Thursday, 1 April 2021

Celebrating 25 Years working with Oracle Applications

I believe we should all stop from time to time and look back. I work in IT and there are always challenges but we need to look back and see how far we have come. Celebrate what we have achieved and learn from those challenges. This is why I love when organisations share their stories, through presentations, articles, award nominations, however they do it, the preparation makes them reflect on the achievement and hopefully thank all those who made it happen.

Time for my big look back.

Last week I had the privilege of mentoring young people being assessed for this year's Accenture Graduates intake. All of them were not born when I started working with Oracle Applications. I am officially old.

On April 1st 1996, I started one of the most exhilarating journeys of my life and I wouldn't change any of it.

It has been bumpy, in fact on that first day I was almost arrested. I don't exaggerate and I'll come back to that later.

I was working for CFM in Gloucester, which later was part of ICL becoming Fujitsu. I was looking for my next challenge and was offered several opportunities with promotion, but all closer to London which my family didn't want. Then I heard about a new practice in N Ireland that needed a support manager. I knew one person there David who had been on secondment in Gloucester, and he encouraged me. Then main motivation was my then husband, who was from N Ireland, so it wasn't such a left field idea.

The N Ireland Civil Service were one of Oracle's first E Business Suite customers in the UK and this practice was set up to support them, many having been TUPEd over from NICS.

The idea was I spent 4 weeks at Oracle doing a broad range of applications and technical training and then move to N Ireland and take up the role.

On that first day I drove to the Oracle Training Centre that was housed in Bracknell. I was not a confident driver and certainly not that close to London, but successfully got onto the 'Ring' and counted exits as my instructions were 3rd exit. In rush hour traffic I committed to the turn and then realised it wasn't actually a road going anywhere, but an actual EXIT. I had driven the wrong way into a oneway street! Oh dear, nothing I could do but continue until I could turn around.

 Then coming towards me was a car - a police car! Panic came over me, there was no way he could pass me and I couldn't reverse onto the main road, he would have to reverse. But he didn't, he stopped, got out his car, put on his cap and walked over to me. He tapped on the window and I lowered it. 'Good morning' he said 'Do you know what you have done?, he asked. Then he asked If I knew where I was? I had driven into the exit of the Thanes Valley Police Force! He went onto lecture me about how he and his colleagues couldn't get out to do their job and how those who had finished their shift couldn't get home. I had effectively brought the Police Force to a standstill. He said he would reverse, I could follow him and then we would have another little chat. I did as I was told, got out the car and waited for the next episode. Then he said 'I take it this is your first visit to Bracknell, have a nice day'. He may have found that funny but all I could think about was that my own car and not the hire car I was in, had new N Ireland number plates and if I had been in that, the Policeman would not have seen the funny side, It would have been seen as a possible terrorist incident back then in 1996.

So after that interesting start, I have had roles running support, upgrading the many instances several times, setting up and delivering training in Discoverer and Desktop Integrator, moving to being a Financials Consultant (despite being told by a colleague I couldn't do it as I wasn't a certified accountant), getting involved in User Groups, Fusion, Certus and now Accenture. In fact one of my last posts was about how did I end up here. I look back at the Debra Lilley on that first day, out of her depth and no idea what would be next. 

25 years is a long time, however I know many people whose Oracle career, even in applications, (Fiona Martin), started earlier.

It has sure been a journey with lots of bumps and challenges, and I'm not very good at journeys despite loving travel (My 10 Worst journeys) but one that has given me so many opportunities to grow and help others grow.

But I also look back at Oracle Applications. One of the first customers I supported was NI Water on release 9.4.1 of E Business Suite. Then I worked on one of the first to move to 2 Tier computing, although I can still chant backslash navigate commands in my head and if you know what I am talking about you too are old. I have often spoken about the Fusion Apps story and today Oracle leads in SaaS adding more all the time. How many other organisations had led from the front for that long?

Whatever you are doing, stop and look at how far you have come. 

Finally I want to end by saying thank you to everyone I have met on my journey so far. The ones who have helped me learn, the ones I have taught and I am so proud of what they have achieved and even the ones who have stood in my way; finding a route past them has made me a better person.

