Tuesday 25 March 2014

Walking the Tightrope

I launched my company earlier this month, and started by advertising at UKOUG.

I have always been very aware of partners in the usergroup community being perceived rightly or wrongly as just being there to get more customers, but partners are part of the Oracle Community and UKOUG is about 'Serving the Oracle Community'. Most partners understand the need to not be overtly advertising and when they do it properly their presentations are very educational.

There are advertising opportunities for partner members, they pay for these services such as magazine inserts, sponsorship, exhibition etc., and I personally took out adverts in Oracle Scene and the Ireland and Application Transformation events.

As for my presentations, I have branding for the PowerPoint but that is it. I am proud of what I do and hope to make a living from it, but being an active member of UKOUG gives me the network which is so important, it is not a shortcut. Being a member of UKOUG and a member advocate allows me to represent all users, learn and pass on that knowledge. Yes it is a tightrope but I enjoy the challenge and think it is a skill I have mastered. 

Monday 10 March 2014

I've Done It.

So after 25 years of corporate life I have started out on my own.

Since Oracle first mentioned Fusion Applications I have been part of that journey. I led the global user group input into the strategy and design, and as a team we work closely with Development through to General Availability. In recognition of this, I introduced Steve Miranda SVP Oracle Development in his main session at Oracle Open World 2010 talking about the pre launch and early adopter program.

Four years on and Fusion Applications have been GA for a while and are a real option but not the only option and I want to work with organisations who want to explore those. I believe I am uniquely placed to do this, with my experience in both Applications and the technology on which they are built, my network across the whole of Oracle and through usergroup work my insight into what customers want and need.

Perhaps you just want to understand more what Oracle has, its strategy for applications, or more importantly how they can help your strategy. As an independent and not a reseller, I have no pre-conceived solution and can work with your account manager, existing partners or help you find the right implementation partner when the time is right. I do not expect long or costly engagements.

The process of setting up this company has been very exciting and now as I 'open for business' I prefix nervous to the excitement label. If you, or someone you know needs my help, reach out, I can help.


Saturday 8 March 2014

A Really Big Thank You

I reached out from my heart and asked everyone to vote for Fiona Martin and I to be returned as your representatives on the UKOUG board. Times are difficult and we have had a rough ride the past few years but I really do think the tide has turned and we wanted the opportunity to finish what we and the rest of the board have started.
Yesterday it was announced that we have both been successful. Thank you to all who voted or lobbied for us.
There is so much going on and I personally am involved in three new initiatives as well as our more traditional offerings.

I am very excited about our Applications Transformation event on 18th March where we will explore all options for Applications' users, and that is not just Fusion. If you are an applications user, you should be attending.

Last week during National Apprentice Week we launch the first information about our Next Generation Initiative and very appropriately to mention today on National Woman's Day is our recently launched Woman in IT Initiative.

But we can't do all this on our own, so if you want to volunteer to be part of any of the initiatives or events, just reach out.

Friday 7 March 2014

My 10 Worst Journeys

I feel I gave India bad press about the traffic and need to step back and talk about me and my irrational fear of anything I am not in control off.


I hate magic, I don't understand it so I can't control or even understand how it is controlled, so I simply stay away from it. I HATE fairgrounds and theme parks because I am not able to control the rides. I don't enjoy the 'thrill'.

So it is not really surprising that I don't like journeys that involve lots of traffic. I do drive, and I quite enjoy driving myself but I am not the worlds best driver or even a good driver, and I hate to inflict that on passengers. As a passenger I need to be in the back, to ensure I don't brake for the driver every few seconds. I am not a back seat driver, I will be in the back probably with my eyes closed.

So India was not unique just another example of my hatred of traffic, and whilst trying to calm myself after a long journey during OTN Yathra I thought about other awful journeys and decided to list my worst ten.
10. I was married for 25 years to a motorbike mad man, who for much of that time raced. When we married he was just 20 and we bought a Suzuki GSXR 750. We lived in berlin and not long later my young 14 year old sister came to visit and happily sat on the back of his bike. I was jealous and decided I could do this although I did try once on his old bike when we were courting and I hated it. So I got on the back and travelled just 200 yards before I screamed for him to let me off. Never again, never again.


