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Jeremiah Wilton's Oracleblog

Good OCP / bad OCP

For those contemplating launching a career in Oracle database administration, there are essentially three routes:

  • Oracle education and certification (OCP)
  • Third-party educational programs (University and private training)
  • Self-directed study and experimentation

Most entering into the field assume that to be employable, they must become an Oracle Certified Professional (OCP).  They might be surprised to know that most working Oracle professionals do not have this certification.

Although having an OCP is a nice way to show a prospective employer that you are serious about your profession, this certification has never gained the kind of universal traction that Microsoft’s MCSE has.  There are a few reasons for this:

  • Oracle education has not matched curriculum with business needs
  • The Oracle certifications are very expensive
  • Generally, companies hire Oracle DBAs based on technical merit, not paper certifications

Oracle’s classes and exams emphasize memorization of syntax and specific values and settings, instead of broader concepts.  The kind of minutia that must be retained to pass an OCP exam is easily referenced day to day in the Oracle manuals.  Senior professionals in our field frequently do not know specific syntax and parameters.  What makes them senior is their broader, holistic understanding of Oracle systems, and the ability to solve problems.

The OCP certification costs over $2000 and exposes candidates to a minimum amount of practical hands-on experience.  Candidates must attend just one 5-day class in person or on-line and pass two exams to complete the program.  Needless to say this does not prepare anyone to face the real-life challenges of managing enterprise production systems.  It simply graduates people skilled at memorization and test taking.

More and more, the meritocratic culture of the Internet has pervaded hiring strategies for Oracle professionals.  That means that a person who has a broad and holistic knowledge of systems, and can ace a phone screen, is more valued in hiring decisions than someone who simply boasts an OCP credential. Interviewers are much more likely to ask, “How would you deal with the following scenario…?” rather than “What is the exact syntax for …?”

The value of private education and self-directed study

Many universities and private companies have crafted programs to provide education services that seek to fill the void left by Oracle University’s lack of practical orientation.  These programs emphasize hands-on lab exercises, concepts and best practices.

Blue Gecko has taken a keen interest in one program at the University of Washington: UW Professional and Continuing education’s Certificate in Oracle Database Administration. This weekly three-hour night class runs from October 2010 through June 2011. Blue Gecko’s president, Chuck Edwards serves on the academic board for this program, and it is largely taught by… me!

Two things make the University of Washington program unique:

  • Each student maintains their own 64-bit Linux Oracle server on Amazon EC2 for the duration of the program, compliments of Amazon Web Services
  • I deliver the course simultaneously in person in downtown Seattle at the UW’s Puget Sound Plaza, and over the Internet via Adobe Connect.  This means that students from anywhere in the world can take the course by attending virtually.

Even with the benefit of a class like the UW certificate program, anyone serious about becoming an Oracle DBA must be self-directed, and engage in plenty of independent experimentation and study.  Oracle’s development license allows anyone to download their software and run it for purposes of independent experimentation. My course at the UW is designed to orient students so that they are prepared to build independently on the knowledge they gained in the course.  During the course, I assign independent projects and reading. The goal of the course is to prepare students to think critically and formulate intelligent solutions both on the job and in job interviews.

Being an Oracle DBA can be a lucrative and interesting career.  But trying to break in using the Oracle certifications may prove more challenging than some might expect.  Consider the third-party education route, combined with independent study for your best chance at professional success.

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WWOUG April meeting sponsored by Blue Gecko

Blue Gecko is proud to sponsor the venue and refreshments for the Western Washington Oracle Users Group (WWOUG) meeting this Thursday (4/29/2010) from 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm.

Guest speaker Tim Gorman, an author, Oracle ACE, and Oak Table member will present Scaling to Infinity: Partitioning Data Warehouses on Oracle.

Please register for this event if you plan to attend.

Seattle Public Library downtown branch, 1000 4th Ave, Seattle
Room 2, Level 4 (Wright/Ketcham Meeting Room)

5:30 – 6:00 Refreshments and WWOUG announcements
6:00 – 7:00 Tim Gorman: Scaling to Infinity
7:00 – 7:30 Open networking

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How Incompetence Stimulates the Information Technology Economy

As information technology professionals, we constantly complain about mismanaged projects in which we have the misfortune to be involved.  Frequently, someone with more power than knowledge – usually in management and under the sway of a persuasive vendor sales team – has come up with a systems design most politely described as novel. Because of our experience and understanding of the technology, we can clearly see the plan will fail.  Heedlessly, despite our loud protests, the project plods onward toward oblivion, consuming money, time and our human spirit along the way.

We feel bitter and exasperated at being ignored.  We are shocked at the audacity of spending a corporation’s money when you don’t know what you are doing.  Our most common reaction is to escalate, complain, and engage in a battle of wills with the author of the flawed plan.

We must change our thinking. To engage in resistance to doomed projects is both futile and self-destructive.  By releasing our attachment to the idea that projects must be done right, we begin to see the virtuous effects of projects being done wrong.

Of course it is our duty to register our objections to a flawed plan to those in charge in email, using clear, technical and unambiguous terms. Beyond that, however, our emotional involvement should end.  In the event our customer or employer deploys a badly designed system, it will surely require many skilled, competent troubleshooters to fix the system.  That’s us! Incompetent systems design results in strong demand for competent technical people.

But the benefits to the I.T. economy are not restricted to the aftermath.  During implementation of a failed system, a company pays vendors and employees to build it, even though they lack the skills or knowledge to realize their system is doomed.  Without doomed projects, these people would not even be part of an I.T. economy.  It is like a kind employment stimulus based on stupidity.

So don’t feel hate and loathing if you are in the midst of a doomed project, and nobody will listen to you.  Release your attachment to the need for others to do things right, and wait for failure.  When it comes, do your best to help.

I’m not saying I think this is how things should be.  I’m just saying it works paradoxically to the benefit of good technical contributors.  It certainly is not something to get bent out of shape about.

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High Performance Oracle 11g in the Amazon Cloud

Jeremiah Wilton will be presenting High Performance Oracle 11g in the Amazon Cloud at Collaborate 2010 – an updated version of his February RMOUG presentation.  For a preview, you can find both the white paper and presentation slides from RMOUG on our white paper page.  Currently scheduled for Monday, April 19, the session abstract reads:

The Amazon Elastic Computing Cloud is rapidly gaining acceptance as an enterprise-class Oracle platform. In this virgin territory, Oracle professionals need a complete understanding of cloud computing concepts and architectures. This session addresses the basics, and goes further, providing guidance on how best to optimize and configure Oracle for performance, stability and manageability in the cloud. Gain a complete understanding of Cloud Computing Learn the details of Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud Develop the knowledge needed to deploy and effectively manage high-performance Oracle services on Amazon EC2.

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