And here is to the next part of the journey, wherever that may be. 

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Exciting New Role - How Did I End Up Here?

Yesterday I updated my Linkedin profile with my new role and the amount of comments and likes just amazed me. Perhaps everyone has more time to read Linkedin during COVID19 but I was very touched by the comments.

Taking this role was not a simple decision because I didn't particularly label myself HCM. But then I realised I was hung up on historical job roles and not my actual skills.

Last March I posted about dropping the comment 'I'm not technical' - and how it was important to acknowledge my skills rather than talk about what I wasn't.

Since I joined Accenture, everyone assumed I was HCM, and I got lots of opportunities to add value to HCM projects but I found myself saying quietly "I'm not really HCM'.

Let me explain.

I left school at 16, as early as I could, and my first job was as a procurement officer for Crown Agents. Later I did international banking with them and studied part time to get some banking qualifications.

Accidentally I got into programming, and worked for a government department covering agriculture, but didn't enjoy it as much I expected as I didn't have the customer contact I wanted.

I moved into IT operations at a time when autonomous had never even been considered. The second mainframe I worked on, an ICL 2900 series, still needed a punchcard to set the system each day (we didn't run it 24 hours).

Then I moved to analyst programmer in Berlin for the army and worked on logistics systems.

When I came back to the UK, I worked for my local council on their Finance System and I felt at home, looking after their procurement processes, combining my technical and business skills.

I stayed with these functional themes, but went through a number of technologies, range Cobol, FoxPro, MS Access, Ingres and eventually Oracle.

I then ran a support team in Fujitsu for Oracle E Business Suite for a couple of years and the functional knowledge widened. I love understanding how the technology supports the business.

When I moved into consultancy the obvious thing for me was Finance. Although I remember overhearing two consultants talking and saying I shouldn't be in Finance as I wasn't an accountant. That knocked my confidence for a long time, but I took on the Procure to Pay process and succeeded.

My first end to end implementation was in the South of Ireland where the travel there was the biggest challenge, but I worked with Paulo Soromenho who was brilliant (at Oracle not travel, he drives too fast!!) He increased my knowledge to include Inventory and Fixed Assets and after 6 months there and another project running in parallel. I have always said if you are valuable you can shape your own role and I did. My success was finding people who believed in me and who would help me to learn.

I still dabbled in technology, and the DBAs let me do little things (dab hand at ADPATCH). This was were I realised I wanted to be the technical linguist, the person who understood both sides.  I felt pretty confident and became the first person in EMEA to be certified in the new Applications IT Professional as an Oracle Master which required you to be proficient in Apps and underlying technology.

I have talked about my Fusion journey many times, and the opportunities it gave me and the first customer I worked with was finance but it was very early, and the market had not taken off.

I did a lot of speaking about Fusion, explaining how it worked, and again both technical and functional. I appeared in an early Oracle montage video, saying I thought they had made GL sexy, although Steve Miranda did later question my definition of 'sexy'. I delivered a lot of training, especially round their approach to User Experience and both the database (thank you Cary)  and analytics community (thankyou Mark) invited me to talk about the underlying design.

I joined Certus, Cloud was new, Tim Warner and Mark Sweeny had taken the risk and setup as a fusion or rather SaaS only company. At the time HCM was what people were buying in UK. The co-owners Tim Warner and Mark Sweeny I remember that one thing we discussed was the need to get ready for, and win their first Finance implementation. So to start with I did a bit of HCM, then a bit more. My first hands on job was to write a compensation guide for a luxury goods company (thanks Ian for the opportunity and patience). I was able to draw on my experience as an employee, a manager and a very protracted employee dispute I was witness to previously that resulted in many months at a tribunal. At the need of the first year we won two Finance or rather Finance and HCM projects and I was knee deep in cost centres and transactions again.

As PaaS took off I got more and more involved in how we could extend SaaS and as the customer population grew I did more and more of what I love most, how can we ensure their organisations get even more of the value they were promised? Most extensions have been in HCM as well so POCs I have carried out with Oracle, ADF, VBCS and more recently chatbots have all been based on HCM processes.

