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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.

Who?

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.

How?

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.

What

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.

How

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.

06 September 2017

What are you doing the rest of your life? Or at least what are you doing for the rest of the 20th of September?

What are you doing for the rest of the 20th of September, 2017?

Alas, I cannot provide Dusty Springfield for a number of reasons (alas she’s dead, were she alive I’m not sure we’d be BFFs (alas, again, for me this time), and I’ll bet the number of you Gentle Readers who actually like this kind of music rounds down to zero but maybe this exposure will change a few minds), but I can provide an excellent opportunity for Bay Area (NB – One should, apparently, never refer to the area as “Frisco” lest hirsute, enraged, and man-bunned baristas take umbrage.) Oracle EPMers to meet, greet, commiserate, and congratulate one another at the San Francisco Bay Area Oracle EPM Meetup.

Whew, even for me that’s an awful lot of parenthetical references.  Let me boil that down:  There’s a Bay Area Oracle EPM meetup on the 20th of September.  You should be there.  

Back to my self-indulgent/sometimes informative active voice below.

Where, When, What, and Who

Who

Let’s go completely backwards (Why not the right way round?  Heh, why not?) on this one and give you the who first.  The who is, of course you, Gentle Reader as ultimately, that’s what meetups are all about:  people.  And this ODTUG EPM meetup has that in spades with Marc Seewald of Oracle as well as Western Digitals’s Bill Roy, Sree Putreddi, and Mark Govostes.

All of this being organized by longtime Oracle EPM manager Frank Chow in cooperation with the ODTUG EPM Community.  

What

Beyond the normal meetup networking and sharing, there is real business and technical content.  To wit, Mark Seewald will cover something near and dear to every Oracle EPM customer:  Oracle EPM’s roadmap.  Seriously, with all of the noise and rumors swirling about you owe it to yourself to hear just what Oracle has to say.

Your fellow customers aren’t MIA:  the team from Western Digital will be there to discuss their journey from on-premises to Exalytics and the cloud.  Without exaggeration, that’s got to be a fascinating story both in terms of how it was done but why.    

Here’s their agenda:
  • Overview of WDC
  • EPM @ WDC
  • Why did WDC decide to move to EPM Cloud
  • WDC Current Oracle EPM Footprint (On-Prem & Cloud)
  • Roadmap of WDC Oracle EPM Cloud
  • Business / Technical challenges
  • Metadata Management / Integration / Automation
  • Q&A
  • Support model (On-Prem Vs Hybrid)
  • User adoption of EPM Cloud products
  • Open Questions

When

It’s on Wednesday, 20 September, 2017, from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm.

Where

At Google’s offices, Google Bldg Plymouth 1. 1500 Plymouth Street, Mountain View, CA.

And oh yeah, Why

Why?  Why?  Really?  Why?  Ah, why.

Why is because while Kscope is awesome, like Christmas it comes but once a year; meetups are on offer all year round.  Yes, they aren’t a week of awesomeness, but the same people (well, at least some of them) come to meetups plus others who don’t get the chance and the same subject that is near and dear to all of us – EPM in all its forms – is the subject of discussion.  It’s vital to your job (come to think of it, mine as well) to be au courant on all things EPM and meetups are an excellent way to do that.

Join Frank, Marc, and the guys from Western Digital, won’t you?

Click here to attend.

Be seeing you there.

03 August 2017

Drill to Detail Ep.37 'How Essbase Won the OLAP Wars' With Special Guest Cameron Lackpour

Drill to Detail, just what is it?

It’s Mark Rittman’s take on (I am just going to crib directly from the site) on the business and strategy of analytics, big data, and distributed processing in the cloud in the form of podcast interviews with the geeks (I may have added this descriptor) who make it all happen.  I particularly like the way his interviews and interviewees contextualize technologies within markets, companies, and across history.  There’s nothing else like it.

