My name is Gwen Shapira. I currently live and work in Cupertino, California, as a DBA for the Software as a Service division of a very large technology company. (Actually, I used to be Chen, but then no one can pronounce or remember my name and introductions took 15 minutes. So now I’m Gwen, but you are still welcome to call me Chen).

As a DBA, I’m responsible for several large production Oracle RAC servers for various customers, running for a number of different applications. In addition, I’m also responsible for many many test, staging and development databases, a surprising number of internal tools and utilities, and few random servers that look somewhat like a database that somehow found their way into my job description (openLDAP and MySQL are the most annoying of these). As a result, I always have a story to tell, a lesson to share and a rant to vent. Which is why I post fairly often.

I started my career by studying for BSc in Computer Science and Statistics at the Tel Aviv University. To pay for my studies I found a job as a web developer for a major software company. I worked as full time developer throughout my degree and dreamed of the day I’d graduate and work as a low level developer.

I wanted to write kernel drivers and network algorithms not web applications. By the time I graduated, the bubble has burst and finding any development work was difficult. Experienced kernel developers could always find work, but I was not experienced.

My problem was resolved easily – I was offered a promotion to lead a web development team. While I never thought about a future in management, this was an offer I could not refuse. I think I did a good job as a team lead, but I missed working with technology.

My manager mentioned that our senior DBA would be leaving soon, and I persuaded him to give me the DBA position and support me in this career change. Databases looked technical and exciting and I knew that good DBAs were always in demand.

Lots of friends told me that I’ll hate being a DBA. That it is a dull and repetitive job with no place for creativity. I’m glad to say they were wrong. I’m a DBA and I love it.

When I don’t work I enjoy cycling, mountain biking, hiking, singing, reading and visiting all the beautiful places in California (There are so many of those!).


43 Comments on “About”

  1. Hello Chen

    Laurent give me your link.
    Your blog ist verry verry good.
    I like the design, super.


  2. prodlife says:

    Welcome Bernard, and thank you for your kind words.

  3. Jay says:

    Hey Chen,

    I’m Jay and I’m a DBA too. I came across your website as I was browsing for a specific topic on Oracle and SQL Server. I’m actually preparing for an interview.. thats tommorow and I’m quite tensed. I like your site and I will come back to read more. I’d be glad if you could write back.


  4. prodlife says:


    Thank you very much and good luck in your interview.

  5. Tal Olier says:

    Hi Chen,
    My name is Tal Olier and I am also working for a “very large technology company” as a database expert.

    I bumped into your blog and like very much what and how you write.

    Going to track it…

    Good luck,


  6. prodlife says:

    Hi Tal!
    Thank you πŸ™‚ I’m very glad to see you bumped into my blog.

  7. Leonardo says:

    I like a lot your blog, I am from Mexico, you are right when your say “good DBAs were always in demand” I want to get an OCA I love oracle, I will follow your advices.
    You web page is nice.

  8. Hi Chen,

    Nice Blog. I don’t know much about the DBA but have quite a good idea about Oracle. Ok leave it. Nice job dear. Keep the posting going on. Great Work.

    Perry Williams

  9. prodlife says:

    Thanks, Perry!

  10. Yehuda says:

    Hi Chen
    my name is yehuda finkelshtein
    i am also working as DBA at Cupertino for a samll startup technology company.

    your blog is very nice and for sure i will continue tracing it.

    Good luck,


  11. prodlife says:

    Hi Yehuda,

    Thanks for your kind comments. If you read this blog closely, you may find yourself mentioned in few posts πŸ™‚

  12. vienna says:

    hi chen,
    How are you!
    I visit your website by accident.Your websit is good,just keep on doing.
    I am Chinese but I live in Sydney now,I am holding oralce 10g ocp and I like oracle administration very much. I am an ORACLE DBA in China but now seeking the job in Sydney.
    We have the same name as chen.And I think maybe you are from Chinese.
    Glad to know you
    vienna chen

  13. Yossi Galazan says:

    Hi Chen
    Just now saw it πŸ™‚ great blog

  14. Dominica Leung says:

    Hi Chen,

    I like your blog’s title:
    “simple DBA with complex production system”.
    I am an oracle dba too (in bay area).
    I kind of feel the same thing for myself,
    “I am also a simple DBA for a complex production system”.
    My friends says the same thing to me before,
    saying: “DBA work is repetitive and boring and no creativity”,
    that is not true. I agree with your comment, dba work
    could be creative if we want to.
    I actually enjoy my work a lot.



  15. Ludovico says:

    Full ack, Dominica! I enjoy my work too…

    What’s better than solving a netapp lock after a crash at 2.00 AM?

  16. Randy Samberg says:

    Hello Chen,

    I love your blog. I like the fact that you advertised the NoCOUG conference on it. Great job!

  17. vaisakh says:


    its very nice

    i am also seeking a career in dbaa

    so ur thhoughts helpss

  18. Samee says:


    I just saw your blog and realized we took the oracle linux class together a year ago in California.

    I was sitting next to you. I am in Austin, Texas.

    Good to see you.

  19. ittichai says:


    I really like the way you look at your professional and personal life. Really enjoy your writings. Please keep up a good work.


