Certification Tests – A Necessary Evil

Great article on prepping for Oracle certification testing! Thanks, Mike Gangler. Hmmm … not one site for brain dumps to be found. 🙂

Mike Gangler's Musings

In today’s database market, getting certified is becoming more of a requirement than previous years. The current vendors such as Oracle, Microsoft, Snowflake are requiring partners to have “X” percentage of their employees to be certified in order to fulfill a partner agreement. In order to work on a company’s cloud environment, they are requesting only certified people. Unfortunately, regardless of a person’s experience or expertise, this certification “game” is a necessary evil and becoming more of a requirement.

I was Oracle certified back in Oracle 7 and Oracle 8 days, when Oracle asked 25 or so DBA’s to help write a database certification test around 1993 or 1994. We were taught how to write questions and tests from the folks who perform the SAT tests. When completed, we (DBA’s who participated), thought anyone who passes this test is definitely qualified to work on an Oracle database. Unfortunately, after a…

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At Long Last, Our Podcast Is Launched!

Six months ago, it was just a simple idea based on a few brief conversations. Today, it’s finally a reality: the Beyond Tech Skills podcast.

Some background is in order. My good friend, colleague, and fellow Oracle ACE Director Liron Amitzi and I had been talking in person over an adult beverage or three (pre-COVID, of course!) and then texting and chatting for the past few years about the state of the IT industry. We found that even with our cultural differences – he’s originally from Israel but now lives in Vancouver, BC, and 20 years younger than me – we were remarkably like-minded about the fantastic opportunities IT has to offer to so many diverse folks around the world.

But we also saw there were enormous gaps:

  • Folks often focused so much on the technology itself or their coding skills that they ignored the other two-thirds of what makes a truly great professional: the soft skills they needed to be successful, including the importance of gaining detailed business knowledge as well as how to communicate clearly and work together as a team.
  • IT organizations were spending incredible amounts of time trying to find qualified candidates for positions at all levels, mainly because they had no idea how to interview people properly. Even worse, many great candidates didn’t get connected with great companies simply because they didn’t know how to handle the interview process.
  • Finally, as we looked back over our combined 60 years of experience, we were disturbed by the ongoing lack of diversity in many IT organizations. Both of us remember a time just a few decades back when the “white bro developer” culture didn’t exist and the advantage that different backgrounds and viewpoints yielded across the entire software development lifecycle.

We decided it was time to take action. We’re leading off our podcast with a series of episodes on the interview process itself: how to find the right candidates for your IT organization – the ones with the right fit and finish to match your teams’ goals.

But we’re not stopping there! We’ve got a great series of interviews that will tackle all of the issues we’re most concerned about, including DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) and how we can all make a difference. We’ll be talking to many of our colleagues across multiple technologies and industries over the next several months.

We’re planning to publish a new episode every second Wednesday starting on 11 February, but for now, please check out our introductory episode – just point your favorite podcast app at Beyond Tech Skills – and you can always stay up to date on our entire list of episodes at BeyondTechSkills.com.

2020: Meteor Averted. Bring on 2021!

In a year that started with only the third impeachment in history of a sitting President of the USA, a global pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, major unrest and justifiable demands for social justice and an end to police violence in so many of our towns and cities, and an unprecedented general election campaign that saw incredible voter turnout and post-election turmoil across my fine nation, I found myself drawing dark comfort from one of the most appropriate bumper stickers I’ve seen this year: Giant Meteor 2020. Just End It Already.

So what will 2021 bring? Here’s my viewpoints on technology, human civilization, and hope for an amazing year and decade.

Everywhere, the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT shows no signs of stopping its expansion into our daily lives, and that’s not a bad thing, either. Wearable devices, real-time contact tracing, and even cybernetic implants have made news in 2020. Remember that the whole point of IPV6 addressing was to make networking available for up to some 50 trillion individual devices by 2050, and I’ll be keeping an eye on that trend in this decade.

What’s also fascinating to me is the incredibly low-cost capabilities of IoT, made possible by cheap and reliable Raspberry Pi and Arduino computing nodes, sensors, and hubs. For example, today I’m putting the finishing touches on what I believe is a pretty sophisticated home security system, all built on IoT components. I’ve been able to build that with open-source software and a lot of help from online support communities. It’s not been without frustration, but I’ve learned so much from the experience that I’m ready to move on to more challenging tasks.

