I Can Has Training Budget

We know how it goes – there is a recession, and companies try to reduce expanses. The next thing you know, your training budget is all gone. Or maybe there is some training budget left, but now 6 DBAs share a sum that is not enough for one Oracle University course. How do you convince your managers that paying for your training is the best investment they can make?

Start by convincing yourself. Remember that your manager probably got to his position because he is good at reading people, so if you don’t really want the training, or don’t really believe you need this training, he may see that and you lost. You have to be 100% sure that you want this training because it will really allow you to improve the way you work.

As an example, lets assume you want to go to Linux Administration course. Its an interesting case, because it is not even evident that a DBA should go to such course.

Then think about your boss for a bit – what parts of the job are most important to him? what are his pet projects? pet peeves.

Once you have your desire for the course and your bosses desires in mind, make a list of all the benefits you can see from going to the course. The important thing is to highlight how the things you want to learn will help with the projects that are most important to your boss, or will address his specific pain points.

So, if your boss loves automation say: “I will learn more shell linux tools so I’ll be able to write better automation scripts”.
If he is a capacity planning person, say: “I will be able to better monitor the OS so we can be more proactive about provisioning”.
If he is a big fan of RAC, say: “With my improved Linux knowledge, I’ll be able to understand low-leve clusterware issues and solve them faster!”

Now you need to decide if you make your pitch face to face or by email. I prefer email. Information I put in the email:
* Course title and instructor (or school name)
* Dates/Times
* Location
* Price
* The list of 3-5 reasons I need this course (as you prepared in the previous paragraph).

Until he makes his decision, keep mentioned once or twice a day how the things you do now will be much better after you take the course: “I still don’t understand how to debug coredumps after the process crashes, but the Linux course may help”, “It takes me 2 hours to copy old files to the second disk, but I’ll probably learn how to do it faster in the Linux course”. Don’t force it, but keep an eye open for opportunities to explain and demonstrate the value you see in the course.

And a questionable tactics that sometimes works: Get an ultra-expensive course rejected before asking for a reasonably-priced course. “I can totally understand you don’t have the budget to send me to Collaborate in Denver, but what about one day training given by our local usergroup at a near-by location?”. I’m not sure if this tactic works because the manager feels guilty about rejecting my request, or if the lower-price seminar just looks better in comparison. I’m not even sure if I recommend it, really. Consider and act at your own risk 😉


I Love NoCoug Training Days

Sometimes, life kind of loops on itself. A circle closes. You find yourself at the same spot you were two years ago, but from a completely different viewpoint.

Flashback two years and few month back: I’ve recently relocated to the US. I’m somewhat of an Oracle newbie, but I know that there are all kinds of cool DBA stuff going on, and I desperately want to be part of it. My colleagues tell me that HotSoS seminars are the best, so I asked my boss to send me to one. The request was left hanging in the air for weeks, just to be rejected. Because it was far away and I had to fly there and it was just too expensive. I was in tears.

And then I got this email from the local user group – NoCoug. They said they are doing a training day with Kyle Hailey. Kyle Hailey of Oak-Table fame was my hero at the time. I just finished reading Oracle Insights, and I was deeply impressed by his story of the program that could connect to the SGA directly through shared memory. I was all “Wow! Kyle Hailey! Only an hour drive away! And it costs just 250$! My boss will have to approve it! Hell, I’ll even pay for it myself!”.

And my boss did approve it. I went to the training day, and it was amazing. I learned more at that day than at the week long classes I took when I learned to be a DBA. What I learned then is still useful to me, almost every day on the job.

Obviously, I was deeply thankful to NoCoug for making it possible for me to attend this amazing event for a price my boss agreed to pay.

Back to present day: I am the training day coordinator for NoCoug. I want to create the same experience for every other DBA in our region. Top-notch training event at a price that won’t make your boss blink.

Everyone who knows me will laugh at the idea of me coordinating a training day. I usually can’t coordinate my own breakfast. But this is so important to me – every DBA should be able to be better at his job by learning from the best experts.

I also knew just who should lead my first training event – Tanel Poder is one of the best experts I know (Probably at the top 3 of my personal ranking), his blog and scripts and systematic troubleshooting ideas completely changed the way DBAs work. In a very good way.

And he agreed to give his famous “Advanced Oracle Troubleshooting” at North California, and we agreed on dates and prices, and I found a location. The impossible happened and I almost coordinated a training day.

Now I just need people to register so the event can really happen. I desperately want everyone to know about this event. I know it can improve the way people work so much its really a shame if someone will miss the opportunity. So even though I’m just a simple DBA and not a marketing expert, I’m going to do my best and annoy the hell out of everyone just to make sure that every single DBA in North California will know about this event. I even put a small funny looking ad in my blog.

If you can help me here by spreading the word to your NorCal friends – I’ll really appreciate the help.

Advice on how to do non-annoying marketing for the event will also be appreciated. I know some of you have been promoting your own events for years. Please share your experience!

How I prepared for Oracle’s OCA exam

Hurray! Hurray! I just passed the OCA exam!

