Leadership Insights from Women at Oracle

Funny How Things Work Out

Laura Ramsey
Manager, Oracle Database Developer Communities

I love stories about how people "find their way" into the High Tech industry. Many plan for it, with a dedication to STEM topics and degrees in computer science. And others find their way through natural aptitude and good timing.

One example is Debra Lilley, VP Certus Cloud Services, and Oracle ACE Director.  She has impressive credentials, having worked with Oracle Applications and technology since 1996. Debra is a director and past president of UKOUG and led the Product Development Committee of the IOUC (aka: the user group team working with Oracle during the development of Fusion Applications.)  Debra has presented at over 200 events about Oracle Applications and the Technology they are built on. She is one of only a handful of ACE Directors dedicated to Applications, and one of the first outside the US focusing on Cloud Applications.

At a recent Women in Technology Panel at Oracle OpenWorld, Debra shared this story about how she found her way into the High Tech industry.  You can find the entire story on Debra's blog.

How I got into IT is quite funny, and I start by apologising to all those of you who studied hard, took exams and earned a computing degree; I got there by accident. 

This was in the late 70's and jobs were not as difficult to find. I actually got 3 job offers and selected my first employer by throwing a dart. Crown Agents was a quasi government department based in London at No 4 Millbank, and I started work in the procurement department but soon moved to the International Banking department which I loved. Small deviation from the story but I had to send a lot of legal information by telex and the telex operator worked as a manager for a band, went to see them a few times and liked them, he left soon after and the band Squeeze made the big time. 
A few years later, I was successful in my Civil Service Exams and was offered promotion, however Crown Agents had changed their status by then and I could not have promotion and stay so I decided to move. Then you were given the opportunity to give preferences and I selected Ministry of Defence, London and Accounts. They sent me to Admiralty Buildings in Whitehall London for an interview and I really thought I was getting what I wanted. But it was 1981 and computers were just hitting mainstream and there was a real shortage of programmers (the old name for developers), and what I had really been sent for was a computer aptitude test.
I was asked to draw a flow chart for making a cup of tea, and I can't remember what I actually included but I did OK, apparently the more boxes the more analytical your mind. I have had a quick go in this picture but got fed up very quickly. I was offered a job as a trainee Cobol developer with the Ministry of Agriculture in Guildford which is a fair way out from London and at first was not impressed. I found the work OK but you worked in very defined silos and I never saw the final product. We used a methodology called Michael Jackson - I am not kidding, but programs worked first or second time, you only had one chance a day to make a change and that involved punching a card to change a line of code.
I am not actually as old as this makes me sound, remember I was only 19 and the government was quite far behind. In fact one of my jobs read data in from paper tape, it came from Nimrod Aircraft collecting data on fishing activity after what was then known as the Icelandic Cod Wars.
Check out Debra's blog for more of her insights and experience in the Oracle technology arena... especially this post about The Bloodhound Project, a truly inspirational initiative to inspire a generation in STEM.
Ciao for Now!

Be the first to comment

Comments ( 0 )
Please enter your name.Please provide a valid email address.Please enter a comment.CAPTCHA challenge response provided was incorrect. Please try again.