Friday, September 16, 2005


What do you think is the way to go to become a successful Oracle professional?

I'm asked this from time to time and was just asked in email this morning. I'd like to broaden the question a bit.

What do you think is the way to go to become a successful professional?

I think that gets to the heart of the matter more than anything. Some things I would recommend

  • Be involved, participate. I cannot stress that one enough. Participate, become known. A little over 10 years ago I started (1994). I can safely say participation (helpful participation) contributed greatly to my progression.
  • Understand.  It is not good enough to think you know how something should work according to you.  You have to understand how it actually does work.  What you believe to be the way something is implemented could be far from the truth as to how it actually is implemented.
  •  Remember, you probably cannot get burned out if you do something you really enjoy.
  • Ask WHY whenever you don't know why. We could just shorten that to "ask". If you don't ask, you'll never know.  If you are answering questions and don't ask some yourself - you are doing it wrong.
  • Trust but Question Authority. If you see something written as a statement of fact without any supporting evidence either ignore it entirely or if you feel it could be beneficial to you if true develop a method to test the concept and see if it holds true.
  • Beware ROT, Rules of Thumb.  They let you down at the most in-opportune times.
  • If you want to be successful, you'll be communicating.  Be precise in that communication. It really does make a difference.  Clarity is necessary and preciseness is mandatory for clarity.
  • When you participate and start giving your own answers, your own input - do it right. (and remember, talking down to people, that doesn't make them want to come to you for information, you want them to come)
  • Read, Question, Experiment, Read some more.
  • Did I say participate?

That is my short list. Some of it has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with people. Participate, be Motivated (like what you do, do what you like), Trust but Question, Ask - in the right way, Answer - properly, Preciseness counts, ROT burns you when you least expect it - so always Understand how something works so you can know when to apply ROT and (more importantly) when NOT to apply ROT.



Blogger shrek said....

RTFM is NOT an answer unless you say what manual and just where to read. or better yet, put it in your own words. they usualy make more sense than the manual anyway.

Fri Sep 16, 10:23:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

My 11th grade English teacher used to mark verbose pieces of writing with "VWIC". It comes from a book on writing by Srunk & White:

Vigorous Writing Is Concise.

Fri Sep 16, 10:51:00 AM EDT  

Blogger yas said....

A quote from you:
"My goal is to make people successful with this database stuff."

That is definitely my goal too, it feels great when you show someone to use the features of the database to do their job much more better and produce better applications.

Fri Sep 16, 10:59:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Robert said....

geesh people still emailing you with this question huh ?

You've been asked and talked about this on AskTom many, many times, as I understand.

I think but not sure you have a blog post on this.

Tom maybe you should have a FAQ sectiion on AskTom that maybe either provide direct answers or links to discussions

Fri Sep 16, 12:44:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Jeff Hunter said....

I couldn't agree more. Participation in the communitity not only helps others, but helps yourself in so many ways. You get exposed to different ways of thinking, your problem solving skills are enhanced, you will get exposed to other technologies, and you just might learn a thing or two in the meantime. I started participating regularly in 2000 and have learned so much since then.

Understand; I'm still working on that one. Usually one Why leads to another and another and another until I either fall asleep or run out of time.

Oh, and BTW, RTFM/STFW (with a link to the FM/FWP) is an appropriate answer to a question that the asker has put no time into. If I'm going to invest any of my own time, I want you to have at least checked the basics.

Fri Sep 16, 01:00:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Robert said....

you must know of the Usenet dinosauer "Sybrand" right ?
He's the quintessential master of RTFM ! lol

Fri Sep 16, 03:54:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Rachel said....

Tom, You did see that keynote I gave at NYOUG, didn't you? :)

Some of my own thoughts:

1) ALWAYS answer a direct question from someone you work with, even if it has nothing to do with what the questioner does. Saying "you don't need to know that" is rude and silly. Anything they want to learn that will make YOUR job easier is something they need to know

2) Treat others the way you want to be treated. My Dad's version of that is "you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar"

3) If you choose to answer a question, ANSWER it. Don't just say "read this page". Spend a little time with the questioner. Part of what you are doing is training THEM to start answering questions as they gain knowledge.