Machine Learning, AI, and Decision By Digital. All these IoT data sources offer our human civilization an incredible set of amazing opportunities, including more efficient agriculture, intelligent electric vehicles, “smart cities,” closed-loop recycling, cleaner air and water, and especially electric power infrastructure. But to clear the grain from the chaff, we’ll need ever-better machine learning algorithms, artificial intelligence, and digitally-driven decision making to take advantage of these exabytes of information.

Convergence, in Databases and Applications. 2020 clearly demonstrated that just-in-time supply chains have some weaknesses during times of stress from global events like the COVID-19 pandemic as well as local catastrophes like the Australian and Californian wildfires and a horrendous series of tropical storms and hurricanes. That means we’ll need to consider where our critical databases, applications, and infrastructure is located, too, so I’ll be watching trends towards converged solutions like Oracle’s Application Express (APEX) and its emphasis on its Converged Database strategy.

Emphasis on Objective Truth. Finally, if this past year has shown us anything – from the USA’s incredibly incompetent response to COVID-19 as well as the dramatically divergent political extremes about the reliability of the results from the USA’s general election – it’s the value of objective, verifiable, trustworthy facts and information. My country’s information infrastructure has been badly damaged, not just by recent nation-state actors’ hacking attempts, but by a deliberate rejection of expertise and knowledge provided by trustworthy professionals about everything from basic principles of public heath to how elections actually work.

It’s going to take at least a few years to restore that faith and trust in public institutions so that we can move on to tackle the enormous problems facing our human civilization in everything from climate change to clean energy transformation. But I’m optimistic that we can still get there because, as Jeff Bridges says in Starman, “When things are at their very worst, humans are at their very best.”

Bring it on, 2021! We are ready to be at our very best.

My Hat’s In the Ring for ODTUG Board

As you’ve probably heard, I’ve tossed my hat into the proverbial ring for ODTUG Board membership.

This is the first time I’ve ever run for any position of this stature in my life, and hopefully my platform and vision for the future of ODTUG will help you decide if I’m worthy of this honor. (My fellow candidates’ positions are also there, so please do take the time to read through our credentials and proposals.)

One thing is for sure: We have a most excellent roster of ODTUG candidates to choose from! I’m amazed at the talent that we have attracted to ODTUG, and that’s why I firmly believe we’re the premier Oracle User Group in North America bar none. So no matter who you vote for, please do vote! It’s crucial that every member of ODTUG has their voice heard, especially in these challenging times for our families, our careers, and our industry.

So … Anything Happened Since I Last Blogged?

As we start the second half of 2020, it’s a great time to reassess where we’ve been and where we’re headed. For example, I just realized it’s been six whole months since my last blog post, but it’s not like anything happened since the beginning of the year, right?

It’s hard for me to believe that in late January, as I was getting ready to attend what turned out to be my last in-person Oracle User Group event for the year (so far), that my greatest worry was whether the conflict between the USA and Iran might erupt into a shooting war while I was speaking in Tel Aviv at ilOUG2020. That seems like such a fond memory of relative normalcy when compared to once-in-a-generation events like:

a) a Presidential impeachment that further polarized USA politics;
b) a pandemic outbreak that the USA should have tackled and defeated handily;
c) record disruption of economic systems worldwide as a result of the pandemic;
d) major civic unrest after years of brutal police violence towards people of color, and many of us have said at last “Enough!”; and finally
e) increasing tensions between several major world powers.

Through all this drama, my wife and I have spent countless hours worrying about younger family members all in possible contact with COVID-19 through their work either indirectly or directly support health care in hospitals, nursing homes, and the Veterans’ Administration. We’ve sewn face masks for them, sent messages of encouragement and thanks, and made sure they knew we loved them and honored their commitment to their professions.

And what better time could I have personally chosen to move my career in a different direction?

In mid-April, I said a fond farewell to the team at Viscosity North America, as I’ve decided to concentrate more on volunteerism for causes like Hire Heroes USA as well as helping our local US Congressman during his efforts to secure a second term during the upcoming 2020 general election. In both cases, it’s been a great opportunity to develop some real-world use cases for Oracle Application Express (APEX), Visual Builder, and Machine Learning, which I’ve been writing about since early 2020. In my role as ODTUG’s Database Community Lead, it’s been exciting to help some excellent authors publish their knowledge on our TechCeleration portal. (Don’t hesitate to contact us if you’re interested in volunteering to share what you know!)