9. Flying, which normally I love, but only in commercial planes. I actually love helicopters although my first one in Barbados it took me a while to open my eyes, and last year was very scared in Australia with high winds, butt normally ok. Small aircraft however is another matter and I was had the opportunity to fly with Tim Tow and was petrified. I tried again a few years later with Jože Senegačnik which was slightly better as I knew what to expect.

8. Again not a car journey but a theme park ride. I hate them. Oracle once had a partner event at Disneyland Paris and we had the park to ourselves one evening. I refused to do any of the rides until eventually I was dragged onto thunder mountain, at this point most of you have realised just how irrational my fears are but they are still just as real for me.  Anyway a gentleman from Oracle Germany grabbed me and said he would look after me but when the car had the obligatory photograph taken I had my head in his lap. Luckily because the park was closed to the public there was no one to sell the photos.

7.  In Ecuador - the driver told me that as long as your horn works, your car is safe. there appeared to be no traffic control, everyone raced to junctions as it was simply who got there first. it also has very steep hills and that just added to my terror. The problem was I was on my own and the driver spoke very little English.

6. Not the last boat journey on the list, I don't mind big boats and love liveaboards for diving but don't like speedboats or zodiacs and when forced to be in one, close me eyes tight and hang on even tighter. When I was young I learnt to windsurf in Berlin and was asked to take my turn at manning the safety boat at the yacht club. I did the course, and it was a real challenge because at the time I couldn't even drive. The test for your RYA Powerboat Course involved taking 5 different boats from a rowing boat with an outboard motor to  a 12 berth pleasure cruiser out on water and performing various tasks. My instructor told me we would take the final test at 5am, and when I asked why he said because there would be no other traffic about and he had never failed someone for being too slow, a speed boat used for pulling water skiers needs to go faster than dead slow! Anyway on the day I am concentrating so hard on the speed and keeping my eyes open, when he tells me to slalom between the upcoming buoys I start the manoeuvre and he shouts 'STOP' - I hadn't realised he was joking, these were not ordinary buoys these were the buoys dividing the Havel between East and West Germany and crossing over would be rewarded with being shot at. Unbelievably I passed. Yes I Debra Lilley has a powerboat licence, but you will be relieved to know, I have never used it outside of a safety boat more than 25 years ago.
5. Last year I visited Johannesburg in South Africa; this was more about fear of being hijacked, as signs everywhere said high risk area for hi-jacking, potholes in roads and the sheer volume of traffic. as you came out of the cities is was about avoiding people who would run across the freeway in front of you from squatter camps, believing that if you hit them, even kill them you will look after their families for ever. I thought it was an urban myth except the central reservations where they existing had many crosses and people waiting to go, and on one journey we came across the aftermath, with several ambulances.

4. Just before India I travelled to the Philippines to go diving and was on the small Island of Bahol. The traffic in the Philippines is similar in makeup of India, bikes, motorcycles and tuktuks but not the volume. The roads are very poor and the few cars and vans on the roads have to overtake all the time. What made this journey worse was that my driver, a really good friend was new to this, driving on what is the wrong side of the road for us, and not experienced in this unbelievable survival of the bravest. the two hour journey to the ferry was a nightmare for me, but within hours of arriving in India, it dropped down the rankings.
3. On another OTN Tour in Beijing I was in a taxi with Kuassi Mensah from Oracle, whilst two others  were in another taxi. The traffic appeared to be coming from all directions and I was petrified. At one stage both Kuassi and I were convinced another car was going to hit us and we dropped down behind the seats, it missed up we rose up in unison and hell didn't he come back for a second attempt and succeed! it wasn't a big bump, but enough for our driver and the other driver to get out and start shouting at each other.

