Friday, April 29, 2005


From Starting at Oracle in 1993, how did you get to where you are now. What did you start of as and how did your career in oracle progress

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).


Anonymous Anonymous said....

Very inspiring and well said!


Fri Apr 29, 08:30:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous bill "shrek" thater said....

my first ever persentation was at RMOUG 2004. as i was waiting for the first day's keynote i found myself sitting at a table with a lot of well lnown people wondering what the hell i was doing there. then someone came and sat down and said hello to everyone, including me by name. and i wasn't wearing my badge. [how did you do that?;-)] i got really nervious and my talk ran short, but everyone laughed in the right places. but i still get really nervious this year and my talks ran short again. guess i'm a slow learner.;-)

Fri Apr 29, 09:12:00 AM EDT  

Blogger amol said....

inspiring as always.

Fri Apr 29, 09:46:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Connor McDonald said....

For anyone having a fear of public speaking, I can strongly recommend getting into coaching (either a sporting team or even in a work sense). From there its a small leap to speaking in front of large groups.

But public speaking... I love it. The only stage fright I get is when I see organisers calling security with "get that guy off the freakin' stage"


Fri Apr 29, 09:57:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

For anyone having a fear of public speaking

my advice to add onto that would be very simple...

Know your topic.

I'm much better as a speaker today (hey, if I can go for 3 days with the same audience and they are not sleeping -- something must be working) but if I didn't know what I was talking about -- didn't have a mastery of the subject matter, didn't have that confidence -- forget it.

Fri Apr 29, 10:07:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Alberto Dell'Era said....

Just wondering whether your speaking very very quickly for the first 30 seconds or so of the "WebCast" you gave some years ago was due to stagefright ...

Fri Apr 29, 10:31:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

Just wondering whether your speaking very very quickly

Those can be pretty frightening. All I get to see is, well, nothing. No feedback, no shaking heads, no inquisitive looks, no feedback at all one way or the other. All I see are slides (and I'm hoping what I see is what you see).

So, probably yes -- but I've done a couple of those now so not sure which one you are refering to....

Fri Apr 29, 10:38:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Alberto Dell'Era said....

not sure which one you are refering to

The most recent that used to be on your site ... i remember that you slowed down immediately after 30 seconds, and then talked fast but only because of the lack of time.

If I recall correctly, the female presenter pronounced "Kyte" as "Keith", probably She had listened to the Rolling Stones on her way to the venue ;)

Fri Apr 29, 11:29:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Joel Garry said....

My first presentation in front of a large group was about 22 years ago. I was presenting on the PDP task builder overlay description language. My second slide was beautiful girls in bikinis on the beach holding up a printout of the talk title, to hopefully get the audience to warm up to what could be a dry subject. Then I mentioned that I hadn't tried the techniques I was going to describe in COBOL environments, but I thought they could apply. 3/4 of the audience left.

The sad thing was, the techniques did apply to such environments.

Fri Apr 29, 02:24:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Multi part question:

Do you ever start procrastinating, and what do you do when you do (internet?)...

what do you do to get back on track?

Fri Apr 29, 03:06:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

I had the honor of attending two of your presentations at IOUG last year in Toronto. They were the best presentations I have ever seen. So I would say the perseverance has definately paid off!! I have already told all of my teammates attending at this years IOUG to make sure to see anything you are presenting. No matter what the subject.

Fri Apr 29, 03:12:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

Multi part question

Do Iever start procrastinating? Nah, I never seen to get around to it, been meaning to though -- soon.

(oh, that was way too easy).

I procrastinate A LOT. that is why I'm very much deadline motivated. I don't like to miss on those.

I look at my calendar to get back on track, nothing like reality to shake you up.

I had the honor of attending

Thank you very much, appreciate the kind words.

Fri Apr 29, 07:58:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Brandon said....

I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve. I'm leaving for IOUG tomorrow and can't wait. I told my colleagues I was going to take Expert One-on-One Oracle with me to see if I could get Tom to sign it and I received strange looks.

Fri Apr 29, 08:25:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Jimk said....

Don't know what is so strange about hte concept of having an author sign his book. I had Tom sign my copy of Effective Oracle by Design. I consider it making it more valuable, a collector's item! (Not that I plan to auction it off on eBay)

Fri Apr 29, 08:48:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Alberto Dell'Era said....

What about making a video out of one of your presentations - maybe the higher bandwith may make a difference (or not) ?

Sat Apr 30, 07:11:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Dan Loomis said....

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Sat Apr 30, 08:22:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Dan Loomis said....

my advice to add onto that would be very simple...

Know your topic.

That advice is pure gold. I absolutely *hate* public speaking, largely due to a childhood stuttering impediment that I haven't 100% conquered yet. Back to your point, when I do presentations at work, I typically stammer about the topics I don't know much about, and breeze through the stuff I know inside and out. I suppose my confidence with the material carries over to the public speaking side.

I'm still really bad with the ad hoc stuff, like toasts or family prayers. But you're right - practice makes perfect, so like Nike says - "Just do it."

Sat Apr 30, 08:25:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Kerry Osborne said....

I know this post is 3 years old, but I can't resist adding a comment.

It's comforting to know that a lot of people have a basic fear of speaking in public.

I didn't even give my first big presentation. I got a paper accepted at IOUG. (oddly enough it was very similar to yours) It was on a menuing system I'd written using "user exits" from a very early version of forms. Anyway, I was petrified of speaking in public. So I got a co-worker to co-author the paper with me and then I came up with some lame work deadline that kept me from even going to the conference. So the other guy actually went and delivered the paper.

The break through for me was when I started teaching Oracle classes. There is nothing that can replace practice. And 8 hours a day in front of a group (even relatively small ones) provides a lot of "practice" time.

Your points were absolutely spot on:

1. Know your subject.
2. Be willing to try new things.

To that I would add:

3. Practice makes perfect.

Thanks for sharing this story.


Wed Jun 17, 09:50:00 AM EDT  


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