If this sounds overly ambitious, know that the execution exceeds the vision.  Why?  Because Mark interviews the Great and the Good of our (and many other) professional spaces to get their take on technology, products, markets, trends, and futures.  Some of the luminaries most of us should recognize are Stewart Bryson, Dan McClary, Graham Spicer, Robin Moffatt, Vasu Murthy, Chris Webb, Gwen Shapira, Adrian Ward, and Donald Farmer who speak on tools and subjects as diverse as Gartner groupings, Big Data, Kudu, Hadoop, various forms of BI, Cloud (of course), DI, OLAP, and now… Essbase.

Yeah, Essbase.  And yeah, yr. obt. svt.  But don’t let that last bit put you off.

I could write all kinds of (un)funny jokes about how Mark made some sort of mind numbing mistake bringing me on (and would likely get many to agree) and could write all kinds of quite truthful remarks about how many others could have done better.  Instead I’ll just shut up for once and be grateful.  

You can subscribe to the series on iTunes or listen in via your browser:
In any case, I am beyond flattered to have been included in Mark’s program and I hope I do the subject justice.  Listen in, I think you’ll enjoy it.  Listen to the rest of the Drill to Detail series as well – it’s eye opening.

Be seeing you.

P.S.  And yeah, 76 minutes of  yr. obt. svt., longer than any other of his podcasts.  I'm either an Essbase bore and he couldn't stand listening to me again to edit it down or what I have to say interested Mark and maybe you too.  You decide.

05 July 2017

Kscope17, it's a wrap

So  much fun.  Too much fun?  Is that possible?  Maybe, but probably not.

OMG, again and again and again I promise myself that I won’t do what I did which is try to do too much all at the same time but I’m frankly greedy.  And lazy.  We all know the second is true but the first?  Gluttony in the name of coffee and Kscope are pretty much it.

Kscope is without doubt the peak of my professional year.  Who knows, it might be the peak of my personal year but that would be sad so I won’t admit it except in the dark recesses of my heart when I lay awake in bed, staring at the ceiling, realizing the futility of Man, the comedy of life, my profound sense of ennui, and the eventual entropy death of the universe.  But then all I need do is think of ODTUG and Kscope and all is right with the world.  It’s that good.

Wrapping up Kscope17

Sleep?  What’s that?

I didn’t get much of it.

It’s all about the people

From the hippie Australian (and fellow co-presenter) to the crazy bag lady (yeah, Natalie, I’m looking at you), what makes Kscope so special are my colleagues and friends that I largely only get to see once a year.  

Moving shopping for Natalie and my 10th Kscope anniversary we arrive at the Essbase aka Oracle Analytic Cloud session on Sunday.  Standing (or sitting) room only suggests it’s a popular thing.  Of course yr. obt. svt. was in the front row because he’s sad, sad, sad.  Seriously, this started when I was a uni student – I figured and continue to figure is that if I show up, I ought to get the most for my money.  Also, I can hear better that way.

Dinner in the beginning but I’m not sure when

In Asia (or very often everywhere else in the world) there’s what’s called the Asian “Yeah!” when being photographed via what looks like the peace sign.  Yeah, yeah, a stereotype, but go query the Great Googly Moogly and you’ll see I’m right.

NB – Stock photo I swiped of the interwebs.

But that isn’t the only context that Man (or in the above snapshot, Woman) flashes the V sign.

V For Victory?

Do something physically impossible to yourself?

Damn Commie hippies and yet the Coolest Man in Hollywood?

Or “Peace, baby” in a booking photo?  Say “Cheese” for the nice policeman taking your booking picture.

Dunno for sure, but I’d go with the first.  

Hand gestures, but not the V

From left to right we have Pete Nitschke, Rodrigo Radkte de Souza, Jessica Cordova, Celvin Kattookaran, Ricardo Gampaoli, and…bugger, I’ve forgotten his name.  So much for the theme of people, people, people unless The Man Without a Name is acceptable.

This is in the bar at the speaker meeting.  Notice that none of us are drinking.  If I were there it would be a nice glass of milk although I soon broke this All American goodness.

Three very misguided women

Ghadia, Alexsandra, and Jazmin came up to me and thanked me for the work I do for the community.  What work?  I was so gobsmacked by these thanks that I thought it best to capture it on film (heh, the 21st century’s equivalent to film) and so I got them to post ‘cos, “Pictures or it didn’t happen”,

Note the chap on the left who is absolutely amazed that they’re thanking me for…I dunno, but something.  J/k, they were thanking me for the drivel that is this blog.  I told you they were delusional.

