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An Insider's Views - Oracle, Java & Career
is it like to spend your life in software engineering? No one can
provide you a better idea of what is involved than those are doing the
job on a daily basis.
Ini Ukporo works as a Senior Software Engineer with a consulting firm in the US. Ini has been in this field for over 11 years. This interview was conducted to find out his views on software engineering as it relates to careers and competence in technologies such as Oracle and Java. He brings to this interview his wealth of experience from the various computing environments in which he has worked. His answers provide valuable insight for anyone considering a career in these areas.
What's your job title? And how long have you been doing this job? How would you describe yourself?
I'm currently a Senior Software Engineer. I've been at this position since August 2002. Over the past 7 years, I've had the opportunity to work with Oracle, Microsoft and Java technologies, both with the database and development tools.
What are your overall responsibilities, day-to-day responsibilities?
My responsibilities vary, depending on the project I'm on. I work for a consulting company. So they basically get clients and assign me to projects. Mostly, I offer and implement solutions. These solutions may range from scooping a project, requirements gathering, design, data modeling, development, training, etc. Types of Projects may vary from data warehouse, applications design/development, database tuning, web development, training, etc.
Can you be correctly described as a Software Engineering Specialist with significant Oracle / Java expertise?
In my job, I've had to work with different technologies like Oracle, Microsoft and Java. Also, depending on my role on the project, I could be either mainly building stored packages and procedures (Oracle & SQL Server), building front end tools (ASP, JSP, Oracle Developer, Discoverer, etc), building ETL and data transformation objects (Oracle Warehouse Builder, Data Guard, etc) or building middle tier objects using Oracle, Microsoft or Java technologies. In a nutshell, I play different roles on different projects.
Can you give a summary of any recent project?
In a nutshell, my present project involves implementing a data warehouse system for
loading energy related data from different source systems. The fundamental premise of this project is to have a company wide enterprise risk management data warehouse system that provides tremendous value in having the ability to quickly react to constant changes in the energy business. Project involves using Oracle Warehouse Builder and Oracle9i to integrate massive amount of daily data provided by the market place via several sources and decimating the information across seemingly disparate commercial activities. Involves integration and staging of power, gas and coal deals/positions, applying business calculations, verifying the data before publishing for company wide access/viewing. My roles specifically include design and modeling a data warehouse system with help of proven DW Methodologies including Kimball and Inmon and support principles and issues. Data modeling: normalization, de-normalization, physical database design, relational models, star schemas, snowflake schemas, etc. Rightly identifying TYPE-1 and TYPE-2 dimensions and implement technique for loading them in data warehouse. Correctly identifying the conformity of dimensions across the Global Data warehouse. Making right use of oracle materialized views, hash joins and bitmap index to fasten the ETL process.
What systems, technology do you work with?
present project involves using my technical skills and knowledge of
Oracle9i, Oracle Warehouse Builder 9.2, Oracle OMB+, and Microsoft ASP
to design and implement a data warehouse system for an energy company.
What technical skills, certifications, languages, tools, databases, Operating systems are required?
Technical skills required include deep knowledge of Oracle9i, Oracle Warehouse Builder, data warehouse design and implementation, PL/SQL, and Microsoft ASP amongst others. Certifications in Oracle, Microsoft and Java are bonuses. Knowledge of Unix and Windows are sufficient.
Aside from technical skills, what other important attributes, do you need for the job?
Very articulate communication, peoples, writing and presentation skills.
How do people like you contribute to the corporate mission?
People like me contribute by ensuring that projects are implemented to a very high degree of success. The degree of success is measured by the quality of the service and staying within the budget. All of these factors not only satisfy the parties involved, but more importantly, meet their bottom line.
How long have you been working in IT and how did you get started?
I have been working in IT for approximately 11 years now. I started right after I finished my youth service in 1992 with the company called Tara System in Lagos, Nigeria as an analyst.
What do you find unique about Oracle vis-à-vis other technologies?
Even though I'm not strictly an Oracle database professional, I find having the challenge of architecting solutions for very large corporations/databases very fulfilling by using the different methodologies and tools provided by the Oracle database. There is an immense sense of accomplishment when you know that you have added value to a process by seeing an upsurge in quality and production due to your service.