So while I don’t know what the rest of 2020 holds for us all, I’m going to stay positive, focused, and most of all, science-based. If there’s anything positive that the COVID19 pandemic has provided, it’s the ability to learn just how many of us will decide to listen to scientific experts, follow their advice, and work together to get through these challenges. 

Stay safe, stay healthy, and most of all, don’t forget to vote in upcoming elections. It’s the only way things get better for everyone else!

The Decade’s Almost Over. What Will 2020 Bring?

Dude … Where’s My Decade? If anything sums up my IT career’s arc since 2010, I’d say it’s that phrase. Somehow, I’ve managed to keep my head above water through the transition from HDD to SSD, from custom-built servers to Exadata Database Machine, and at least five different versions of the Oracle Database. Along the way, I’ve been fortunate to fulfill a personal goal of becoming an Oracle ACE Director for the the last half of that decade. That gave me the chance to meet IT folks on six different continents at dozens of Oracle conferences and OUG meetups.

Heck, I even got to chauffeur one of my heroes, Tom Kyte, to a Chicago Oracle User Group meeting!

As I enter my fifth decade in IT, I see 2020 as full of amazing opportunity, whether you’re a total Oracle newbie or a seasoned professional. Here’s where I think we’re headed:

Autonomy: The End of Tedium for “Helicopter DBAs” 

Based on my deeper experimentation with both ADW and ATP this past year – especially with the new Autonomous Dedicated option that offers elimination of “noisy neighbors” –  it’s apparent to me that the new role of Enterprise Data Architect can leverage that autonomy to further her career. With the announcement at Oracle OpenWorld 2019 of the upcoming launch of the Autonomous JSON database projected for early 2020, it sure looks like we’re going to be able to leverage key-value stores much more effectively than we have in the past.

The new Automatic Indexing features I’ve experimented with are just the tip of the spear. (You can download and then read more about my experiments in a recent white paper I published for Viscosity North America; if you are pressed for time, there’s a neat little video on that page too.) And I’m sure there are other autonomous features planned for later in 2020 that will finally free forward-looking DBAs from the tedium of normal day-to-day activities, especially just “keeping the lights on” for their databases. 

A/I and Machine Learning: Nearing a New Singularity?

Based on the massive interest in AI and ML I’ve observed at conferences this past year, I think we’re nearing a new singularity in data-driven decision-making. I’ve spent some time recently experimenting with the Oracle Machine Learning (OML) features already built into Autonomous DB; if you’ve got a spare five minutes, be sure to take a look at this short video that shows how easy it is to leverage those features with just a little bit of SQL and a few mouse clicks.

The best thing about these ML toolsets is that they’re already built into the Oracle Database, so I don’t necessarily need to learn a completely new set of analytic functions or ML algorithms to take advantage of them. I’m going to continue my research in 2020 on several fronts, particularly in learning how to better visualize hidden patterns within my data with Oracle Analytic Cloud (OAC). If you’re interested, check out this short demo on how easy it is to leverage OAC for data visualization.

The Converged Oracle Database

Though it’s taken some time to get there, it appears we’re headed towards a new data-centric paradigm: Let’s get our business users exactly the data they need, from exactly where it’s currently stored – either intra-RDBMS, or extra-RDBMS! – exactly when they need it, with the utmost concern for its security. From the discussions I’ve had with folks at Oracle like Jenny Tsai-Smith, Oracle’s new Converged Database strategy is focused precisely on achieving these goals, so expect to hear and see a lot more about related offerings in 2020.

It’s Vegas, Baby!

Finally, if you want proof that the 2020s are going to be quite different from the past decade, I offer up this evidence: Oracle OpenWorld 2020 will be held for the first time, not in San Francisco, but in Las Vegas instead. It’s going to be quite the ride, my friends and colleagues! I look forward to exchanging knowledge with you all at upcoming OUG meetings, COLLABORATE20, KSCOPE20, and of course OOW20. Stay safe, have a great 2019 holiday season, and Happy Computing!

A [Belated] Thanks to Oracle GroundBreakers

Yes, I know I’m just a bit late … but I’d like to take a brief break between testing out Autonomous Database intensely to shout out a big thank you to all the folks at Oracle and within the Oracle GroundBreakers community – ACEs, Java Champions, and GroundBreakers – that do a fantastic job of supporting the team of technical advocates that promote the technology running in the Cloud, on premises, and in between.

