Walk the Oracle talk
Date: Tuesday , October 02, 2007
Talk on a career in the Oracle realm can be heard from everywhere. However, to walk the talk requires a clear strategy else any road can take you anywhere if you are not sure about the goal. Firstly decide the path—do you want to be Oracle Application Developer or an Oracle Database Administrator?
The choice would be clear if you know the dynamics of each path. It would be wise to collect information regarding both paths and make an informed quality decision.
An application developer gravitates more towards being a business analyst or a software developer. The job profile includes planning and designing a database whose structure meets the users’ current and future needs for data storage and reporting. Application Developers basically develop applications on Oracle. This requires a sound understanding and grasp of SQL, PL/SQL, and the ability to develop Internet applications using Form Builder and Report Builder. If you pride yourself on your logical thinking, attention to detail, ability to focus for long periods, plus gathering and analyzing requirements for coding and testing you are in top form for a career here.
Being a developer is a time consuming process with a wide range of things to learn, like JDeveloper, Developer 2000, Developer6i, and Java/XML applications amongst others. As a developer, you can’t limit yourself to the Oracle user interface (UI) tools because software from other companies like Microsoft and Sun has an edge. It is pertinent to note there are several UI tools up for game like VB, Java, C-Sharp, Visual C++, Microsoft.Net, ASP, and ColdFusion. Hence, a developer has to be ready to learn a lot of other programming languages and tools to keep his job.
On the other hand, a database administrator’s (DBA) job profile is to ensure that data is secure, available, and used productively. This would involve administrative, maintenance, and routine activities such as installing database, user account maintenance, management of backups, performance tuning, and data recovery. This requires good knowledge of the Oracle database architecture. The DBA is responsible for designing and maintaining an organization’s database, and ensuring that data is available only to authorized users. Skills required for DBA specialists are good understanding of the Oracle database, related utilities and tools, and a better understanding of the underlying operating system. A sound knowledge of the physical database design, ability to perform both Oracle and operating system performance tuning, and monitoring are also desirable, as an Oracle developer’s forum site http://forums.oracle.com/forums/index.jspa says. Another website of relevance would be asktom.oracle.com
Being a DBA is easier on the brain as one does not have too much of literature to master, compared to a developer. Oracle is numero uno when it comes to database and there is a steady job market for DBAs. Moreover an Oracle DBA can easily transition to other databases. However the hitch is that a DBA can find his job routine and less challenging with time.
Any career is built on three pillars—knowledge, attitude, and skills. Now that you have a pretty fair knowledge of the career path to choose in the Oracle realm, what will take you ahead is attitude and skills. Attitude to learn is your choice and skills to master a result of that choice.
Padding up skills
Technical skills required include deep knowledge of Oracle9i, Oracle Warehouse Builder, Oracle OMB+, data warehouse design and implementation. Understanding of the basic concepts like Tables, Views, Queries, Primary Keys, Foreign Keys, Types of Indexes, Columns, and the different data types is critical. Tablespaces, partitions, stored procedures, packages and functions, and business objects must be understood well.
Create your own blog and share your knowledge of Oracle. Prospective employers do read up blogs. Start reading Oracle manuals and listen to podcasts. Sign up to free newsletters and training. Consider investing in Oracle certification. Certifications like Oracle Certified DBA, Oracle Certified Application Developer, and Oracle ERP Certification are valuable and vital. “These certifications matter most at the senior levels, especially in the healthcare and financial verticals and is a vital selling point for the candidate,” says Harish Pillai, Delivery Manager, Allegis Group. Certification through training is advantageous, but an Oracle certification is no substitute for work experience. Quality work experience is the perfect launch pad to propel your Oracle career rocket… that is simple science.
Recruiting is no rocket science
“A technical recruiter requires only the correct fitment of the candidate to the organization. It is not relevant how many years of experience a candidate has as opposed to what relevance the experience constitutes,” emphatically states Pillai. At the junior level where experience is an issue what is often asked of a rookie is “What is your hands-on technical expertise and how often and frequently you have used those skills,” or “How many years you have been using this skill and in what environment.” Anil Bhat, Senior Manager, Professional Services, MetricStream tells us, “At the fresher level we ask questions like ‘Write an SQL to retrieve the top five scores from a database,” or “If a code is given how would you debug the errors.”
Intermediate experienced techies must be able to guide team members to achieve results and possess deep technical expertise. They are assessed on what was their project team setup like, and what was their role in the whole exercise. Also garnered is how much time and what kind of tools were used by them to implement a particular Oracle database. Since hirers generally know the timelines for different kind of projects it can be quickly made out whether the aspirant is giving rough estimates on tasks that he or she has not done. According to Pillai,“People who have worked for five years on a project end-to-end through its entire project/product lifecycle will be better valued over those who have a five year work experience with five different projects and not even one full life cycle experience. So try and get at least one if not more full life cycle projects under your belt, and if this is on a large scale project spanning multiple locations, it is even better.”
Senior strata of techies need skill sets like leadership capabilities and ability to articulate well. Customer centric examples of how a code was written are appreciated. Seniority demands that techies give able technical assistance to team members and also noted is what percentage of time is spent on coding vis-à-vis helping others. Also assessed are what type of design recommendation is given, what type of architecture will be mapped out for the project, and what database analysis is required. Senior level techies are assessed on situational criteria too. Communication abilities are key because at the senior level there is a lot of interaction with local and global customers.
The right person is valued as demand far outstrips supply. Recruiters keep the aforementioned needs for each of these three levels in mind while putting forward their queries to candidates.
Online assessments tests and certifications from known skills assessment and certification companies such as Brainbench (www.brainbench.com) are a hot favorite with recruiters. The technical tests vary between generic and customized depending on the position to be filled.
Positions are filled with care
Organizations look for candidates who have the right mix of technical expertise and character rather than only a 100 percent technical fitment. Pillai vouches, "Ultimately candidates are selected keeping in mind character over competence!" He continues, "The workplace environment that an individual is fostered in during the early years of his career has an impact throughout their career graph. So choose your job with care."
Knocking on the ‘right’ doors
No one shoots in the dark. Similarly never attend job interviews for the sake of it. Measure the level of Oracle deployment in the prospective workplace. Estimate the size of the installed Oracle base there. Consulting firms that support and develop Oracle applications and installations could be your target too. Research on your opportunities, prepare for them, and cash in on them the right way. Your walk towards your goal then takes on a confident stride.
Source: Anil Bhat, Senior Manager, Professional Services, MetricStream
Inside the Oracle world there exists a range of jobs like DBA, Technical Architect, System Administrator, Support Consultant, and PLSQL Developer amongst others. Be sure you understand your kind of role. Oracle Developer, DBA, Data Warehousing, Oracle EBusiness Suite, and Oracle Fusion (middleware) are some of the career streams that candidates can pursue within the Oracle domain.
To watch out for: Oracle has just released its latest version of the database - Oracle 11g and latest version of its
applications - EBusiness Suite R12. Oracle Fusion is also in the news recently for its flexibility to integrate different
applications systems using Service Oriented Architecture (SOA).
Source: Harish Pillai, Delivery Manager, Allegis Group - India
What version of RDBMS were you working with in your most recent assignment?
Acceptable responses are 7.1, 7.1.4, 7.1.6, 7.2, 7.2.2, 7.3, 7.3.2, 8.03, 8.04. If they say “version 7” or “version 8” ask them to elaborate. All DBA’s should know the exact RDBMS version. Developers who are DBA wannabes will not necessarily know this and may fake it. If they say something like “version 8” – you can follow up with something like “How did you like NET 8 versus SQL*Net 2.3?”
How many instances did you manage?
Acceptable replies are 1 to 30 or 40. An unacceptable reply is “What is an instant?”
How big was the production database you managed?
How many Terabytes is your database? How many tables? (100 to 5,000). If they say “very big,” ask them to elaborate.
What version of SQL*Net were you running?
Acceptable replies are v1, v2.1, and v2.3.