I’ll follow Don Seiler’s idea and try to help other DBAs by describing how I prepared for the exam.

  1. I was a production DBA for over three years prior to taking the exam. This experience was critical for passing the exam, because it is rather difficult to memorize 500 pages. Experience puts things in context, making them easier to remember. Also, you don’t have to memorize the things you do several times a week.
  2. I used only Oracle 10g OCP Certification All-in-One Exam Guide , I can’t say it is perfect, but it was good enough. One thing that really confused me is that the book gave a lot of attention to how to do tasks in the db console, it had tons of screenshots and explanations. I never used dbconsole in my life, and I assumed that being familiar with how to perform tasks in the dbconsole will be important part of the exam, so I spent tons of time studying these screenshots. Turned out it was completely useless.
  3. I studied for the exam for about three weeks. Reading about a chapter every day. I’m not sure it is a recommended method, by the time I finished reading the book and started the sample exams I discovered that I forgot much of the first chapters. Next time I may try taking a week off before the test and really immerse myself in the material.
  4. The weekend before the exam, I hiked up Mount Shasta. Probably not a good study method, but it was lots of fun and therefore highly recommended.
  5. The day before the exam a co-worker lent me his study book. I don’t remember which one it was, but I do remember that it was rather different than what I used. I was especially confused by the fact that his book claimed that Dictionary Cache is used to cache parsed SQL statement and is an optional structure and that you can’t install Oracle with OUI if you don’t export ORACLE_HOME and ORACLE_SID first. Now, I know Oracle’s memory structures inside out, but a day before the exam these kind of things can really shake your confidence. I recommend learning from more than one source, but I don’t recommend swapping the source one day before the exam.
  6. Read every question several times and then go back and review. During the review I found out that a question I first understood as “which tablespaces can’t be taken offline” was actually “which tablespaces can be taken offline”, there is no reason to lose points to something silly like this.

Good luck to all of you studying for the exam. I know there is a lot of controversy regarding the certifications – whether they are worth anything or mean anything. I’m pretty sure you can be a bad DBA, study for the exam and pass, but I also think that studying for the exam made me a slightly better DBA, because reviewing the basics is always important, because there were some tasks I always did in a certain way and while studying I learned there are other ways to do it, and because I never knew how to use profiles, do external authentication or connect with ezconnect before studying for this exam.

Oracle Performance Training with Kyle Hailey

On Friday, I’ve been to a training day with Kyle Hailey, organized by North California Oracle User Group.

It was really a great experience. The first part of the day was dedicated to ASH – v$active_session_history. We learned how to use the data, how to use the related graphs in Enterprise Manager, and how to get similar data when you don’t have the ASH table (ASH requires 10g and a special license). I already worked with ASH before, but it was still very interesting and usefull.

The second part of the day was dedicated to specific wait events – why they happen and how to deal with them. The talk was very technical – including overviews of the buffer cache memory management (I didn’t know Oracle keeps the buffer cache in a hash table), and explanations of all the scenarios where you can run into TX-Enqueue lock. There are more scenarios than you think, and most of them will be hell to debug.

We also received a copy of “Oracle Wait Interface: A Practical Guide to Performance Diagnostics and Tuning”, I’ve starting reading it during the weekend and it seems like a useful and interesting book. Maybe I’ll review it when I’m done.

I was really impressed by the audience. No one asked stupid and annoying questions, on the contrary, many people had very insightful comments and questions. Everyone I talked to during the breaks was interesting, had interesting experiences to share and great comments when listening to my war stories. Can you tell I’ve had fun? I’ve also learned that I’m probably the only DBA who did not try ASM yet. I really have to get to it.

So, hurray to NoCoug who organized this great day. I strongly recommend Kyle Hailey’s talk to all DBAs.

Thank you, NoCoug

Few weeks ago, my manager discovered that our training budget disappeared. We are still not sure where it went, but the fact was that our DBA team could not take any course this year. Quite disappointing, as we planned going to HotSos seminar and take a RAC course. The good news was that we couldn’t afford Oracle Week either, and I hate attending this marketing event.

Upper Management thinks that training for DBAs is a waste of both time and money. They think we can learn everything we need from books and online, so when the budget is in trouble, the training is the first thing they cut out. Not very smart. A bit like eating your seeds instead of planting them. I’ve been trying to explain the added value of seminars and courses. The intensity of the learning experience, the value of interacting with other DBAs and hearing about their issues and ideas. I really believe that the value we bring back from HotSoS seminar is well worth the price. He-who-controls-the-budget remained unconvinced.

I was all but resigned to have a boring year without any courses or seminars, when I received news that NoCoug – North California Oracle User Group is having a performance training day with Kyle Haily. The best part is that this training day, which sounds very interesting and useful, costs only 250$. At this rate, I was happy to pay for it out of my own pocket, but my manager came through and got me reimbursed for it anyway.

So now I have a good training day to look forward to. Thank you NoCoug and Kyle Haily. I hope you’ll do this more often.