Halfway through my sixth year as an Oracle ACE Director, I’ve visited some amazing places on six continents, but ultimately, it’s about the user community we support through our efforts. I’ve had a very small part in something huge, and I couldn’t have contributed that without the support of the ACE program, my fellow technology advocates, and most of all the people I’ve tried to inspire through my articles, books, blogs, and presentations.

So here’s to all of us – a toast: May our ARCHIVELOG directories never fill up; may our APEX applications keeping APEXing; and may the only Java that goes sour be the coffee we’ve left in our travel mugs over a long weekend away from work.

October 29-30: Meet Me In Raleigh, NC for ECO2019!

I’m getting excited for the chance to present at and engage with my fellow professionals at the upcoming 2019 East Coast Oracle Users Conference (ECO2019) in Raleigh, NC during the week of October 28, 2019.

ECO2019 is jam-packed with four pre-conference workshops plus several great presenters talking about nearly 70 different topics. That makes it one of the best values for education and training “at the feet of the masters” in the Eastern US, so it’s definitely worth attending this year.

I’ll be presenting two of my most popular sessions – one on how I leveraged Application Express (APEX) to build two neat little applications without any real training, and another on how Autonomous Transaction Processing (ATP) is quickly becoming a “force multiplier” for busy Oracle DBAs.

Check out the full agenda for ECO2019, and don’t forget to register – I’ll see you there soon!



Say Hello to Your New ODTUG Database Community Lead.

I’m excited to finally announce that I’ve accepted the volunteer position of Database Community Lead for ODTUG. I’ll be working closely with my friend, mentor, and colleague Danny Bryant, the current Database Community Liaison on the ODTUG Board, to bring relevant learning materials, articles, blog posts, and other social media.

The evolving role of the Oracle Database Administrator and the IT industry itself is undergoing a dramatic transformation in the age of Cloud computing, data science, Big Data, the Internet of Things (IoT), and increasingly rapid application development cycles through DevOps. My hope is that my new role with ODTUG will expand the realization among us “old school” DBAs that this oncoming sea change offers immense possibilities – as long as we’re ready and able to face up to the challenges that transition offers.

And if you’re interested in making a difference as the future unfolds – either by contributing a blog post, article, white paper, or short video – just reach out to me directly via Twitter, LinkedIn, or e-mail (jczuprynski@zerodefectcomputing.com). Those who have worked with me know that I’m a demanding but fair editor, and there’s few limits on what I will accept for content as long as it’s relevant, forward-looking, and accurate.

I’m going to focus on getting this message out to our ODTUG community in the coming weeks and months, so be sure to catch me at Oracle OpenWorld 2019 and future ODTUG events, especially KSCOPE20 in Boston next year, which as we know will be wicked cool!

Chicago. Summertime. MOUG / COUG Tech Day, July 18th

Summertime has finally reached the Midwest. The hot dogs are boiling, the flowers are blooming, and it’s a great time to visit the City of Big Shoulders, my hometown, Chicago! Be sure to join us on July 18th at Oracle’s downtown Chicago HQ offices for an all-day technical extravaganza. The Chicago Oracle Users Group and Midwest Oracle Users Group are teaming up to bring our communities a full day of technical training featuring several Oracle ACEs and a look at the future of all things Oracle.

Our event will feature keynotes from Willie Hardie, VP of Database Product Management, as well as Joel Kallman, Senior Director, Software Development from Oracle Corporation. Willie and Joel will provide us a look into their crystal balls on the future of Oracle Database 19c and Oracle APEX, one of the most in-demand application development toolsets today.

We’ll then split into two tracks – Database and Applications – and you’ll get a chance to hear from a team of Oracle ACEs, ACE Directors, and experts in their fields so that you can gear up for the coming challenges that our business users will be most interested in solving in the coming year.

Our event is being held high in the magnificent WIllis Tower near both Union Station and Northwestern Station, so public transportation is a great option if you’re a suburban resident. And best of all, breakfast and lunch are included, courtesy of my colleagues at Viscosity NA. So don’t hesitate to register today to save a few bucks before July 18th because – just like our first Chicago snowfall! – it’ll be here before you know it.