2. Not even a car journey, but a speed boat in Columbia. The local usergroup took us on what they thought would be a great trip out to the islands off Cartagena, but the speed was awful and I hated every single minute, and I wasn't the only one, but the organiser Robin and I are great friends and we still laugh about how I didn't handle the experience. If I close my eyes I can still feel the pain of gripping everything and everybody so tight.

1. India, although not sure which journey counts as worst. The many hours between Mumbai and Pune because of the length of the journey, but then the drive to the airport at Bangalore was the scariest as we were actually speeding and ignoring bends and traffic bollards, that journey actually had me in tears.

Hans Forbrich had a great idea this trip and gave me his United Airlines comfort pack that contains eye shades and ear plugs, which I used!
However I can say that things like OTN tours are great, I am not travelling alone and I can talk constantly, incessantly to those around me and it tends to keep me preoccupied a bit, and hopefully laugh at myself and my irrational fears.
P.S. having posted this Dan Norris reminded me of our taxi journey to Copenhagen Airport to catch the first plane out after the AshCloud, see his comment below 



Thursday 6 March 2014

OTN Yathra 2014 - Thanks and final thoughts

Tim Hall has thanked everyone for OTN Yathra and I simply want to add my thanks to all of them.

Thank you especially to my fellow travellers who helped me survive the traffic, and especially to Murali who ensured it was one of the best organised tours I have done with OTN.

Despite the traffic, I loved India and wish to return one day and visit the cities we passed through.

I loved sharing with the audiences, how what Oracle are doing with their Applications has something to teach everybody, and OTN through their ACE program make this possible. Thank you

OTN Yathra 2014 - Dealing With Fame

OTN have published over 100 photos of the tour on Facebook and one comment about seeing Tim Hall with all his fans. I was simply jealous, all these people would queue up to speak to him and many wanted their photo taken with him. I tease Tim about this but the reality is people look up to those they follow, be it business, TV, film or any other celebrity.

I am not knocking this, Tim has a website that technical people, (so not me), use like a reference book for all things Oracle Database. They look up to him and loved the opportunity to meet him for real at OTN Yathra; and sometimes I even get invited into the photo. Fame by association.

In my old job people used to ask me if I really knew Tom Kyte or Jonathan Lewis and it made me giggle, but the truth is I am honoured to know these people.

However Tim wasn't the only celebrity on the tour, when we arrived in Bangalore the Canadian Government plane was parked next to us, thought perhaps they had come to take Hans Forbrich home as a VIP. Apparently it was because they were opening a new consulate.

 And we also had our own star gazing to do, Tim sat next to a very important man on his first flight, who on arrival was swamped by his fans, at least Tim knew what it was like to be mobbed.

At Pune airport, Hans kindly took us into the executive lounge (loose definition there), as his guests and there were just two others in there. Then lots of security men came in and wanted their photo taken with one guy in sunglasses, with their guns and all. The other gentleman told us he was a Bollywood star, but not his name. Having searched through the 100 top Bollywood stars I think it was Prakash Raj but Tim and Hans are not so sure, I base my decision not just on some of the photos but on the fact he was reported as being in Mumbai the day before promoting his new movie.

I did once have a brush with Dr Brian Cox at Collaborate two years ago, and sat next to Ronan Keating in the BA Lounge on my way to Australia last year. I just loved hosting Martin Corry at UKOUG 2012 and over the years have hosted many other celebrities at various events.

So we all like celebrities, and I am very proud to in a small way bask in the wake of the celebrities I work with.

Sunday 2 March 2014

OTN Yathra 2014 - Traditional User Group v University Audiences

This tour started with two universities and then ended with a third, the four events between them were tradition user group events, technology days. Sometimes I struggle with being in a pure technology day as I worry the audience wants more details on ‘how something is done’, rather than my presentations which tend to be ‘why things are done’ which is where I tend to specialise. However, if the audience are interested, I love a technical event because they have the questions as to ‘how different technologies interact’ so as long as my sessions are correctly advertised then I am happy.