  20. Hi Chen,

    Nice blog πŸ™‚
    It was a pleasure meeting you at OpenWorld this past year. Hope to see you again and keep up the exciting DBA posts.


  21. Dominica says:

    Hi Chen,

    I really like your BLOG, interesting stuff. Thanks for putting it up.
    Do you go to the NoCoug in bay area, CA? I wonder whether I might run into you? I go to NoCoug once a while.


    • prodlife says:

      Hey Dominica,

      I volunteer for NoCoug, so I go every single time. I even give presentations once in a while.

      I hope to run into you in our spring conference – May 21 πŸ™‚

  22. Dominica says:

    Hi Chen,

    Cool, I should look for you then. My co-worker Dave Abercrombie is going to do a presentation in May,21, 2009, spring conference. .(NoCoug)


  23. Sandeep says:

    Hi Chen,
    Really awesome blog! I was wondering if there are links for your archives or month wise entries? I can only see the articles under your “top posts” but no month wise posts.

  24. Ashish S says:

    Hi Chen,

    I found your blog while searching some oracle forum. its really interesting. I am similar to your way. I have completed studies & also completed the Database Administration course from India. Now a days there is I am not getting any good opening for the DBA. Now a days i am too frustrated here but still I am updating myself. Please guide me to build a carrier in Database Administration.



  25. Sandeep says:

    Hi Chen your blog is very nice and informative.
    I want to ask a qustion:
    I am a Grduate in computer science & engg. but i don’t have any experiene in the IT industry. My question is that if i prepare for the OCA exam could i sucessfully pass it and after passing would i get an entry level job?
    In short my question is if oca alone is acceptable for some job to an inexperienced person?
    Thanks again

    • prodlife says:

      Normally, I’d say it should be enough for entry-level DBA or developer. The degree and certification should get you past HR and if you can demonstrate understanding of the database and problem solving skills in an interview, you should be gold.

      However, now are not normal times. There are many experienced DBAs that are out of work, so you may be facing some unfair competition for entry level positions. Keep in mind that these are difficult times, and do not get discouraged if you have trouble finding a good job. Everyone has trouble these days 😦

      • Ashish says:


        Thank you very much. If you have any good contact here in India with relevant field please let me know.



  26. Sandeep Sethi says:

    Hi chen
    Thanks again or your reply. Is it really that there are many experienced DBAs that are out of work. I’ve heard that DBA is one of the safest job in IT sector

    • prodlife says:

      At least in the US, the IT sector was hit pretty hard with budget cuts. So while DBA is a very safe position, I still think there are less jobs available now than we had a year ago. On the other hand, maybe budget cuts are good news for you, since companies may prefer to hire someone with less experience and help him grow, rather than pay a lot for an expert DBA.

  27. Ido says:

    Hi Chen,
    Great blog. you’ve got a new RSS subscriber πŸ™‚

  28. Fahd Mirza says:

    Hi Chen,
    I simply adore your blog title.

    best regards


  29. Vishal says:

    Hey Chen,

    Came across your blog while feed-reading! Nice blog and nice to know about your career change story. Keep posted and have good time!

  30. DINESH says:

    hi chen this is dinesh i am final year engineering student from india and to be frank i do know any thing about DBA :-):-) can you tell what can a DBA will do and is it good to study a course on it . how can i get more knowledge in this profession:-) is this profession has good opening abroad:-).

  31. Brian Wong says:

    Dear Gwen:

    Your blog’s got a lot of info. Hope you can link to my blog!


    Brian Wong

  32. Arjun says:

    Hi Chen….I love reading your blog….it has refreshed me a lot on understanding the technology….wish you a Happy New Year…!!!

  33. Hi Gwen,

    A very helpful piece on Oracle Streams – I’m an Oracle DBA too, but I’ve been using Quest’s shareplex tool recently and there’s a lot more in Oracle’s Streams Replication since I last used it (in 8i before the name changed). My Stuff’s on http://www.mackellar.net/

    Thanks, Colin MacKellar

  34. ciscorout says:

    Dear Chen,
    This is a great beautiful blog. I really love you.


  35. […] impression from the game night: Karl Arao from Enkitec tuning a pile of wood blocks, overlooked by Gwen Shapira from Pythian and Mark Farnham. There was a big number of dutch people at this year’s Hotsos […]

  36. Sanath says:

    Hi Gwen,

    My name is Sanath. I am working as an Oracle DBA with 5+ years of experience.

    I was looking for advice from experts who are working as Hadoop DBAs with Oracle DBA as previous experience and came across your blog while researching on this.

    It would be very helpful if you could enlighten me on few of my queries regarding Hadoop DBA.

    * I would like to know how open the IT industry is in accepting professionals with Oracle DBA background who would like to switch or add Hadoop administration to their profile.

    * What is the expected path of learning for interested people? Whether we have to start as a beginner again?

    * From the research I have done so far, I understand that one of the requirements is to know Java. What specific concepts in Java needs more focus to start with for a Hadoop DBA and any other skill sets are required in addition to that?

    Could you please provide an insight on this and any additional information which would help me to get better clarity into this?

    With Best Regards,

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