Should you aim to become an Oracle ACE?

I tweeted the following yesterday,

“It’s 7 years ago today that I was made an Oracle ACE. Seriously. It was April Fools Day 2006… :)”

The followup from that tweet included a number of questions about what you get out of becoming an Oracle ACE and what is the quickest way to become one. In my mind, these types of questions highlight the misunderstanding of what the Oracle ACE program is. You can hear Vikki, Debra, Alex and myself talking about the Oracle ACE program here, but I feel like I want to clarify a few things. This is just my opinion. Others may say different. :)

Should you aim to become an Oracle ACE?

IMHO No! You should try to get involved in the Oracle community. If you enjoy that experience, keep on doing it and eventually you may be nominated and accepted as an Oracle ACE. If you don’t enjoy being involved in the community, then there is little chance you will do enough to warrant being nominated and accepted into the program.

The community contributions of the ACEs are assessed each year and as a result people drop out of the program. You can’t just do a quick spurt of blogging and hope to wing your way into the program, only to kick back and think you are sorted for life. That’s not how it works. Writing, presenting and answering questions on forums takes a lot of time. If you don’t enjoy it, you will not continue to contribute over a long period of time.

Does being an Oracle ACE mean you are an Oracle guru?

No. It is basically a pat on the back from Oracle for all your contributions to the community. Some of the ACEs are completely awesome and will melt your brain when they get going. Others like myself are just regular DBAs and Developers that like spreading what we’ve learned over the years. The ACE program is not a certification. It is not proof of ability. It is not a natural progression from OCP to OCM to ACE. If you think that, you’ve completely misunderstood what it is all about.

There are some awesome DBAs and Developers out there who you will never hear of. Why? Because they don’t enjoy putting themselves out there. If you are that type of person, then why make yourself miserable, just to try and become an Oracle ACE?

What do you get out of being an Oracle ACE?

You don’t need to be an Oracle ACE to get most of the benefits of being an Oracle ACE. It is the process you go through that provides most of the benefits, not the program itself…

The Oracle ACE program is great for networking. You meet lots of really cool people and make friends with many of them. That circle of people contains a great wealth of information. Having said that, because we are all involved in the community, almost all of us are directly accessible by you. If you show an active interest in a specific subject area, you will probably get in to regular conversations (online) with the Oracle ACEs in that area, as well as many other people.

Presenting is a skill *everybody* should have. At school I found it almost impossible to read out loud in front of people. My head would spin and I would panic. I could chat in groups of people, but anything that was even remotely formal was a nightmare. My experiences of presenting during my PhD weren’t much better. When I started working in IT I found the work environment fine, but put me in a meeting and ask me to introduce myself to the people around the table and a part of me would die inside. The reason for saying this is to highlight that presenting was not a natural thing for me. It was only after being made an Oracle ACE that I felt I should do some presenting. Like most newbies I was terrified and the added pressure of being labelled an Oracle ACE did not help. Fortunately, I got some good advice from some great speakers along the way, which helped a lot. What was the knock-on effect of this? I now find it easy to speak in meetings and interviews. Presenting is still a little nerve wracking, but it is fun also. You don’t need to be an Oracle ACE to get this benefit. Start presenting to your colleagues. Try and present at a local Special Interest Group (SIG). Try ToastMasters. You don’t have to present to 1000 people at OpenWorld to get the benefits of the confidence this gives you. The ACE program was the nudge I needed to do this, but for others user group participation was the factor that influenced them.

I feel like if you are looking for what the Oracle ACE program will give you, you’ve kind of missed the point.

Conclusion

Being part of the Oracle ACE program has been a very positive thing for me. I will remain in the program as long as it exists and as long as they will have me. :) What’s really important is, if the program were to end tomorrow, I would still keep doing what I do. If you see the Oracle ACE program as a goal for you to achieve, then I don’t think the program is what you think it is.

It’s just my opinion. :)

Cheers

Tim…

Update: Jeff Smith just pointed me at this. Seems someone else was admitted to an evangelist program on April 1st too and was equally prompted to write on the subject. Kinda freaky to say the least!

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