Monty Latiolais’ first attempts to get involved with his Oracle user group came up dry. Latiolais is the president of Oracle Development Tools User Group (ODTUG) but recalls a time when his submissions to the user group’s events were rejected and his bid for a committee seat flopped. “The user group meant a lot to me, and I wanted to get more involved,” he says. “But I couldn’t find a way to get over the hurdle.” Now that he’s president, he wants to give enthusiastic ODTUG members a more direct path to leadership. In June 2012 he announced the ODTUG Leadership Program to do just that.
The six-month program will run January through June 2013, culminating at ODTUG’s Kscope13 conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 23–27. It will cover a range of leadership topics including effective communication, mentoring, ethics, goal setting, and accountability. Training will consist of a series of classes and conference calls with the current executive committee. The program is limited to a small group of participants, because each one will be assigned an ODTUG board member as a mentor and will receive a complimentary pass to ODTUG Kscope13 upon graduation.
The program is designed to give ODTUG a new group of trained leaders, and gives participants visibility when it comes to filling committee positions and other leadership opportunities, says Latiolais. “This is a way for members to, in a sense, raise their hands and say, ‘Pick me, pick me!’” he says.
Latiolais has been saying, “Pick me!” since 2008, when he made the decision to pursue speaking and leadership roles in the user group. “I started out as an audience member who put speakers on a pedestal,” Latiolais says. “Later I learned that they are just people who know something about the technology that they want to share. I approached the people I considered rock stars at the time and found that they were very willing to engage me and encouraged me to get involved.”
Thus began Latiolais’ journey to leadership. He was appointed to ODTUG’s conference committee in 2009 and then campaigned unsuccessfully for the ODTUG board of directors. He ran again the following year and succeeded. In 2011 he was elected to the executive committee as vice president. At ODTUG Kscope12 he was elevated to president. “It’s gratifying to have a goal and work your way up and achieve that goal,” says Latiolais. “Professionally it’s done wonders for me in the workplace.”
Latiolais attributes promotions and new leadership positions at work to skills he gained from his ODTUG experience. He wants to give a new crop of leaders the same opportunity. “If ODTUG can better equip a member to become a leader in his or her workplace, that’s real value,” says Latiolais. “The employer benefits because they have someone who is better equipped and more confident. They now have a person with leadership skills, communication skills, ethics training, and mentoring skills.”
Another benefit to employers, says Latiolais, is connections. “My company is gaining visibility in the IT community because of my involvement in ODTUG,” he says.
With 25,000 members worldwide and growing, ODTUG is the model of a successful user group. The group has opened up to new and acquired Oracle technologies, and blends an ethic of service with hard-nosed technical content delivery. “ODTUG’s success thus far has been the result of outstanding leaders,” says Latiolais. He credits former president Mike Riley and former executive director Kathleen McCasland with leaving him a strong community to lead. “The real challenge is to continue what these outstanding leaders have done up to this point,” he says.
Latiolais believes the emphasis on service is a key to the group’s success. “ODTUG is all about giving back,” he says. The ODTUG Leadership Program will be, Latiolais hopes, another way to serve the Oracle community. “We give employers an employee with new skills and confidence,” he says. “For members with a sincere desire to give back to the community, we provide a path from the audience to the podium.”
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Photography by Jakob Owens, Unsplash
Jeff Erickson is director of tech content at Oracle, as well as an avid open water swimmer and student of Zen meditation. Erickson has more than 15 years of experience writing for and about the smart, curious people who keep our digital world humming.