Cinderella Makes Good
By MT:15 on Jan 29, 2007
Those of you who know me as a battle-hardened veteran of the IT industry probably have a hard time imagining me as a kid (except that I have been known to act like a big -- but professional! -- kid from time to time in the interests of workplace levity). One of the hard things about growing up at the Naval Academy was watching all the older girls (including my sister) go off to really nice hops (dances) at the Naval Academy. There aren't too many occasions to get all dressed up and go to a glamorous event when you are a teenager and it seemed tantalizingly out of reach to me for several years: I just wasn't old enough. Even though a lot of water has passed under that bridge (no cracks about the equivalent of the volume of water in Lake Mead, thanks very much!) I still remember how thrilling it was the first time I got to go to a hop at USNA. Definitely a dream come true. And I continued to feel that way up to and including the time when I got to go to things like the AirPac Ball wearing my own dress uniform (as a naval officer, myself).
For many years, I felt about the same amount of pining towards the RSA Conference (which, as some of you probably know, is the premier security conference in the world as well as being just a whole lot of fun) as I did towards finally going to a hop at USNA. Many Oracle employees, of course, have gone to RSA almost as long as the conference has been in existence (including me). I still remember the days when the event was primarily about cryptography and you'd see some person you'd read about in security publications wandering through the halls, or you'd get to meet him (or her). Somebody, pinch me. It was the place to be if you were a security groupie.
Oracle as a company has never really had a huge presence at RSA. Oh, Oracle folks have done papers, chaired panels, I think we even had a booth last year. Despite the company's long focus on security, we just never "did" RSA. As a big Oracle fan and a security weenie, I really despaired that we'd ever get to go to the hop -- I mean, go to RSA -- with the other security companies.
Which is why I am thrilled to pieces that this year, for the first time ever, Oracle is a Platinum Sponsor at RSA. In a way, the fact that we are at RSA echoes the shift in the company for the last few years. There are probably a few people who still think of us as a database company. (If I were still a teenager, I'd say, "That is, like, sooooo last decade." Oracle is an enterprise software company, one of the largest in the world, and we are not merely a secure products company, but a security products company. We've made sizeable investments in security, principally to round out our Oracle Identity Management offering, and we have been building new security products in our "roots" product area, the Oracle database (such as Oracle Database Vault, Oracle Transparent Data Encryption, Oracle Secure Backup and Oracle Secure Enterprise Search). Being a sponsor of RSA doesn't mean we've arrived (personally, I think we "arrived" a long time ago) but we are talking about, focusing on, and promoting security as a business to a much larger degree than ever before. From my perspective, Cinderella didn't just make it to the ball, she's boogieing at it and has a full dance card.
There are a lot of things I am really looking forward to at RSA. (I am sure the non-Oracle readers will accuse me of prejudice as regards the following section, to which I say, "You betcha, and proud of it.") I am particularly pleased that our CEO, Larry Ellison, will be giving a keynote at RSA. We have a very dynamic CEO who is a great speaker and who really Gets Security and has as long as I have been with the company. So yes, I and all the other Oracle security weenies I know are really thrilled that Larry is speaking and nobody is going to miss this. You shouldn't, either.
I'm also (again, shameless plug for the home team) looking forward to seeing some of our own products in the Oracle booth. At a company this large, with as many products as we have, nobody can keep up with every single thing we build, including me. (I heard "1300 products" quoted recently and I guess if you add up all the individual modules of something like Oracle E-Business Suite, it might really be that many!) Several of our newest security products will be demoed and I'm looking forward to seeing these as much because I have friends who worked on them (whom I respect highly) as for the keenness of the products, themselves. I always learn something new, even about our own products when I see us at a show. Also, everybody who has ever been on a product team likes to brag on their product so I will be oohing and aahing over our own products (some of which I haven't seen demoed yet) sorta the way I do over friends' newborns (babies, puppies, or kitties; it's the same gushiness).
One of the other things I really like about RSA that is hard to put into words, is that it is like a big family reunion. I've worked in security long enough that I have a lot of friends -- not just colleagues -- and RSA is one time a year when you either plan to meet for dinner or a drink, or have the serendipity of running into someone you'd lost track of, or just have a great time bonding at cocktail parties. (One of my best friends is a security headhunter who developed the Executive Women's Forum in Information Security. There's nothing quite like the buzz you get with a bunch of strong women who are all close buddettes bonding over security and champagne.) Much of what I learn in security I have learned directly from other people, from asking them questions, from their patience, their experiences. RSA helps me recharge my security batteries and my "stoke."
I've talked about surfing before in my blog entries many times. With most sports, you are not mysteriously going to find yourself playing with the pros. That is, you aren't going to wind up in a foursome with Tiger Woods by accident, or find yourself playing touch football with Tom Brady or Jared Zabranski (the quarterback of the Fiesta Bowl-winning Boise State Broncos, Idaho's pride and joy). Surfing is different: I've found myself in the surf lineup on odd occasions with world class surfers like Ken Bradshaw, a big wave surfer, and also Debbie Melville, former three time world champion, whom I beat into a wave once to my great satisfaction. One of the things that does stun me when I go to RSA is the number of terrific, well-known security people I get to work with, who are generous, amazing colleagues. It's like surfing with Ken Bradshaw: In my wildest dreams, when I started working in security, I never imagined these people would be colleagues, much less friends. And I value them not for being "contacts" but for their skill, their generosity, the passion they bring to security, and their integrity. They make me aspire to be more and to do more, and for that I thank them. (John, Marcus, Dan, Howard, Scott, Becky, Joyce, Michael, Bill, David, Ira, Will, Rhonda, Pam, Cheryl and many more than I can name (OK, I really have to add Elad, Amit and Dov), you know who you are, and you rock!)
If you are going to RSA, look for the nice big Oracle banner and give it at least a second look. Definitely a second look. A lot of great people worked really hard to get us here, whether it was the marketing people who put the show together, or the product mavens who acquired, built, integrated, and generally worked themselves into a frenzy in security over some time to make us a security products company and not just a secure products company. It was a long road to get here and I for one am going to savor the moment. Through my eyes, that Oracle banner will look a lot like a silver carriage pulled by four white horses, only this one is not going to turn into a pumpkin at midnight.
"Cindy: Local Gal Makes Real Good."
For more information
On the Boise State Broncos (woo hoo!) incredible victory over Oklahoma:
For more on the RSA 2007 Conference:
For more on keynote speakers at RSA:
For a picture of Ken Bradshaw surfing a truly righteous wave: