In the Field

Education Insurance

Stay current, and stay employed: five easy ways for technologists to update their skill sets.

By Mike Riley ACE

September/October 2011

Although some technologists feel that the best way to take care of business is to keep their heads down and their noses to the grindstone, they are likely not doing themselves any favors with this attitude. With the rate of change in technology and tools, technologists would be wise to enhance their skill sets.

Over the past few years, the annual Oracle Development Tools User Group (ODTUG) tools survey has shown a shift in technology away from some traditional development tools. For example, although core SQL and PL/SQL technologies still play a huge part in a majority of development shops today, tools such as Oracle Forms, Oracle Reports, and Oracle Designer are not as in demand as they once were. So technologists who choose to keep their heads down and focus on tools that are playing a diminishing role in an organization rather than learn new technologies may be limiting their value to their current employer, and may also limit their marketability to other potential employers.

One way to enhance your current technology skill set is to attend your local community college or university. Education in this structured environment allows you to learn about the latest in Oracle technology—without traveling far from home. Additionally, you can benefit from the camaraderie and networking of learning with other like-minded individuals.

Another way to learn about current technology is available to you right now from your desktop: Oracle allows you to download its software for use in a development environment. And supporting resources available on Oracle Technology Network include Oracle By Example tutorials, sample code, demos, and much more. In fact, one of the most powerful tools available is Oracle VM VirtualBox. This virtual machine environment allows you to load and run several prebuilt developer appliances, including Java Development VM, Database App Development VM, SOA & BPM Development VM, Oracle WebLogic Server Hands-on VM, Oracle WebCenter Portal Framework 11g Hands-on VM, Enterprise PHP Development VM, and several Oracle Solaris VMs. Running Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium and want to try your hand at one of these environments? Just download the Oracle VM VirtualBox software, download a prebuilt appliance, and away you go.

Not satisfied with these options? Consider attending one of the many courses that Oracle University offers. These courses are available in many countries and come in several flavors. Instructor-led training lets you choose the topic and the location and then attend and learn with many other students. Live virtual classes save you travel and accommodation costs. Self-study CD-ROMs provide an even more economical learning option. Private events (available upon request) are advantageous for companies looking to educate several employees at the same time. For more information on the various options that Oracle University offers, visit

Another way to continue your education is through self-study. Several great Oracle technology books have come out recently, including Achieving Extreme Performance with Oracle Exadata (Oracle Press, 2011), Look Smarter Than You Are with Hyperion Planning: An Administrator’s Guide (, 2010), and Expert Oracle Application Express (Apress, 2011).

However, the technology education option that I feel gives you the most for your money is attending a user group event. Although I am partial to ODTUG ( and Kscope (, there are certainly numerous events out there for you to choose from. From local user group meetings to regional, national, and international events, you have many choices. For events like Kscope, you have the opportunity to spend several days learning from the best of the best—the independent technologists who are often the speakers at these events. With several tracks, each covering a different subject area, you can choose the topics that interest you. In addition, the networking opportunities allow you to build relationships that can further enhance your value as an employee.

For technologists, education choices are many. The only wrong choice you can make, in my opinion, is to ignore the value that continuing your education and expanding your skill set can bring to your career. In this day and age, a little extra education insurance can keep you happily employed.

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