Re: Case study for interviewing Oracle DBA

  • From: david wendelken <davewendelken@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: oracle-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2005 19:47:28 -0800 (PST)

>I wish it were that easy  -- HR isn't impressed by books, papers or
>presentations. Believe me, I can attest to that.

>DBAs may know who you are if you've done those things but HR couldn't
>care less. They base whether or not you can be hired at the
>"executive" level (meaning those "high" salaries IT people get) by the
>check boxes.

>Case in point. I have a solid page of presentations, papers, books on
>my resume. For one interview, all they wanted to know was "does she
>have a college degree"

Ok, DBAs, how many times do you get asked "What's the right way to tune an 
Oracle database?"

You know it's a dumb question, right?  They're looking for a silver bullet, not 
a process approach.

Fill in these parameters just so, and all will always be well, in each and 
every database instance used for each type of business purpose.  A 
one-size-fits-all, always-do-it-this-way recipe.  That's what they want.

There are a host of interlocking things that need to be considered before a 
number of things get tuned.  Right?  No one parameter or change is 
**guaranteed** to fix all problems.  You have to season to taste.

That said, I bet you have a toolbox of half-a-dozen fast and easy techniques 
that **often** work, and you check those first before you start doing the 
time-consuming techniques, or the ones that cause the database to go off-line, 
or digging through the manuals or searching email lists for obscure, 
undocumented parameters.

So, why do bright technical people assume that any given social technique will 
always work in each and every social situation with each and every person?

Isn't that just as dumb as the silver-bullet tuning idea?

There's no guarantee **ever** when discussing social issues - except that 
there's no guarantee.

Get over it.

You just have to play the odds.

If you've written a book in your field, is that a guarantee people will hire 


Are your odds better?


Could any given nincompoop doing the interviewing or ticking thru the 
checkboxes on the resume be too stupid to figure out that your book is the one 
that people use to study for the OCP?  Yes.

Will some people that see your resume figure it out?  Yes.

Will some people grasp the concept if you make it **real clear**?  Yes.

Will some people still be too stupid to understand?  Yep.  That too.

Ditto for papers, articles, technical editorships, training classes, and, yes, 
OCP and other certificates.

Ditto for simple changes in how we describe our knowledge on our resumes.  I 
had posted one a year ago looking for contract work. 4 months, 2 nibbles, no 
interviews, no contract.  On the advice of a recruiter, who sent me a sample to 
work from, I re-formatted my resume and re-posted it.  2 weeks, 10 responses, 
several interviews, one 20 month contract.   That's one heck of a difference 
for just explaining what I know differently.

I'm going to be blunt.

1/2 of all people are below the 50% percentile in intelligence.  1/2!  Do the 

And average people aren't all that bright.  (Look at the mess the world is in 
if you doubt that.)

And committees formed out of not-so-bright people are rarely as smart as the 
dumbest of them.

So, why are bright technical people continually surprised by this? 

Why do they think others are **always** going to act rationally, or 
intelligently, or even be stupid in an internally consistent manner?

I've seen someone hired for a technical position simply because she was pretty.
I've seen people hired that, for the life of me, I couldn't find anything nice 
to say about whatsoever. 

I've been on interviews where the only thing they wanted to know was if I was a 
native of that town - or was my wife a native of the town, or, since I had 
failed that, was my wife's ex-husband a native of the town.

That doesn't make me generalize that only people who are pretty can get a job, 
or only people who are worthless, or only people who are from the same town can 
get a job.   It just makes me realize how incompetent most people are at the 
hiring process.

And don't even get me started on how ignorant people are.

I used Paul Dorsey as a reference and noted that I was chosen to do a 
pre-publication technical edit of one of Chris Date's books.    Dorsey's got, 
what, 10 - 20 books out on Oracle technology?  Date helped get the whole 
relational database thing going.  What percentage of the people who saw that 
had a clue of who Paul Dorsey or Chris Date are?  Maybe 1/2 of 1%.  But that 
1/2 of 1% might get me the job.  Might not, if they know Paul.  (xxxooo to 

I could also tell you about an interview I went on when my article publication 
list was only about a dozen long.  The guy doing the technical interview kept 
looking at my publication list and trying to get up the nerve to ask me a 
technical question.  Each time he tried to speak, he would sit forward, then 
stop, sort of swallow, and sit back and stare at my publication list.  Never 
did ask me a question.  Couldn't find the nerve.   Needless to say, I aced the 
technical interview.

Some of the time it will help you, some of the time it won't.  Some of the time 
it will hurt your prospects - because they'll get scared of how good you are 
and won't hire you.  Other times it will put you at the top of the call back 

It's a crap-shoot.  

Load the dice in your favor.

And, maybe we'll all have to get a certification of some sort, even if they are 
totally useless for predicting our ability to solve the user's problems.  The 
world is full of better technical solutions that fell by the wayside because a 
less-capable one was better marketed.  

Get over it.  

You can moan and whine about it, or swim against the tide, or learn how to 
market your capabilities in a manner that values to **those who do the hiring**.

Oh, there's one other guarantee.

If you don't try to load the dice in your favor, you're stuck with dumb luck.

If you try to load the dice in your favor, and I'm wrong, you are still stuck 
with dumb luck.

And, if I'm right, you've got the dice loaded in your favor.  

In the meantime, writing those books, articles, or papers, doing those 
presentations at user groups, mentoring those of your colleagues who are 
interested in learning, and - if you have to - studying for the OCP-style 
certifications - will all increase your knowledge of our craft.  That alone 
will make you better at what you do and might make the difference in getting a 
job you want.

Learning how to communicate what we know in language that non-technical people 
can understand will make our knowledge much more useful to the business we work 
for - which in turn makes us much more valuable to the business. 

I've mentored a goodly number of folks over the years, and those who tried out 
the ideas I've been mentioning have prospered for it.  

I hope some of you will give it a try.

And the rest can sit back smugly, and feel certain "It would never work 
Rest assured that as long as you believe it, you are right. 

Oh, if you do get hired because you wrote that book, or because of your other 
publications or mentoring, you are bound to like that job a whole lot more - 
because there are people at that company who value what you have to offer.  
Even if it didn't increase my overall chance of getting a job one whit, that 
would be reason enough to help me know which of several job offers to choose 

Good luck on whatever path you pick.

Here's a useful reference for learning how to deal with people better:

Dealing with People You Can't Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at 
Their Worst --  Rick Brinkman


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