Back to the presentations and the people

Here’s my buddy Joe Aultman beginning his Groovy and Calculation Manager presentation.

And Celvin doing the same in a different session.  Groovy is groovy.

Speaking of delusional, here’s newly minted Oracle ACE Gary Adashek.  Despite Gary’s questionable taste in dress, he made it to ACE, leapfrogging over ACE Associate which is proof positive if proof be needed that he is pretty awesome.  And has a strange love of trains.

My former boss, Tracy McMullen is moderating the Planning ACE Lunch n’ Learn.  She still talks to me so there’s proof that forgiveness is possible in this lifetime.  OTOH, perhaps she’s remembering our time not all that long ago as Tracy is shooting one of those “Could-these-eyes-actually-launch-little-daggers-if-I-really-really-tried?” looks at me.  So maybe forgiveness isn’t in the cards.

Jake Turrell and (this won’t be a surprise if you look below) my Blog Bro, Celvin Kattookaran were my co-panelists.

The Women In Technology lunch.  I enjoyed being the token male at my table and having my Favorite Customer Ever, Amy Dailey, sitting to my left.  At least she wasn’t cruel to me.  I kid, I kid, I really enjoy the lunch as I can take criticism.  Also, I think I agreed with all of what was said.  It’s a good event.

Is this the Kscope Wednesday night special event?  Surely, yes.  Look at those suits – snazzy.  Look at the ladies’ frocks – beautiful.  Highballs and cocktail glasses and of course the witty repartee that Kscope is well known for – what could be more elegant?  And dancing.  Surely ODTUG’s members are much the same.

I’m the Junior Executive type talking to the blonde.

Is this what the DJ spun up at the Wednesday night event?


In 2017 we have the below.

Would you believe that those dancers aren’t proud ODTUG members?  Neither would I.

Hah!  See, I told you I was the elegant (ahem) guy talking to a blonde woman.  Here’s Alexsandra and Yours Truly.

The Kremlin for the after party?  Isn’t that what people used to try very hard to leave?  Perhaps this is the Lubyanka?

It’s all winding down now.  Here’s Celvin and his lovely family.  Note that Blog Bro has a smile on his face as does everyone else.

I’m not the only one who finds them adorable.  Here’s my new bestie, Neviana Zhgaba contemplating a Federal offence.  Don’t do it Neviana, no matter how cute she is.
IMG_3887.JPG
What would a conference be if not capped off by an enourmous amount (3 lbs. worth if you’re wondering) cinnamon roll?

Here are the sad faces of the prediabetic.  From left to right that’s Joe Aultman, Tim German, and Pete Nitschke.
Danny Bryant and Joe Aultman again.  They are practicing that strange modern practice of photographing their food.  Food is for eating, fellas.  Oh, how did I get a snap of the roll?  ‘Cos I’m a hypocrite, that’s how.

Here’s Pete Nitschke and Opal Alapat.  This must be after the Giant Bun as they are smiling and are thus on a sugar high.

Sort of amazing

Kscope has many facets:  charitable work via the community service day, education, many teaching moments, and networking like you’ve never seen it before, and lastly partying.  It’s quite the seductive mix which is why I come back year after year.

Yeah, a humble brag ahead, but I and my copresenters (and I think all presenters) spend hundreds of hours working on our presentations.  It’s hard graft but worth it because it means I go to what is obviously The Greatest Oracle Conference Anywhere.

And yet it has a cost.  As I showed in the beginning of this post, I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep.  I wasn’t the only one.

Q:  What does Kscope make you crave?  A:  Sleep.


‘Nuff said.

And with that,adieu

What can be more relaxing than a meadow on a hike post conference.  Here’s a lovely meadow towards the end of one of my favorite trails in – would you believe – New Jersey.  From Perth Amboy (not the most salubrious town in America) to this.  Truly a state of contrasts.

There are many people I haven’t mentioned.  To all of you, thank you for making Kscope truly the height of my professional year.  There’s nothing to touch it.

Be seeing you in Orlando at Kscope18.