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14 September 2017

10 Years Before the Mast with ODTUG

10 years, and counting

10 isn’t quite as impressive as 20 – more like half as impressive – but a decade is a long time in technology and even in a geek’s life.  Time to see real changes in his knowledge, work, outlook, contributions, and personal life.  I won’t bother any of you with the latter except to note that I still have four cats as I did in 2008.  The rest I owe, without exaggeration, in large part to ODTUG.

I’ll make a note that this post is one of my more philosophical ones.  If you’re looking for technical advice, go read someone else’s blog.  If how you can better yourself and make a difference in your professional and personal world, read on.  

Think of this post as a love letter to a user group.  Yeah, I’m weird but what I relate is true, I promise you that.

Just what is ODTUG, Cameron?

OMG, you read my blog and don’t know?  I am (heh, I flatter myself but still), one of that august gaggle of geeks’ greatest cheerleaders.  And why not?  Through ODTUG’s Kscope (nee Kaleidoscope and the Oracle Developer Tools User Group), I’ve seen and presented (more anon on that subject) countless sessions, laughed, occasionally gritted my teeth in frustration (although that had more to do with personalities than the organization itself; I can only imagine what they thought of me), slept way too little, learnt more than I could possibly have imagined, and, most importantly of all, met fellow geeks and geekettes that have utterly transformed my life.  That’s just the conference.  There’s also six years on the board of directors, rising from a n00b with the wettest of ears to finishing on the Executive Committee, and most importantly, two years acting as the EPM liaison to the board.  I’ve written articles for the ODTUG newsletter, presented webinars, helped organize and present at meetups all over the country, interviews at conferences, promotion any which way I can – the list goes on and on.  I have been called lazy.  I don’t know why.  All of this work, all of the time, all of the sacrifice is because I love ODTUG.  I’m not the only one as ODTUG thrives because there are many just like me.  You’d have done the same given the opportunity.  You still can.  You should.

For the record:  ODTUG is the bestest, most awesomest, greatest Oracle technical conference in the world, full stop.  Join and it’ll change your life.  Don’t believe me?  Read on, Gentle Reader.

Where it all started

Although it amazes, astonishes, and dismays me (it has been quite a passage of time) to write this, I have worked in the EPM space since the day I got out of school starting with Comshare’s Commander EIS (think standard reporting via touchscreens and mainframe OLAP  ‘cos executives couldn’t handle keyboards), Arbor’s Essbase, Hyperion’s Essbase, Planning, and Financial Reports (HAL too I suppose but with great reluctance because it was an ETL abomination), and then Oracle’s Essbase, ODI, Planning, PBCS, Oracle Analytics Cloud, PL/SQL, and I’m sure a few other technologies I’ve forgotten.  

But that latter list of technologies that I have (barely) mastered would never have happened without ODTUG.  Let’s address the four Ws and one H of what today passes for journalism.

When and where?

Who amongst you remembers this?

As an aside, does anyone still use the term, “Middleware”?  That’s as obsolete as HAL.  Yeah, I hate that product.


I can think of a handful of EPM friends and colleagues whom I first met in New Orleans that are still active in ODTUG:  Joe Aultman, Gary Crisci, Natalie Delemar, Glenn Schwartzberg (Although I think at the time he viewed me as an annoying gadfly.  Come to think of it he still does.), and Tim Tow (I’ve known him since 1995 but it would be churlish not to mention him).  The list has since expanded many, many, many times.


NB – I have no idea why I hung on to the program schedule from 2008 nor why I was able to find it for this post.  Blog Kismet, perhaps?

See Napoleon (my favorite insane dictator, actually the only one but only because of his many aphorisms) A1-A3?  That was just a largeish conference room with space for no more than 100 people.  And that was all there was for the whole conference.  The only subject:  Essbase.  For EPMers, Kaleidoscope 2008 was small, intimate, and utterly mind-blowing in the quality of content, depth of knowledge, the chance to put faces to message board handles, the meeting of like minds, and feeling of excitement.  There was literally nothing to touch it and we knew it was special.  ODTUG have moved from strength to strength and the conferences have grown enormously but in my mind the best one was the first.


That’s all on an emotional level.  From a technical level, at least personally, it was a train wreck.  Why?  Because it showed me how complacent I had become with my technical skills.  I liked to pretend that I had a solid technical skill set but sitting there in the audience showed how wrong I was when it came to design (what the Hell is a hockey stick?), calculations (heh, will this MDX thing stick around?), VBA (okay, I knew that pretty well but as the saying goes:  Complacency, shattered), on and on and on.  I’m still running to catch up.

IF self-awareness is the first step to improvement, then having a way to actuate that change is vital; Kscope has been that mechanism.

Even my lousy memory recalls this:

And this:

Yeah, one room, but there were a few more than a hundred people there.  

And that one room at Kaleidoscope 2008 for sessions?  Try 11 rooms with five timeslots per day.  Yes, really.   And that’s just EPM.  