Oracle's strength has always been the robustness of its database. Oracle implements data security and manipulation very well. The newer features they constantly add allow us to leverage high volume transactions very well, especially in data warehouse scenarios. The concept of cubes, hierarchies, data marts and business objects are very essential business tuning and report generation.
What specifically do you on Java and how often?
What I do with Java all depends on my role on a project. May vary from building middle tier objects to creating database access layer parts or resultsets.
Can you give a summary of any recent Java project?
The last project I used Java early 2002 on a project for a large insurance company. The insurance company had a proprietary system supplied by a vendor. They were however allowed to make changes to the propriety system in terms of design changes. However, due to the large request for new features the company made to the vendor, each time the vendor released a new version, some of the tables and objects in general changed significantly in some cases. Hence it became a nightmare for the client to upgrade their system, because it will fail with all the changes they made. So, I designed a metadata application where they would map their production tables to the proprietary application. So I wrote Java stored procedures that will read the metadata and load data. As long as the metadata that defines the mappings between the vendor's proprietary system and the client production are maintained, the data loads accurately.
What do you find unique about Java vis-à-vis other technologies?
Certain functionalities are implemented better than in some other technologies. Specifically, "garbage collection", memory leakage, inheritance of objects, etc are handled better. However, it's important to note that other technologies are catching up and incorporating Java concepts in their later versions. Typical example is Microsoft.Net framework, which basically copies what Java already does.
What do you like most about this job? What do you find interesting about your job?
What I like most about my present project and job is that it affords me the opportunity to increase my knowledge. I get to work on different technologies (Oracle, Microsoft, Java), languages (Java, PL/SQL), and different sectors (finance, energy, insurance, judiciary, internet). Hence, I hone my skills by understanding different businesses and technologies. I don't only add value to the clients and my company, but also add value to myself my increasing my knowledge as well in the process. So, it's a "win-win" situation. I must confess though that a few projects have not been very challenging.
What do you like least about this job? What's the least interesting aspect of your job?
When I dislike most is being embroiled in the bureaucracy of certain companies that function as ministries. Having to wait for hours/days/weeks to get approval to implement something that took a short time to develop drives me nuts.
What hours do you normally work? Do you consider your job to be stressful? If you work evenings & weekend do you get paid for it?
My regular work hours is Monday - Friday, 8am - 5pm. On the most part so far, I'll say my work has been very rarely stressful. However, sometimes, some projects get very frantic due to clients unexpected demands, and honestly sometimes due to inappropriate project planning. Yes, I get paid for overtime if I have to work anything beyond 40 hours/week.
Do you work with other people or alone?
Most of the time, I work with other people in a team, but sometimes, depending on the project or phase of the project, I may work alone.
What do you consider the most challenging part of your job?
Having to learn new business concepts and translate the concepts to highly functional applications.
If you could change one thing about your job what will it be?
Give myself a 300% wage raise and reduce my tax by at least 60% (laughs). I will probably want to create more of generic innovative applications instead of customized solutions. I do understand that this entails a lot of resource for research and development, but the end product will definitely be worth the time and pay for the return on investment.
Can you see yourself staying in the IT industry? Or would you like to try something different?
I'm very certain I'll stay in the IT industry, but will move more towards management.
What is the Career path leading to this profession? Advice to others IT professionals interested in Oracle/Java technology.
Well for me, I think one has to have flair to succeed in any field. It helps to have a degree in engineering/science but it's not limited to those. To be a professional in any technology or discipline involves a concerted effort. Requires lots of reading, being current and having the knack to acquire the knowledge. Certifications help but make sure you walk the walk not just talk the talk, because almost anybody can read and get certified these days.
Be ready to work hard, learn the theory and nuances and find ways to practice what you read. Experience they say "is the best teacher".
What in your view is the relevance of certification in Java or Oracle, for experienced pros or newcomers?
Certification is an added incentive. With the tight job market now, experience counts more than certification. This is because most managers have come to the realization that passing certification is not a good substitute for experience.
What advice will you give somebody who's starting out in IT?
My advice is to be very practical. That is, most importantly, be able to "walk the walk" besides just "talking the talk". As I said, anybody can read and get certified these days, but can you perform when "push comes to shove"? They say practice makes perfect, so working in any environment where you can hone your skills is my best candidate for experience. Equally very important I believe is to understand the concepts, because irrespective of the technology, once you understand the concepts, you can very easily apply it to other relevant areas, which helps in reducing the learning curve.
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