When we moved to Accenture, I was still delivering the value whilst finding the right role but people assumed that I was HCM. Despite my insistence I wasn't really HCM, I was doing lots and soon became a 'go-to' person. Tim was European HCM Lead and we did lots of work together.

Last year I even co-wrote some white papers with colleagues in the US, took part in HCM Talk Radio and guest blog for Oracle, all on HCM.

In 2019, Tim and I were part of the Accenture HCM Keynote at OOWLON, talking about Oracle Digital Assistant in HCM (PaaS4SaaS), and this year we were asked to do it again and I was responsible for my favourite thing ever. Encouraging customers to talk about the difference this has made to their business. At this year's event, I said to someone 'I'm not really HCM' and it was pointed out to me that 'I'm not really HCM' had replaced 'I'm not technical' - oops!

Tim retired last week, and there is nothing I can add to this great post from Mark Sweeny. When Tim asked me if I was interested in taking over his role, he said he would give me his full backing, that was enough. No better support than that.

I do some STEM advocacy in schools, and the students are always being told, the jobs they will have might not even exist today. Lifelong learning is key. Our CEO, recently talked to the half a million people in Accenture about the importance of new skills and them being accelerated when based on previous skills and experience.

I know I can do this. I'm excited to do this and actually I am HCM with added Financial and Technical skills. A pretty good allrounder!

Sunday, 8 March 2020

International Women’s Day - Equal and Valued

Today is International Women's Day and the theme this year is #EachForEqual and on one post from the UK Army they used the tag equal and valued to demonstrate how they feel about women in the Forces.

I am equal and valued.

I have seen and experienced discrimination but not in my career. I have always found encouragement to succeed at whatever I have done. I have had lows in my career but even then others encouraged me to move forward. Much of that encouragement came from strong women but even more from men.

I am equal and valued.

Perhaps I have just worked for organisations that saw that value in women. 30 years ago, after having my daughter I worked for Gloucestershire County Council who had a recruitment drive called 'Women Hold Up Half the Sky', and introduced flexible working for mums way before it was mainstream. I was encouraged, publicly told that being a woman, with a child, was not a barrier to success or even being valued.

When we were taken over by CFM / ICL / Fujitsu, I continued to get the encouragement I needed to succeed, too many to mention but I would call out Graeme Bowmaker and the man at the top Duncan Tate who even on my last day was encouraging me.

I am equal and valued.

Being listened to and my thoughts valued has been the most encouragement I have received and two analysts have been key to that, Ray Wang and Dennis Howlett.

I am equal and valued.

Through my role in usergroups where I have had many ups and downs I have grown, and that has come from making a difference. Encouragement here has been from other leaders, Oracle themselves and feedback from users. Missing many but want to call out Cliff Godwin, Nadia Bendjedou, Jesper Anderson, Steve Miranda, John Schiff, Jeremy Ashley, Meg Bear and Misha Vaughan. Deserving a mention to herself is Fiona Martin who has encouraged me when all I saw was dark and I was at my lowest and now one of my closest friends.

I am equal and valued.

At Certus everyone was valued and an equal part of the success. Famously Mark Sweeny blogged about working mums being part of that formula. He and Tim Warner encouraged me every step of the way as I look to carve the role I wanted and knew was of value.

I am equal and valued.

The Oracle ACE program has been the catalyst for much of my success. Being recognised for what I do, and giving me the platform to share it. I tweeted at the end of last year about the women in the program and at apx 10% of the ACE Directors being women, we may not be equal in numbers but we are equal and valued to our peers. I cannot list those who have supported and encouraged me here, but you can find them all in this list. I will however call out Jennifer Nicholson who makes it all possible

Here is a video I was part at Oracle Open World last October on diversity and inclusion and thank you to Bob Rhubart who pulled all such content together to celebrate #IWD

I am equal and valued.

Accenture, my current employer is well in front on all things diversity and inclusion. We have a female CEO Julie Sweet, and an intent to have parity in our Managing Directors by 2025. I wrote just a few weeks ago about being included in their Insight program, and how whilst I appreciate the program am not sure that for me this was necessary to be all female.

