I have been honoured to speak at Oracle related events all around the world but last year when in Latin America, after a conversation with Tim Hall (OracleBase), decided that this year I would try and do something in Africa, as being an EMEA ACE, Africa is one third of my own region. The initial idea was to see if we could arrange an OTN Africa Tour, these tours are the best value for both Oracle and for the speakers who have the opportunity to speak several times in a shorter period of time, however there are very few engaged user groups in Africa – unless you know differently…
The SAOUG usergroup in South Africa is not only engaged but also an innovative user group that even has a loyalty scheme for members that gives benefits from companies who are also members.
So I approached SAOUG and was delighted to find they have a vibrant applications community and a large annual conference. But did I really want to go to South Africa?
You hear so many awful things about South Africa, how dangerous it is and I am not a very brave person. I could have just arrived, stayed in hotel, done the conference and left, but that is not me. I really do believe that travel is still a privilege and I don’t count airports and room service as the pluses in that list! I want to see the place and have done the open topped double decker sightseeing bus in most cities I have visited, but perhaps that kind of trip in down town Johannesburg isn’t the best idea. However another really amazing thing about being a speaker is the community and the friends you make. It doesn’t matter where you go there is someone you know. In South Africa I knew Marius Wentworth the SAOUG Chairman I had met him in the IOUC and I also knew Dina, a user who I had met at UKOUG through a mutual friend in 2008, and we had met again since at both OOW and earlier this year at Miracle Denmark. Dina invited me to stay with her family and promised me it would be safe. So the big adventure was on.
Dina took me to Pretoria to look at museums and learn about South African history, we also visited an animal reserve to ensure I saw the animals as they are fed there. Then we spent two days in Pilanesberg NationalPark and I did see the animals in their real environment as nature intended. WOW. My real love in life is geology and after the conference Dina took me for a few days on a Waterfall tour and I was in heaven. The scenery, rocks and waterfalls were breathtaking, and the name of one place ‘God’s Window’ summed it all up, and my favourite place? Bourke’s Luck Potholes.
But back to SAOUG and the conference. I presented on Mobile ADF and how Fusion UX Design Patterns could help, this was something I have been working on with the ADF Team and the UX Advocates group, and Sue Duncan and I did a joint presentation in New Orleans at KScope. Really great audience, most of whom were about to start their mobile journey and desperate for any advice on where to start. My second presentation was on BI & EPM in Fusion Apps, thanks again to Mark Rittman (whose book had pride of place on the bookstall in the conference), for encouraging me to talk about this. SAOUG was the 5th time I had given this presentation and I love the technical audience and their questions. Both my sessions were full and I could have carried on answering questions for hours, so was really pleased when the EBS SIG asked if I would do a Q&A in their final session of the conference.
A conference for me as a speaker needs 4 things:
- My own sessions to be well received - check
- Feel as if I have made a difference to at least one user and I know by the questions both in and out of my sessions that certainly was the case here
- Made new friends – check
- Learn something new myself
So what did I learn?
- I sat in a customer session where they had deployed Fusion Compensation in a SaaS model. This moved to a very interesting debate on the choice of cloud. Something I think we will hear a lot more about and I know I am involved in a meetup on this topic in Sydney next week.
- SAOUG had quite a lot of Oracle keynotes and where they were presented by passionate people they were excellent. I especially liked the one by the country leader who talked about innovation in South Africa.
- They also had two incredible motivational speakers. The first one was a traditional inspiring achiever Peter Van Kets and his story of his challenges were certainly engaging, especially he and his team mates selflessness to help the British team finish their race to the South Pole
- The second speaker Gavin Sharples was phenomenal but a little too Politically Incorrect for the UK. It is interesting that is a country known for other inequality, sexism is not an issue. Just one of the parallels I saw between South Africa and my own home in N Ireland. Gavin’s presentation entertained, shocked and left behind an audience all motivated to work better at both commercial and family relationships. I have signed up to his newsletter and just hope the filters don’t censor it.
Would I go to SAOUG again? You bet, and next time I intend to take a few friends along and just maybe 'will go in Summer'.