Fri Sep 16, 08:15:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....


perhaps that is why you and I and others of like mind congregate together at those things? We have the same basic "mores"

We make fun of eachother - but immediately laugh afterwards. (well, except for Lisa sometimes, but that is another story)

That list is just stuff I've learned from people I've worked with over the last 20 years now.

I still think "participate" is the #1 thing to learn.

Going further, if you can make the trip to the other side of the stage - that'll make all of the difference (hope that translates well, what I mean is instead of being IN the audience, you are TALKING to the audience. Scariest thing ever, but after 10 years you typically don't get as sick beforehand)

Fri Sep 16, 08:33:00 PM EDT  

Blogger dnd said....

To that, What I like about asktom is that people are not afraid to participate.

My IT department at work has an internal user group where if you participate, you better make sure to cross your T's and dot your I's.

We have several attendees that don't participate anymore for fear of being "wrong". They just sit and watch, don't ask how or why. They have been beaten down too much.

As for me, I have two kids, I'm used to being wrong.

Fri Sep 16, 09:29:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Rachel said....

Tom said:

"mean is instead of being IN the audience, you are TALKING to the audience. Scariest thing ever, but after 10 years you typically don't get as sick beforehand)"

speak for yourself. I still shake, get butterflies in my stomach etc. Why do you think I'm always holding onto the lecturn and not walking around?

I'm proud to be in that collection of "like minds" along with you.

Fri Sep 16, 10:16:00 PM EDT  

Blogger cosmin said....

Tom -- you are THE BEST; you're an inspiration and a motivation. I read your stuff almost religiously now... I don't know what I would do without your books or website. Your content together with that of Howard Rogers', Mark Rittman's (and others) makes the Oracle community so much stronger. We're lucky... and grateful to have people like you guys, in our community!!!

Sat Sep 17, 08:54:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Rahul said....

ROTs and Why

I have worked as a consultant in a developer role at a site running 9iR2.

Believe or not there were ROTs like:
- No check constraints allowed. Suggestion was to use a decode table with ref integrity everywhere.
- No default column values allowed on table definition, the application has to fend for itself

I only had to ask "Why" and I got better than an explanation - I got my check constraints and defaults :)

Sat Sep 17, 10:21:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Peter K said....

Two other things to add.

a) Have an open mind and be willing to learn. The world is always changing especially true in the IT world that if you are closed minded, you will find yourself obsolete pretty quickly.

b) Set yourself with higher ethics and morals. There are so many times that you can cut corners but know that it can come back and bite you really, really bad.

Sun Sep 18, 04:13:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Enayet said....

I am certain you get millions of questions to answer. But, I am wondering how do you pick which one to answer? Do you have any priority list or just like some 'Cherry Picking'? What is the chemistry here? Curious ...

Sun Sep 18, 07:52:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous MM said....

I can say that I agree with all your points. The one I have had the hardest time with is "Be involved, participate". Too many times I got involved in a public chat forum (Revealnet, CDOS, etc) trying answer a question or explain something just to get "flamed". It gets old really fast, hence why I stopped participating.

I take the time to read from several points, have some "play time" (testing, breaking, test some more), share with my co-workers and individuals I network with, and maybe do some counter-testing.

But dealing with those who are so unprofessional just really sours it for me. Hence why I would rather go to the batting cages, shoot some pool, or the bar.

Sun Sep 18, 08:59:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

I am certain you get millions of questions

Not millions, but a lot yes.

If the question comes in email and is very very easy/quick to answer - sometimes I'll supply the quick answer along with my standard "please don't email me directly" quote I have saved as a signature. I cannot do it via email - I'd get nothing else done.

On asktom, I try to answer every question I get - but I limit the number of questions I accept at anytime (usually take them in lots of 10 or so).

The "reviews" on asktom - I probably answer about 2 out of 3. The other 1/3 - either not a question, or out of scope, or I just didn't have time to look at it (too broad). I see them in a last in first out basis and if I cannot answer a question right then and there (in an airport, where ever), I'll have to skip it.

So, I don't really cherry pick - try to do them all.

