UK Oracle User Group

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Martin Widlake

Martin Widlake

Job title & company: Managing Director of ORA600 Limited

What have been the highs and lows of your business / IT / Oracle / Career?

I have been working with Oracle technology for 25 years, mostly as an independent consultant where I help a client for anything from a few days to over a year. As a result I’ve seen how Oracle is used across many companies, from FTSE 100 organisations & banks using huge Oracle Enterprise Edition on RAC to small companies of under 10 people using Oracle SE.

However, my career highlight was my time as database services manager with the UK side of the international Human Genome Project. Using Oracle to support ground-breaking scientific work, which continues to produce medical advances at an ever-increasing rate, was deeply satisfying. This work included creating huge database 10’s to 100’s of terabytes in size, at a time when a 1TB database was regarded as a challenge. Achieving this involved working closely with Oracle Corporation, often at a senior level, as well as HP and IBM. On behalf of my team, Oracle Magazine named me as Oracle Beta Tester of the year 2003, for the work we did with Oracle 10g.

Over the years I became an expert in VLDBs and database performance, which allowed me to start presenting on these topics. Sharing knowledge with the community is the part of my career I have enjoyed the most. I have been recognised for this by Oracle who first made me an Oracle ACE and, since 2015, an ACE Director. I was also recognised by my peers when I was invited to becoming a member of the OakTable network in 2010.

Achievements are great. But I believe our lows, our disasters, are just as significant in learning. I’ve made many mistakes and been caught out when things go wrong. Very early in my career an operating system bug led to me deleting every patient record in a regional hospital system. That situation helped me understand how to handle a crisis - and how important disaster recovery is. Because I had persuaded the client to do the right thing before we started, everything I destroyed we managed to get back.

What have you already achieved/ contributed to within the Oracle community?

In 2003 I started giving back to the Oracle community that had taught me so much.

  • I began presenting at UKOUG SIGs and the annual conference. This led on to presenting at Oracle Open World, their VLDB meetings and helping to run, as well as present at, Oracle’s Life Sciences Customer Advisory Board. I ‘ve presented at 13 of the last 15 UKOUG conferences.
  • My presenting has continued to increase and I now present at 12 to 15 conferences or meetings a year across Europe (and occasionally further afield), ranging from UKOUG SIGS and smaller user groups around the UK (such as Oracle Midlands, Yorkshire Database) to the annual conferences of Germany, Ireland, Norway, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Poland.. . Not all of these presentations are technical, I have presented on management topics, handling disasters and presenting itself.
  • As well as presenting I help organise events and contribute to the running of UKOUG. In 2008 I became deputy chair then chair of the Management & Infrastructure SIG. I am currently deputy Chair of the RAC CIA SIG. I have been a volunteer at the annual UKOOUG Tech conference for over a decade, chairing sessions and helping select the agenda. In 2014 & 15 I was the Database Stream lead for the conference and the overall conference lead for Tech16.
  • I have contributed several articles to UKOUG’s Oracle Scene and over the last 3 years I have helped create the magazine, first as an article reviewer and deputy editor and, currently, as editor.
  • I write a blog that is part technical and part “philosophy of working in I.T”. In 2016 I co-authored an Oracle Press book, “Real World SQL and PL/SQL”.

What skills and strengths do you feel you would bring to UKOUG?

I am passionate about user groups, as can be seen from my long and expanding involvement in the UKOUG, plus my experiences with other parts of the Oracle community. I already understand much about UKOUG and how it works, and I have experience of working with Oracle, both as an Oracle customer and also part of the community (Oracle ACE program, Customer Advisory Boards).

With 25 years’ experience , both as an employee and as a consultant visiting many clients, I have a considerable depth of knowledge about Oracle and how it is used across a range of businesses, both large and small. I am not just a technician however, I have managed, grown and developed teams and worked with Oracle (and other companies) on understanding how changes in technology and service provision impact the end user.

Although my work focus has been on the technical side, my involvement with user groups and the Oracle ACE program has made me more aware of the Oracle Applications world and the challenges facing the Apps community.

What improvement would you make to UKOUG?

The Oracle environment is changing with the impact of the cloud, provision of remote services and, for some of our membership, a shift of in-house systems to relationships with providers. I think it is important to continue the work others have started to evolve the user group to support our members dealing with these changes. New technologies such as chat-bots and AI are also going to alter the Oracle landscape and part of our focus need.

However, we need to also represent those members who are not impacted by these changes, at least yet. A lot of companies have legacy systems or business requirements unsuited to cloud. I feel these Oracle customers are at risk of feeling forgotten by Oracle in its focus on cloud. UKOUG needs to be there to give these customer a voice.

UKOUG is one of the largest user groups in the world and, as a result, it can sometimes lose the more personal connection with its members, volunteers and partners. Over the years I have seen how this has changed and I would like to try and encourage a stronger community feel. The more we all (end users, partners, Oracle) feel we are working together, the more benefit we gain from the community.

Please provide a manifesto of no more than 300 words describing why you would be suited to the role(s) selected:

The main functions of the President are to be the ambassador for the UKOUG to other organisations, to work with the 2 Member Advocates to represent our membership, and to ensure the correct governance of the UKOUG.

I have been an active member of the UKOUG community for 15 years, dedicating considerable time and effort to a community I believe in. Over that time my involvement has expanded and it feels natural to take the final step , becoming a member of the board. I want to ensure that our UKOUG continues to work for all members, even as the work environment changes for many.
I feel I have the experience and passion to be a strong ambassador for UKOUG. I have seen for myself how we can learn from other user groups and how we can work together. Through my presenting, membership of the Oracle ACE program, and working with Oracle over many years, I feel I can talk with Oracle about what the users of their technology want.

As President Elect I would work with Paul Fitton, the current president, to fully understand the duties and responsibilities of the president – before then taking on that role and representing an organisation I have been active in and supported for so long.