That’s an awful lot of expertise, freely given, and if you’ve got two brain cells to rub together and ability to swallow your ego, an amazing chance for you to learn and contribute right back to the EPM community.  Re the ego bit:  some people (mostly consultants) are a bit hopeless when it comes to this but I like to think that yr. hmbl. & obt. svt. is smart enough to adopt the position of, “Huh?  Duh.  Help.”  which then leads to The Knowledge.  My father likes to say I have two ears and one mouth and it’s best to use them in proportion.  Most Kscope attendees do.

Again, for those in the Oracle EPM space, there’s nothing, absolutely nothing, like ODTUG’s Kscope.

Virtue is its own reward aka Why

That bromide is true.  At ODTUG there are as I noted many ways to give back from the Saturday service day to presenting to volunteering to buying me a cup of coffee.  Okay, I made the last bit up but you get the idea of generosity.

Professionally, the knowledge that I’ve gained in attending, presenting, networking, and volunteering have been rewarding.  Truly, without ODTUG I’d be unemployed or at least never reach my potential such as it is.

I like to joke that I couldn’t sell death during a plague and for the most part that’s true, but when it comes to encouraging people to volunteer, run for the board, present, write articles, you name it I have been successful.  That’s not because I’ve suddenly become Dale Carnegie, it’s because the opportunity and value and comradeship that ODTUG is simply draws geeks in.  I’ve watched others grow as they become involved and while the hard graft is all theirs, it’s incredibly satisfying to be there at the start.

Beyond the real satisfaction that comes from giving back to our community, ODTUG recognizes achievement.  I’ve been beyond lucky to be recognized for this but I’m most certainly not alone.  

We even get nice gongs.

NB – Yes, the below is “Look at me!  I’m awesome, aren’t I?”  Cf. my earlier comment about ego, I have one too although I do try to throttle it down.  But that’s not the point.  I highlight the below because it’s both a way of illustrating that ODTUG recognizes achievement and the way in which it does it.  And yeah, a bit of self-praise.  So sue me, I’m an American and that’s what we do.  At least I don’t have a Facebook account.


Best new speaker, 2009

This one was a surprise to put it mildly.  I worked for a consulting company on what I am sure was the 2nd worst project I’ve ever been on – the contention for 1st switches between two others that I will not bore you with – and I stupidly tried to save it.  That meant literally working 100 (yes, really, working till 3 am and then waking up at 5 o’clock) hours on the project, manning a booth, and presenting a session at 9 am on Thursday.  I think by that point I was so tired and annoyed that whatever few filters I have were dead and buried.  I got lots of laughs (who gets laughs after the Wednesday night event and when the subject is MaxL?) so I think that was largely the reason.  Or ODTUG recognized a geek at the end of his tether and pitied me.  A word to the wise:  Don’t Be That Guy.

In any case, I was beyond amazed to get this in the mail:

I’m still not sure I deserved it but as Gary Crisci once said, never argue with good fortune.  The kaleidoscope is pretty cool.

Volunteer of the year

Even more of a surprise was being included in the 2010 Volunteer of the Year award.  This one I’m positive I didn’t deserve because I was on the SIG for three months or so when it was awarded.  I did in fact argue with YCC on this one because truly it was the work of others but I was told to embrace the non-suck.  I did but again, it’s a bit embarrassing.

Sorry for the bad photography.  Robert Capa I’ll never be.

2017 Essbase best co-speaker

Last, and definitely not least, I won the Essbase best co-speaker award this year.  I’m 100% positive that this was due to my co-speaker, Pete Nitschke, but again, who am I to argue with deluded and mistaken judges of great taste and discernment.  

Here we are, Pete and I.  I’ve got the schnozzola for Uncle Sam and Pete is quite a bit thinner than John Bull and to be fair not exactly British but, as I like to remind him when I take the piss out of him after he’s indulged in what is undoubtedly a cathartic session of anti-Americanism, he’s got a Queen on his currency we Septics don’t.   Regardless, it was tremendous fun working with this Antipodean and it was beyond nice to be recognized. While the below is as near to 100% accurate as damn it in its depiction of the two of us, I’m not sure steamships were our subject (Hybrid Essbase and Planning was the subject and Oracle, would you please bring Hybrid support to PBCS as it really does revolutionize Planning?).

I think the inclusion of Columbia and Britannia was a nice gesture too.  See, Women in Technology is as old as the hills.  Or is that Women in Battleships?  Women With Flags?  

Here’s the award.  The kaleidoscope even works despite its fragility.  Seemingly anticipating my clumsiness, ODTUG provided a spare wheel.

Yes, it is nice to be recognized.  Yes, it is very American to brag.  Sorry, but all of this is in way of proving another point, to wit, if I can do this, so can you.  

You can attend, present, blog, Tweet, write books, volunteer, run for the Board of Directors, run meetups, & c..  Really.  All of this and more.  And you’ll even get nice doodads for your office credenza although that really isn’t the point.  Why not?  If a lazy bore like me can do it, why can’t you?  Exactly.

10 years

It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long since 2008 but indeed it has and the years have flown by.  As Monty Latiolais once said, our time in the sun is complete.  It has been a fantastic run, a spectacular one even.  I couldn’t and wouldn’t have done it without ODTUG.  I encourage you to invest blood, sweat, and tears into ODTUG because that hard work will pay you back a thousand fold as it has for me and so many others.

Be seeing you.

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