For IWB Accenture hold many events and last year the one in London was amazing. Unfortunately this years fell victim to the Coronavirus but there was so much more going on.

Women who encourage me at Accenture is another long list but Lucia Jarrett, Fiona Clarke, Carrie Brennan and Cynthia Cauley who along with Meg Bear helped me drop the I'm not technical tag.

I am equal and valued.

Life isn't just about work, my spare time is about Scuba Diving and I can never stop thanking Dan Norris for persuading me to take it up, Graham Parmley and Brian Goldthorpe at Davy Jones Diving for making it happen. All men but the buddies I have had that encourage me have mainly be women and I have to mention Helena Zalewska my buddy at home. I hope she will still talk to me now she is poster child for Dive NI.

Last year Davy Jones did a women Day event and I was proud to be part of that. PADI today posted this on women who have made a difference in diving.

I am equal and valued.

So I am I am equal and valued, but I know it isn't the same for everyone. I need to pay that forward and I hope I do by encouraging others in their quest like the STEM talk last month.

I have missed so many people out of the mentions, probably because names are not a skill I have excelled in. I appreciate every single one of you that has made me who I am. I am equal and valued.

Sunday, 1 March 2020

The Joy of a STEM Ambassador

I signed up to be a STEM Ambassador, when I learnt about Bloodhound and how it was 'to inspire a generation'. My thoughts on Women in IT are well known, we will reach parity when girls see technology as a career path for them. It is our job to encourage young people to think of technology as a career not just what drives their phone, or their Xbox. 

The process for STEM ambassadors in the UK, is a series of local hubs, who arrange vetting and training and then encourage you through opportunities to be a local ambassador. For me in N Ireland the local hub is in Belfast at W5, however despite wanting to help, most opportunities there have been when I have been travelling or in London. 

But last Friday, that changed and I did my first careers talk in Coláiste Feirste an Irish language school in Belfast, and once I had checked my lack of Irish wasn't a barrier I signed up.

The building is amazing, it is built around an 18th Century Home of the Riddell family, and we had the careers sessions in the library which used to be the chapel.

The children were all about 13 / 14 and the format of the day was speed dating. There were about 8 ambassadors representing different STEM careers and each group of children spoke to each of us for 5 minutes. These students already have an advantage, they speak two languages fluently, and I tried to make that real for them.

They had a list of suggested questions, ' What do you like most / least? What qualifications do you need?' etc, but a common one not on the list was 'how much are you paid?'. The most common question, 'how did you get into your career?', as it was first on the list, even got asked twice on more than one occasion. The ability to pretend you are listening hasn't reached them yet, but in the main they were engaged and wanted to hear our stories. 

You need to make it relevant to then. Their smartphones didn't exist when they were born, so I got them to imagine poor me, starting in technology when they had only been computers in places like NASA when I was their age. 

The question about what did I not like, I thought I had solved. I asked them what it was like when the apps on their phones didn't work. Interestingly no boy admitted to ever having a problem, except with an Xbox. I forgot this is the generation that simply figures things out. (side story, I had problems with an underwater camera on a scuba trip once. no google available at sea so I asked if anyone else had the same camera. The youngest person on the boat said she would fix it. She told me she didn't have the camera but was from the generation........... DID I FEEL OLD!!!

The day went very quickly and I really enjoyed it. I hope it helped the students.  Accenture encourages things like this and the opportunity to encourage all people to use and love technology, makes me happy.

2020 -Oracle Open World Europe

Oracle Open World Europe is growing, this year it was back in London and Accenture were again a top sponsor.

I had the privilege of working with Tim Warner on our Solution Keynote session for HCM. 

Our session was:

Unlocking the Value of Continuous Innovation in Your HCM Investment
Oracle SaaS delivers innovation every quarter, from small enhancements to new modules. Learning, Recruitment and Digital Assistants are just some of the big ticket items we have seen recently. In this session, hear how Human Capital Management has become a driver for many companies as advances in technology have changed the way enterprises consider hiring, staffing, development and retention and more importantly hear from our clients what Oracle HCM delivers for them and what their plans for unlocking more of the value is.
On the main stage
We wanted to bring customers on stage, representing multiple countries and industries and this was achieved with help from:

Tobias Schellhaas, VP HR DATA MANAGEMENT, Deutsche Post AG
Iain Elvin, Head of Oracle Systems, HM Treasury
Giuseppe Castelli, CORPORATE HR DIRECTOR, Mapei
Koen Mols, HR Excellence Program Lead, ArcelorMittal Europe
On the day Tobias was unable to join us, but Nigel Watson, who has moved into this project from DHL Supply Chain. Nigel is no stranger, we worked with him on the first project and spoke together at Oracle Open World in San Francisco 2017.

Last year, one of the most impressive things I saw at Accenture, was how our CTO publishes 5 as part of the Accenture Technology Vision. Then this is drilled into by each industry and platform, including Oracle. 

The 2020 Accenture Technology Vision has been published since #OOWLON but we looked at the Human+ Worker trend from last year's vision. 

Our customers shared how @OracleHCM helped them unlock their investments and make their workforce more effective. The presentation including all the document links can be downloaded at here.

Tim and I  - we were spotted!
The sessions were mainly in the exhibition hall with the audience wearing headphones. It was better technology than at #OOWSFO but still a bit weird, it does stop the session being as interactive as I would like. Tim and I were scouting around earlier in the day, and were spotted by someone in an earlier session. You can't hide anywhere!

I really enjoyed the session and although the logistics could always get a little better, we got our message across and I had lots of really good customer conversations as a result.

It was also good to see a lot of customers in the audience I have been involved in their cloud projects. I love my job!

The Accenture stand had lots of visitors and I was really pleased to see MyConcerto and our interactive music game. Not because I am any good at it, I'm not. When I was 5th on the leader board you can guarantee no more than 5 people had had a go! MyConcerto is such a differentiator for Accenture, making sense of both the the sales process and delivery. Bringing everything together in a single platform.

Still no better at the Accenture MyConcerto Interactive Game

My great colleague, friend and fellow ACE Director, Julian Dontcheff, also spoke, sharing our research into the Oracle Autonomous Database.

Julian Dontcheff, always the smartest presenter

I was so busy at #OOWLON my twitter was almost no existent but luckily my colleagues were on hand to ensure I was still visible. Thank you Steven De Vlieger for this video, I loved it.

As well as past and present, and hopefully new customers, events are a great place to catch up with friends. Day one was my busy day and I had hoped to do my catching up on day 2, but I was taken ill later in the day and actually ignored some people. I spent the weekend in bed, so I apologise to anyone who got a short or even no response from me. For those I did catch up with, it was great.

Meeting with friends, Super Sai from AIOUG

So #OOWLON was hectic but fun, and it will be back next year. I'll be there, will you?

Loving my job

Friday, 21 February 2020

Being Encouraged - but does it need to be as a woman?

I am a lucky person, I have just celebrated reaching 58 and I'm not ready for retirement yet.

I found being 55 very liberating. I could retire if I wanted to. I told myself I would continue to work whilst I was enjoying what I did, but I didn't see myself looking for anything new.

At that time I worked for Certus and loved it. I love Mark and Tim and the team they had built up at Certus, and I loved our customers. There was no shortage of projects and I loved the diversity. I spent much time advocating Oracle as an ACE Director and that included the privilege and opportunities to speak around the world. 

Certus was acquired by Accenture almost 2 years ago, although we didn't transfer across for another six months. I posted a blog when I reached the one year point and it is funny to read that back now. It has got easier, but I still get lost, not just in the processes, I spent 15 minutes looking for a specific room this morning in London!

I have been through the first appraisal process and it was more successful that I thought it might be. Despite having a well met target of failing more policies than most people know existed, I have delivered value to the organisation and it is recognised. For me that recognition and opportunity is more important than the tangible benefits.

Then just before Christmas I discovered I had been nominated as one of a pool of talent at my grade, to be coached for the next level. Accenture held a 3 day workshop last week in their Madrid Learning Centre to kick of this 'Insight Program'. Recognising how we got there, what is required of us and then beginning the journey to promotion, through skills, encouragement and building a network of peers.

