By Bob Rhubart
Don’t be alarmed if you notice a man wandering around Oracle OpenWorld with a piñata under his arm. The piñata’s name is Lumpy, and one assumes that Lumpy is filled with sugary treats, as is often the case with piñatas. The man carrying Lumpy is Oracle Groundbreaker Ambassador and Oracle ACE Director Bjoern Rost, a data and analytics specialist with Pythian. If you’ve seen one of Rost’s presentations at Oracle OpenWorld, Oracle Code, ODTUG Kscope, or any of an astonishing number of other tech conferences around the globe, you know that he is filled not with candy but with an impressive level of expertise and insight on data modeling, performance tuning, high-availability design, and just about anything else that relates to Oracle Database.
The accumulation of that expertise began when Rost was in grade school, when his father brought home a Commodore 64. Rost first used the machine for gaming, but that soon gave way to an interest in writing BASIC. Thanks to a failed floppy drive on the Commodore, “if I wanted to do anything, I had to program it,” says Rost.
As a teenager in the late ’90s, Rost began working with a group of friends to network computers together to play games and organize LAN parties. Groups of 20 players soon grew to groups of 2,000 or more. “That’s when I got into infrastructure and Linux,” Rost says.
Rost applied his skills to build a website on which people attending those LAN gaming parties could chat or post messages in a guest book. That experience led to his first job. “They needed somebody to do Linux, because nobody knew Linux,” Rost explains.
Despite his interest in computers and programming, Rost entered a general engineering program in college, but after a couple of semesters he specialized in electrical engineering and computer engineering. “Much more suited to my interests,” he explains.
For his bachelor’s thesis, Rost built and programmed an inexpensive but effective signal processing device for tracing electrical circuits in aircraft. He built the circuit board and wrote the code for the device’s field programmable gate array.
The Oracle Groundbreaker Ambassador program recognizes modern expert developers who blog; write articles; and present on topics such as containers, microservices, SQL, NoSQL, open source technologies, machine learning, and chatbots. Learn more and follow the Oracle Groundbreaker Ambassadors.
Two decades and several DBA, system administrator, and consultant jobs later, Rost continues to evolve. “I’m kind of moving from being an Oracle Database specialist to more of a generalist in building data platforms,” he says. His work with Pythian is focused on Oracle Database, “but I’m also moving on to do cloud-native data platforms, which means working with cloud-native data warehouses, building data pipelines, interfacing with many different source data systems, transforming them, and doing all of that in as serverless a way as possible.”
As the IT ecosystem evolves, so do Rost’s interests. “I find it hard to do something that I’m not passionate about, and I’ve been passionate about Oracle Database for a long time,” he explains. “What I find fascinating now is real-time streaming analytics—things like Kafka, KSQL, Spark Streaming, and Apache Beam. You have huge volumes of data coming, and you want to make sense of them as fast as possible.”
As his expertise grows within the ever-expanding IT universe, Rost offers this career advice: “If you want to have a job in IT, I think it’s important to have product knowledge. It’s hard to get hired if you say, ‘I know a lot about relational databases.’ That might be true, and you might have studied relational databases, and you might have studied a lot of theory, and you might even know SQL.” That knowledge and experience has great value, Rost says, but knowledge and experience with specific products is key.
“For getting a job it is still important to know products,” Rost explains. “Get exposure to them, and do as many internships and co-op things and projects as you can, because that’s really valuable, real-life, real-world experience.” But you’ll have to get your own piñata.
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Photography by Jorge Camarotti/Studio at Getty Images for Oracle