Most Important Thing I’ve Learned at OOW09

It is only Tuesday morning, OOW is not even half-way through. But there is something I’ve learned on Monday morning, and it left such a huge impression, that I know right now that nothing else that will happen until Thursday can top this.

Jonathan Lewis gave a presentation on “How to be an Expert” in the Unconference. Later I went on to discuss the issue of expertise with him, especially how much work it takes to become an expert. He told me that this morning (Meaning Monday morning) he was preparing a demo for a presentation, and after testing it on 9i, 10g and 11g, he noticed something strange in the way 10g behaved. He then went on to spend the next hour figuring out the strange behavior he saw. Even though it was not part of the presentation and not one was really expecting him to solve this problem.

This story was like a lightbulb going off in my head.

Because I wish I was sure that I would do just what he did. I am geek enough that there is a possibility I would do it. But there is also a voice in my head that tells me things like “Why are you wasting time just playing with this? Its not like solving this problem is going to be useful in any way. You have more important things to do, stop playing!” (Yes, I’m hearing voices. Don’t you?)

And the problem is that very often that internal manager is correct. There are more important things to do. Always. Stop playing with that interesting issue with the TCP/IP stack, reboot that machine already and solve the next SR, it is urgent and has to get done by lunch. Jonathan repeated that several times in his presentation – DBAs are under a lot of pressure not to be experts.

But I also believe that much of life is a story we tell ourselves. Its invented. Not only the relative importance of understanding the system and solving SRs fasters is an invention, also the importance of having our manager approve of the speed in which we solve SRs is something we decide on.

I can invent a story in which I am an Oracle expert. And as an Oracle expert I take time to understand how things behave and why they behave the way they do. Because this is how experts work.

Of course experts also take into account the wishes and desires of the people who pay them, but it cannot replace the importance of really understanding things. Because in the long term, people do pay you to be an expert and understand what is Oracle really doing.

I really hope this post can be as much of an epiphany to others as Jonathan Lewis‘s presentation was to me. Invent yourself as an expert. Take time to learn, research, think, play and understand.

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7 Comments on “Most Important Thing I’ve Learned at OOW09”

  1. Claudia says:

    Amen, Chen. Your way of putting it is also an epiphany.

    As Lewis was finishing up, I was sorry that his talk wasn’t a couple of hours longer.

  2. Fuad Arshad says:

    Excellent post . Yes we all get into interesting situations but all situations are not important
    to
    the business and it’s what is important tonthe business tha sometimes matters most

    • …but dont ‘becoming a expert’ to easily, due to the fact that there is a very thin line between ‘passion’ and ‘firefighting’. Robin Sands had a good presentation on this ‘firefighting’ effect. Maybe that is the ‘expert’ part, to know when you should switch into the ‘passion’ mode, so you will actually be able to solve issues and will be most effective…

      • prodlife says:

        Thanks Marco – my thoughts exactly.

        You have to actively make being an expert a priority. Knowing that it is your priority – your boss and wife will have different priorities and you will have to resolve conflicts.

        If it is not your priority to become an expert and you do just what business expects from you, you will not be an expert.

        Its about making the choice even when there is a cost.

  3. […] Filed under: Uncategorized — Jonathan Lewis @ 7:30 pm UTC Oct 18,2009 Chen Shapira wrote a very nice note about the unconference (and Oracle Closed World) presentation that I did at Oracle Open World this […]

  4. Carol D says:

    Very good point, Chen! It is our choice to understand and become “experts”! We will all need to remind ourselves that it is important! Great blog post!

  5. Ido says:

    excellent post indeed!


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