A lot of work had gone on to put us into teams of similar roles and I found it refreshing to be in a group of strong personalities all working in technology applications. I was the only Oracle expert but we all complimentary skills. We will stay in these informal groups for 9 months as we are encouraged to create and own our plans to succeed.

What makes this program unique is that it was for women. I was sceptical at first, if I am going to be promoted, it needs to be because I am the right person, not to fill a quota or for positive discrimination. Day One quelled many of those fears, we were encouraged by successful women who have made the journey before us, sharing their stories, which I suspect would not have been as honest had it been a mixed audience. We looked at the barriers we believe we have to achieving what our organisation thinks we are capable of, and looked at the phycology behind that and strategies fro overcoming them. It was a very encouraging and a very valuable day.

Day two, looked more at the skills we would need in the next role and here I was less convinced. I understand why a diverse workforce is more valuable, and this is what is being promoted. However for example, one workshop was about financial decision making and impact on the business, we worked through a gamification workshop in our groups and it was a lot of fun and very competitive. However by excluding men it wasn't representative of the diverse workshop it was striving to promote.

I was unable to stay to day 3 as I had to run back to London to speak at #OOWLON but I would have preferred perhaps day one restricted to women, remove their perceived barriers and encourage them, and then do the skills workshops as a mixed cohort.

Having said that, I am very honoured to have been selected and look forward to the rest of the program with my Team 23 colleagues and thank those who believe in me. 

My lovely colleagues from around Europe and LATAM, I am not in photo as I had left by then.

Thankyou Accenture for the investment in your talent.

Saturday, 21 December 2019

2019 Sangam - My Thoughts on the conference

My third trip to India and the best yet. Thank you Super Sai for inviting me and the ACE program for the sponsorship.

Sai asked me to speak at Sangam, and told me he wanted something different. He wanted me to cover to SaaS announcements from Oracle Open World and after some discussion we agreed on 'What I had learnt from SaaS customers'.

I travelled to Sangam with Alex Nuijten and Roel Hartman, direct from UKOUG Techfest. It was a good journey although we arrived very early in Hyderabad, which was good for the traffic.

The conference centre was amazing, I loved these mixed use venues. Next to us were several weddings over the 3 days and if you have never seen the excitement of an Indian wedding, make that your resolution for 2020.

Traffic is bad in India, I may have said that before, and is one of the reasons the days are so long at the conference. They pack 3 days of content into two 12 hour days.

I started this with a mention of 'Super Sai' - Sai Penumuru,  he is unbelievable. for the past couple of years he has been living in the UK and yet still runs this growing community like clockwork. he doesn't do it on his own, he has an army of volunteers, but you need a great leader, and he fits that bill perfectly.

The event is well supported with speakers from both Oracle and the ACE Program and Sai certainly makes us work for our supper (and boy, is the food good). There were several panel sessions I took part in and even facilitated the same session as at Code One“Embracing Constant Technical Innovation in Our Daily Life”.

My session on OOW was really just a pathfinder session, what I found important and lots of links to videos and based on my blog at the time.

What I learnt from customers was more interactive and I loved it. Just before the event when I was trying to make sense of my thoughts Martin Widlake blogged about how presentations shouldn't be based on a formula, a challenge I felt so organised my presentation as a list of 'C's'. It was great, lots of questions and validation of what a lot of people were thinking.

Jim Grisanzio from Oracle recorded my thoughts on this and the ACE program, quite long but I think worth a watch.

A big objective this year was to encourage the local Oracle community to engage with the ACE community, or rather step up and be part fo it. There are great knowledge sharers in India who just need some encouragement. We had a full room of people who wanted to know more about the program so I hope this will bear fruit.

I also attended their WIT session with Jenny Tsai from Oracle. It was great to hear both men and women encouraging each other.

The All India Oracle User Group is excellent, and they have posted a video of memories. It was such fun. I have every intention of going again.

After the event Sai had arranged some sight seeing and we had the great Rao as our tour guide and photographer. We got to see Golconda Fort, Qutb Shahi Tombs and Charminar in Hyderabad City.

All too soon it was over and the three of us left for our return journey.