that the other night and thought to myself, that sums it up rather nicely. I wish I could say that I had some master plan, that there was some path I was following. But really, so far it has been volunteering for stuff. Forcing change (going to New Jersey, not staying stuck where I was). Taking a risk, going to Oracle was a risk then (stock was $1.28 the day I joined). Version 7 was just coming out -- this company Sybase was killing them with stored procedures and soon with 'replication server'. Informix was looking cool and the future held 'datablades'. It was database war. That actually made it interesting for me -- I was on the frontlines (and appear to have picked a good team to be on, Sybase and Informix really don't come up anymore). I got lucky -- my skill set was needed, and having actually used the product made me credible (something I vowed to never lose, the hands on credibility, I hate to talk about stuff I haven't actually used and tested and broken).
Forcing change. That is one way to look at it. Sign up, commit, move on. I've done something different almost every year at Oracle. Change is good (or another way of putting it, I have a short attention span).