Some of my more technical peers worry about the university audiences as their deep dives into narrow technical subjects are straight over the heads of most students who may not even know the name of any Oracle products, but I love these audiences. I love to take a business problem, or an application, strip it back to the basics, and build it back up. The other thing I like about university audiences is that they like an varied agenda, they are interested in a mix of topics, our more technical audiences like streams of sessions that are all relevant to what they are going to do.

 So knowing which audience we have enables us to adapt our presentations to suit, the problem comes when the audience is mixed, this happened in Chennai, and satisfying both is very difficult but a challenge we are up to, most of us approached this by addressing the students and then continuing the drill down off line after our sessions with those who wanted to know more.

 One thing I have learnt from ACE tours is to start by investing a few minutes on who the audience is and then adapting the presentation to suit, and not making an assumption. I think those responsible for user groups, myself included, need to really understand the audience they are attracting, and what they are interested in. There is no point having the best presenters who drill down to the most detailed technology when your audience wants to know only the basics. In big events perhaps we should do both. If someone is unsure if they are basic or expert, they can do basic first and then the expert session, building on it.
What I definitely know is the most gratifying thing for me is when someone says they learnt a little from me, and go on to be much, much better than I am, do their job well and enjoy it. My job is done.


OTN Yathra 2014 - Last Stop Chennai

The final event of the tour and 3rd university was at  Loyola-ICAM College of Engineering and Technology (LICET).

This is a Jesuit Education and the day started with an act of worship, I am a Christian but have been on the road for a month, and to share with them in this was very humbling .

The welcome along with the lighting ceremony we first saw in Noida started “Welcome to those who will take us on a journey to Oracle Technology Knowledge, to a world of awesomeness” – what a welcome, what a privilege.
Keynotes from the various Deans was teaching for us presenters, and very motivating, talking about the value of knowledge stating:

Data becomes information when it is organised.

Information becomes knowledge when it is placed in actionable context.

Without context information is of little value.

Based on the Jesuit Ignatian Pedagogy originating in 1540 the college believes that Knowledge Sharing is about Content, experience, reflection, action, evaluation & enriched experience

They talked further about how knowledge sharing happens and how it works best when those receiving knowledge, have an interest that the topic, a need for information and research is based on this and then disseminated back to the community, this is known as the Social Interaction Model, which is how OTN, User Groups and especially the ACE program works.

They showed a video from Microsoft a concept of 2019 – A glimpse ahead– looking at exponential growth in technology very interesting and I am glad to see the working day still resolves around coffee.

The college also shared a video about their experimental learning, they took a car and removed all the covers, so all is exposed to students to learn from. This is what I try to do with Fusion Applications, take it apart and build it up. After the keynotes I was on first and missed the opportunity to go out and try the car, but Tim Hall did and he will post the video on his blog.

My first session was my BI & EPM in Fusion Apps, and I had a very large and student based audience, I was able to peel it back to the development strategy and the original acquisitions of Siebel and Hyperion where the BI & EPM products originated. Thank you to Facebook who acquired Whatsapp just before the start of this tour; at every event I was able to talk about that and explain the motivation for acquisitions, and how the acquirers can combine with their own technology, and grow them.

After lunch I asked if I could walk around the grounds and I was given an escort Prabhu Shankar who is an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering; the university is about 70 years old and was built around a Jesuit Church. It is a beautiful campus and students must love to learn here. I ended the tour with a visit to one of the engineering labs where like with the car they were dismantling a tuktuk taxi to see how it works. I took the opportunity for a photo call as this is the only time I would ever have the courage to get in one.

I then had the final session of the day on Mobile Design Patterns, again something everyone can relate to even if you have never heard of Oracle. I concentrated on the science of User Experience and how they got to the design patterns and how they are relevant to all technologies.
After the event we meet not only with the Dean and his team but also with the Parents representative. This was a great discussion about teaching the principles of technology and not just the core syllabus and how AIOUG may play a small part in this.
Definitely a high to finish the tour with.