Starting with Oracle

>I just read an interesting article on IT Toolbox Blogs about how to get started with an Oracle database career.

The article is not specific to DBA’s, it applies to Developers too, in fact anybody that wants a career with Oracle databases.

At the moment it’s very generalised, there are high level suggestions to read books and browse internet sites, without specific examples of which ones are good.

However, it’s the first part in a series, so that kind of detail may come later, it will be interesting to see how it develops.

I posted a while back on what I thought Newbies needed to know and I still think that before you even attempt to log onto an Oracle database you have a good read of the concepts guide.

That is something that doesn’t only apply to Oracle, if you want a career as a DBA or Developer then you need a good understanding of database concepts.

I received a phone call from a Newbie DBA friend of mine last week.
They were having difficulties as something had gone wrong with a test restore and they couldn’t work out what the problem was.

To me, the problem was obvious, it also became clear to my friend when they suggested “I think the problem is that I don’t fully understand what it is I’m trying to do”.

We worked through the issue, and my final, polite suggestion was they now spend a couple of hours reading through the backup and recovery guide.

I know I found it really difficult at first, being told I was the new DBA and not really understanding what that meant or what I was supposed to do, but I found I was able to learn more quickly and understand how thing worked more easily once I had a good grasp of the concepts.

Newbie Awareness

>It would seem that ‘Newbie Awareness’ has really taken off lately.

Tom Kyte pointed out this link about Newbies.

I came across this one on Andy C’s blog.

Andy has taken a slightly different approach to my ‘Newbie Hints and Tips’ post and has looked at how to be a good ‘Guru’.

An interesting slant with some sound advice.

Has anybody else found any ‘Newbie’ blogs?

Newbie Websites

>In my previous post, we looked at books that were good for Newbies.

Now, I want to look at resources available on the internet.

As Niall commented, sometimes you just can’t beat a Google search.
However, I’ve found that sometimes this can also be problematic.

As an example,a Google search for ORA-01555 returned 47,300 hits!
That’s potentially a lot of links to search through before you find something useful.

The Oracle section of my favourites list is huge.

The most commonly used ones are probably:

Metalink
AskTom
Oracle-L Archives
OTN
Orafaq
Oracle Documentation

There are other sites I browse, but if I’m looking for something specific, I can usually find it on one of these sites.

They’re all pretty easy to use and contain useful material and I think that all Newbies should be familiar with these sites.

Like I said, there are others, this is by no means an exhaustive list!

Which other sites do you regularly search if you need information?

Newbie Resources

>In my presentation I have a couple of slides showing what I believe to be good Newbie resources.

These include books, websites and lists that are a good place for Newbies to learn.

I cannot dispute that there are a lot of good resources out there, however some of them are way beyond Newbie level.

Two of the books I recommend are Oracle DBA 101 by Theriault, Carmichael & Viscusi and Expert One on One by Tom Kyte.

DBA 101 because it is the kind of book you can pick up and read cover to cover. It gives a good explanation of the basics, uses a lot of easy to understand analogies and is easy to digest.

Expert One on One because, although it is a slightly more ‘hefty’ read, it explains concepts in easy to understand detail and includes a lot of workable examples that you can go away with and try for yourself.

I always have a copy of both books to hand.
I use Tom Kyte’s book as a reference manual and I would be lost without it.
If I come across a concept or issue that I can’t quite grasp, I will turn to Tom’s book for clarification.

I also have a couple of other books, that although I have learned from, are not the kind of reading I would recommend to Newbies for fear of overwhelming them.

Concentrating on books for the moment, do you have any ‘must reads’ that you found as a Newbie, or books that you, even as a seasoned Guru, could not work without and would recommend to Newbies as a way of learning?

What do I need to know Part II

>How do you know what you need to know, if you don’t know it yet?

It’s quite a frightening question!

My first couple of months as a DBA were spent with me working alone.
A lot of the tasks I was performing were based around following written instructions left by the previous DBA.
I knew what I had to do, and which commands to run, I just didn’t necessarily understand what I was doing or why.

I don’t think anybody realised how dangerous a scenario this could be, until I managed to bring the production system crashing to a halt a couple of times!
It wasn’t anything malicious, just pure lack of understanding.

I found that once I’d got my head round most of the basics, I had to learn everything else on a ‘need to know’ basis.
If I stumbled upon an issue or concept I didn’t understand, then I had to research it and learn on the spot.

After about 3 months, the company brought a contractor in, mainly to work on an upgrade project that was clearly above my limits at the time. He also became a mentor to me and was able to provide a bit of structure to my learning.

That’s when I was able to go on my first Oracle DBA course and get a proper understanding of the theory behind some of the tasks I had been doing.

Once I’d worked out that my starting point was to learn the basics of Oracle, I then asked myself “what next?”.

It’s probably easier, or at least it was for me, to work out what you don’t need to know.

For example, we didn’t use RMAN, so I didn’t need to worry about that.
We didn’t run 24×7, so we did a shut down and cold backups nightly, therefore I didn’t need to look into hot backups.
Similarly, if your place doesn’t use RAC or Dataguard, then don’t worry about learning it.

That’s not to say you’ll never need to learn, you just don’t need to yet.

Concentrate your learning on the systems you have in front of you, and you can build from there.

Stick to learning one new concept or skill at a time.
As you progress things will naturally fall together and may make more sense to you. I usually find that if I try and take in too much at one time, it all gets a bit jumbled up and I have to go and learn it all over again.

So how did anybody else approach learning?

How do you decide what and when to learn?

The Rehearsal Part II

>Today I gave my Newbie presentation at a UKOUG SIG meeting.

Despite being a bit nervous before hand, I did really well.

I got a few questions afterwards, the result of which being I will add bits into my presentation for UKOUG. I also had a lot of people congratulate me and, more importantly, tell me that they had learned something.

I’ll be offline for a week now, as I’m heading off for some sun to get over the excitement of the presentation!!

If anybody out there saw my presentation today, I’d be grateful for feedback.

See you in a week!

The Analogy

>OK, for the benefit of Niall.

The database is like a castle surrounded by a moat.

The instance is the drawbridge.

When the drawbridge is in place, you get easy access back and forth to the castle. That’s what it’s there for.

When you take the drawbridge out of position, you can still see the castle, you know it is still there, you just can’t reach it.

(I can’t believe I’ve just explained the concept of database and instance to an Oakie ;-))

I like analogies. I’ve always found it easier to ‘get’ a concept when I have a real world situation to liken it to. (But then again, I am a blonde!)

I use analogies a lot when trying to explain things to non-technical people, as well as Newbies.

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