What the heck do you do...
This is a bit off top, but what exactly do you do at Oracle? You appear to be the technical face of the company and spend alot of time giving presentations and explaining how the database works.
Well, there are two ways to take that question aren’t there, it could be presumptious or it could be really “what do you do, I’m just curious”… I’ll assume the latter of course ;) I’ve been asked this before in seminars. I can usually gets a good laugh by standing there for a second, really confused look on my face (by the question) and then say slowly “You know, I don’t know”.
But seriously — what have I done in the past and what will I be doing in the future. Next year (which starts June 1st of course, happy new year), will be different.
For the last couple of years, I’ve managed a team of experts in their chosen fields — XML, Java, Spatial, Warehousing, Availability, and so on (guess who covers database). In the sales division I work in — they were the 411 and 911. Explain and Fix. However, since I spent most of my time out of the office — as did they, it was more like a matrix organization than anything else. This is what will change next year, I cutting loose of that group and “going solo”. This is so I can spend more time doing what I like to do the most and what I’m best at doing (which is not developing career plans, doing expense reports, writing employee reviews, dealing with raises and promotions, and all of that other really exciting stuff).
So, do I manage software projects? Not so much manage them as manage the people managing them, or participate in the process. Frankly, in the last year or two, I just haven’t been around enough to do that in house. I have worked on many internal projects however, you’ve seen the output of some of them. Some of the OWA packages were mine. The features of mod_plsql (which was the webdb lightweight listener, which was the owa replacement cartridge) such as file upload/download, database authentication came from my code. Tiny bits of HTML DB (I can assure you it uses bind variables). And a host of internal systems. Yes, I still actively write code. As much as I did 15 years ago? No way, but a considerable amount.
Do I design systems, yes. Definitely involved in that. They even let me make suggestions about what to put in the database. I work with customers to either craft their systems architecture (what makes sense and where) or I help to validate an existing design. Spend some amount of time trying to help people understand what it is they actually own and what it can do. (If another person implements their own queueing software not realizing there are a couple of ways to do it OUT OF THE BOX…). I probably spend most of my time doing that — “ok what do you need to do, well, here are the ‘you don’t write code’ options you have since you own this thing”.
What else do I do? Lots of conference calls — best practices for upgrading seems to be a popular topic (hmm, note to self, maybe we need a paper on that). Lots of customer visits for whiteboard/chalk talk discussions. Some of my favorite calls do not involve powerpoint. Explaining how this thing called Oracle works and what it can do for you.
Writing, articles, papers, answers on the site. Spend a lot of time doing that of course. Always neat to get a really cool question and think about it for a while. I got one this morning, it needs to be fleshed out — but the person promised to check back after trying it out. I thought it was an interesting use of Text and gave me some ideas for the future (see that page and read to the bottom). I can envision a couple of uses for this technique and have used it successfully in the past in a different way. Now, I’ll be looking for a real world case to try it out on (and if they prototype it themselves — that would be great too).
Doing seminars, I do alot of them. External ones you hear about, internal “veritical focused” ones you don’t. What I mean about the second type is they are focused at a specific customer segment, so I don’t advertise them on asktom — we do a direct mail campaign at the customer base of interest. I think of all things, I like the technical seminars the best, but they have to be balanced with everything else otherwise you run the risk of becoming a talking head.
Working on technical “fires”. I do a bit of this everyday via email and the phone, but still get called into the field — onsite to fix stuff. These are fun too — if the environment is OK. By that I mean if the customer you are working with appreciates that you are there and has realistic expectations.
So, next year — I’m an individual contributor. I’ll be able to spend all of my time using and talking about the software — which frankly is what I’ve been doing. Now I just won’t feel guilty for not paying enough attention to the people reporting to me. Dream job, yes — I believe so. I get to meet lots of people, I get to mingle with some of the best in our profession, I get to educate a lot, and while getting on stage can still be frightening, after you are up there for 5 minutes and get into the groove, well — there is nothing like it.
But lots of VP’s at Oracle are technical (and it is just a title, a position). But out in the field – I tend to not bring it up, people do seem to knock your technical IQ down by a good bit hearing the title. They assume you haven’t touched a keyboard in years. But, just think about Cary Millsap, he was a VP at Oracle before he left to found http://www.hotsos.com/ with Gary Goodman. He had a team of technical experts in their field of choice. Ken Jacobs (aka Dr. DBA), VP Product Strategy. Richard Sarwal, a very hands on guy. Many many others. We are a technology company and many of the folks in management positions are very much technical.