Sun Sep 18, 11:04:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Kim Nørby Andersen said....

I love this blog - as I love the AskTom website.

My first entry on the Oracle scene was in my last job, where we had Miracle A/S ( as a consultancy firm. They tend to have several social events, and their CTO is part of the OakTable ( for those in doubt), and this really moved something in me. As a young man, more or less just out of school, and here were some of the people writing the books I had read, and they treated me with respect! I mean, I knew virtually nothing, but willingness to learn and interact, gave me some interesting hours together with the best...

I can only give this along. Show that you want to learn, remember to update your knowledge together with the versions, and remember to say THANKS!! Far too often people tend to just scream yesssss at home, and forget to give feedback to the poster on the forum...

Anyways, thanks a bunch Tom, and I hope that I will be able to pass my knowledge on as well as you do - and that my knowledge will increase as yours *lol*



Sun Sep 18, 02:58:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

"If you haven't proved it to yourself, you don't know it".

That's my rule. It's so easy to loop 10000 times through the same task written two different ways that it's crazy not to prove that what you think is right... or not!


Mon Sep 19, 05:49:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Javier Morales said....

honesty, humility, rigor (metrics)

I say many times: "It's not what I tell. Oracle Server tells (showing a explain plan or tkprof results)".

always take metrics, let numbers talk.

Mon Sep 19, 05:57:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Great points folks.

As an avid reader and fan of Tom's website and books, I agree.

Also one can benefit greatly by having a thirst or passion of knowledge and to always dig deeper into a problem. I have been using computers since I was 12 years old- first with a Commodore 64 I taught myself Basic programming.

A good friend of mine and an Oracle professional of more than 20 years helped me with the "Ask a lot of why questions" when new to an Oracle project or environment.

Be nice and play well with others is a point that I wish more Oracle folks and technical professionals would apply.

I find that all too many people are rude, disrespectful and selfish in the last few years in the corporate workplace. Its really discouraging and a darn shame too because honey does catch more flies than vinegar.

With that said, I think that the best advice that Tom said in his books was to read the Oracle documentation first. While I have yet to finish reading and digesting the 20,000 plus pages of the Oracle docs, I have managed to wade through the basics such as Backup and Recovery, Oracle concepts manuals which has greatly helped me as an Oracle DBA.
My question for you all is: what will become of the Oracle DBA professional in the future? Offshoring and cheap labor to India and China is hurting jobs back in the USA as well as the whole issue around the corporate greed of short term profits versus long term investment in technical workers. Congress has not helped either by allowing the US labor market to be flooded by cheap labor from H-1B Visas. Granted, we do live in a capitalist and global economy however what are your thoughts on this?
Do you think that being an Oracle professional will be a disadvantage or will only the super gifted super smart people survive?

Wed Sep 21, 11:46:00 PM EDT  

Blogger makoojo said....

Thanks Tom for these ever inspiring words..!!

Thu Sep 22, 05:11:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Gaurav Sharan Gupta said....

Yes! I totally agree with Tom about the participation.

Couple of years back I have got a tip of Advertising your self from one of my clients. He was advising me to market myself to be noticed and in getting new work.
That tip helps me a lot.

Thu Sep 22, 07:17:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous B.Shankar said....

Good Day! Thanks Tom and everyone for some inspiring words.

I like the words of TOM:
"It is not good enough to think you know how something should work according to you. You have to understand how it actually does work". This is fact. I experienced it.

Let me share my exp.

To be a successful person, learn the basics/fundamentals(Rule of Mathematics) and be strong in it. It will lead you to higher levels later.

Year 2000-2001: I was good in Java(a Programmer) and SQL, and I used to hate D2K(not good for a programmer, still I say). Due to the market slowdown, I had to face few problems. At any cost I had to learn the D2K and in depth of Oracle Concepts. I did it with by joining an institute and discussions.
Since I am good at basics now, I can do anything and explore anything. I work both in Java and D2K now.

Participation is a process, not a scheduled task for 1-2 days. It is a slow and a better process which is one of the factors for success.

Many Thanks.

Fri Sep 23, 02:27:00 AM EDT  


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