UK Oracle User Group

Sarah Cleaver

Sarah Cleaver

Sarah is a Production Oracle Database Administrator installing and supporting Oracle on Unix and Windows within the banking industry. Sarah has been engaged with UKOUG since the late 90s

Why did you first engage with the user group?

When I first became a DBA, the company I joined were already a member of the UKOUG.  It took me a while to pluck up the courage to go, I was worried everyone would know so much more than me and I would stand out like an idiot.  I’m so glad I took the leap of confidence; it was full of people keen to learn and share, just like me.  Some new, some long in the tooth, nobody stood out.  I first attended UKOUG Solaris SIGs (Special Interest Group Meetings) and AIX SIGs in the early 2000s. It was after attending a few of these focused events that I realised how great the user community was and the support it offers is.
Before engaging with UKOUG I had felt like the only person in the world doing what I was doing, having to speak to a meetings room full of people and get their buy-in to my proposals for upgrades or new systems needed.  However as soon as I attended a UKOUG conference, I was placed into a room full of people who were going through the same experiences I was:  upgrades, implementations and those long dark nights of live support.  I got a wealth of understanding through peer to peer support, by listening to user presentations and networking over a coffee.

What value did you find through UKOUG?

When I fell into the IT world 15 years ago, as an Oracle DBA, my organisation sent me to lots of training courses where I learnt lots of practical solutions and received hands-on experience during Oracle labs. This was good but I felt something was lacking. When attending user group events I was able to see real examples of how things were being implemented, without any sugar coated answers. I could hear lessons learned and what to and to not do, what to avoid, what would help when I came across a particular issue.
Through user presentations showing the practice implementations and what made a difference for their company (sometimes where they have spent a very long time working on a solution and are then happy to share it with you), all UKOUG members can learn from each other and the sense of community and support for my day to day work is unparalleled.  This is the kind of training you cannot get anywhere else, but through UKOUG!

What about UKOUG membership has surprised you?

Building a friendship network, through attending events and getting to know the other UKOUG members.  Now I find that when I come across a problem I can’t solve I can tweet one of the contacts made during the user group meetings, and they respond because they remember me.
Also after events I often download the presentations and refer to these and go back to them at later dates as a source of information, this is a great added value to UKOUG membership.

Is there a specific example where engaging with UKOUG has had a direct beneficial result for you and your company?

Recently at UK Oracle User Group Conference 2012 I went to a presentation on the Tuesday morning by Christo Kutrovsky called ‘The Answer to Free Memory, Swap, Oracle and Everything’, it talked about Linux Hugepages, how to track Linux memory usage and about implementing changes. This session gave me the confidence to stand up in front of the change committee at work and show why we should make the changes and my understanding of what value it could add to our organisation.
Another personal example would be that, when starting a new role the Management brought up Golden Gate, and having been to a UKOUG SIG session where Golden Gate was explored, I was able to understand exactly what they were talking about and speak confidently about my own understanding. From a personal perspective this kind of confidence comes from having a good knowledge of multiple system options and how other DBA’s from other companies are putting them into action, as a direct result of attending UKOUG events. It means I can talk to contractors on their level and the people I work with and add value to conversations utilising the breadth of knowledge I have gained through continuing my professional development through UKOUG.

What are the top three reasons you would recommend membership to another Oracle user?

Only three, ok here goes:
1.    Confidence – through the supportive UKOUG community and deep practice knowledge gained.
2.    Motivational – reminds you of your passion for the job (meeting with your peers and talking over a coffee) and attending events give you actions to take back to the office.
3.    Real life experiences – Building blocks on the training, adding value

Any final comments?

Companies ought to invest and allow staff to spend day out of the office every three months to attend an OUG event. The benefit for the individual and for the company can be clearly demonstrated and OUG events are the only place in the UK where you can receive support from other users in an independent setting.