By Blair Campbell
Job title: Senior technical principal, solution architect
Oracle credentials: Oracle Certified Professional (Oracle Database 11g, Oracle RAC 11g)
Length of time using Oracle products: 19 years
Which new features in Oracle Database are you currently finding most valuable? I like features related to high availability, monitoring, and stability of the environments. These include the Oracle standby database solution, with or without Oracle Data Guard, the Active Session History and Automatic Workload Repository features of Oracle Enterprise Manager 12c, and the SQL Plan Baselines feature of Oracle Database.
What advice do you have about getting into software architecture? Learn from existing source code instead of books. Reading and understanding well-designed code allows people to put particular patterns in their minds, and it also shows how important it is to have clean and commented code. At the end of the day, we developers spend most of our time debugging code rather than writing it, so becoming skilled at reading code is very useful.
What’s your favorite thing to do that doesn’t involve work? As a computer geek, I have trouble saying when I stop working and when I start my hobby. When I want a break from technology, I read books or listen to music. I’m also a sports fan and like to watch volleyball and Formula One.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Job title: Principal
Length of time using Oracle products: 34 years
How did you get started in IT? I was fortunate enough to get an IT degree in college and then started my career as an operator/developer working first on IBM mainframes and then on Prime Computer’s PRIMOS in the early ’80s. I first worked with Oracle on a Prime EXL316 server running Primix OS around 1986. My boss and the IT director at the time chose Oracle as the database of choice to replace Henco Software’s Info database and tools, and it was love at first byte.
Looking back on your career, what early lessons you learned are still relevant today? One of the first applications I developed using Oracle was an “electronic time sheet.” We did weeks of testing and user acceptance, but it was confined to a small group of people. We wrote the application based on table-level locks, and when we rolled it out organization-wide, it didn’t work. Many users were trying to update their time sheets at the same time, causing locks, delays in transactions, and incomplete time sheets. Around that time, Oracle released block-level, and eventually row-level, locking—which we applied immediately—and it saved the rollout of the application. For a young developer with a lot to learn, the lesson was around testing every application in a multiuser environment.
Which new features in an Oracle application are you currently finding most valuable? The new Alta user interface in Oracle E-Business Suite 12.2.8 is a welcome change. Its use of themes is helpful to distinguish Oracle E-Business Suite instances. I’ve also noticed improvements in Oracle Application Framework personalizations, mobile applications, and many other UI improvements throughout Release 12.2.8.
Job title: Oracle project engineer
Oracle credentials: Oracle Certified Expert (Oracle Database 12c)
Length of time using Oracle products: 22 years
What’s your favorite tool or technique on the job? My favorite tool is always the one that solves the problem. My technique is to focus on the problem that needs solving and prepare thoroughly to make sure the chosen approach will accomplish that. Usually we have a variety of components and tools involved, and being able to repeat what we think will work and document it well is often overlooked in favor of reaching deadlines.
What’s the most common cause you see when IT projects go wrong? Usually it’s underestimating the complexity of the systems that leads to overly optimistic planning, combined with teams that are not experienced enough with the particular technologies involved. These projects get bogged down by problems and delays, creating a vicious circle that can be hard to identify and fix from the inside.
What’s the next big thing driving change in your industry? Today it’s artificial intelligence, just as it was the cloud some years ago. AI is already driving change, taking over so much that once required manual and repetitive interactions. It’s just a matter of time before we see it also taking over more-complex tasks, as the algorithms and the technology itself improve. It sounds a bit scary initially, but it also opens the door to so many new things. Complex technologies will be cheaper and more accessible—as we are seeing now with image recognition on mobile phones—and the possibility to apply it to every industry will lead to better products and more-efficient processes.