Monday, 15 June 2015

A busy Few Weeks - And Breathe....

Some times there is so much on and these last two weeks have been one of those times. There were so many events on and not just in the UK, I think it must be conference season as everyone tries to get their event in before Europe slows down for the summer.

June started with the EOUC, The EMEA Presidents Meeting in Lisbon, I didn't attend, UKOUG send two people and Fiona and Linda Barker attended.

Our Cloud User Speakers
Linda Barker 1st president Outing
A few days later we had our HCM Community Applications Innovation Day, which was a great day with Cloud Customers telling their stories and Oracle explaining what's next. I have written an article for Oracle Scene it was great day.

We have a similar event for the ERP Community at the end of June, where we will hear what you can do to extend your ERP or consider ERP Cloud.

Then last week was even more manic, with many people pushing the flight planning websites to their limits. Most well known speakers trying to manage at least two events in the week.

UKOUG had Scotland early in the week and then Friday a very busy day but lets get back to that later. I was in Germany on Wednesday for the 2nd Day of the DOAG Business Event. This blog from Richard Bingham gives an insight from the HCM Day and the DOAG.

I spoke at the DOAG about AppAdvantage and Paas4SaaS (view my whitepaper here) and then it was a quick flight back for Friday. But whilst at the DOAG I spotted this UKOUG folder from yester year, anyone know what year?

I don't normally like or encourage 'demo babes' but at the Demo there was a marketing girl who I thought was fantastic. At first I thought her 'digital costume' was a body stocking but I had a chat with her and it was body paint and had taken two hours to apply. It looked amazing.

Then on the way home at Frankfurt Airport I spotted this advertising from Oracle, I really like it and think I will ask if we can have some for conference.

Other speakers were at EMEA Harmony in Tallinn, or always fantastic Bulgarian User Group and I understand there were others as well including the Israeli User Group Technical Days.

Friday was the busy, busy day at UKOUG, agenda planning day for our Apps, Tech and JDE events in December. Lots of people selecting the finite number of sessions from the amazing selection submitted. I hate turning people down but at the end of the day you step back and it looks like a really good set of agendas coming together. It takes a few weeks to check everything and get it ready for the official launch which will be in July.

As the boards started to come together we had the AGM for UKOUG, and Fiona Martin gave a presentation along with David Rowntree who covered Finance. It was a great roundup of the year and  I know how much effort Fiona had put into it. Then we had volunteer drinks in a local hostelry, a great finish to a long day.

It doesn't stop here either, this week is the sold out Solaris SIG and the Hyperion special event .

And in amongst all this I have been extremely busy with an opportunity at Certus, so have really been juggling, but as I like to say #ILoveMyJob

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Just How Lucky Can One Girl Get? I Love My Job

I've just finished my latest ACE Tour, and I often get asked  "How you do it? How do you manage to work, do UKOUG and ACE director duties?"

It's my job, well my job allows me to do this and #ILoveMyJob

I have a really exciting job title - VP Certus Cloud Solutions but as I said in my six month appraisal of the job it was really about enablement. You see Certus is a team, a team of people who all believe in what we can achieve with Oracle Cloud, and my job is to help the team fulfil their potential to do this.

My ability comes from my experience with Oracle Applications, what I have learnt from others, and the network of people I am honoured to be part of. All of that comes from being an Oracle ACE, a user group leader as well as the occasional practitioner. When I talked to Certus about joining them, this is what they wanted and they understood the commitment that meant.

I recently talked in a recent blog about the ACE program self assessment and how that sometimes leads to the dream job which then curtails some of the opportunities. Certus hasn't curtailed me in fact we agreed a contract that probably lets me do even more, but I don't simply have time off, it is all about juggling.

Juggling, I would have said multitasking but at a Collaborate keynote in 2011 , Dan Thurmon talked about, or rather demonstrated that we don't multitask, we look for patterns in what we do and use the gaps between the patterns to do something else. In his final act he juggled several power tools, explaining each one had a different pattern and by carefully watching and understanding each we could juggle.

So last week I was on tour, I spoke at three events, and at each evangelised the work of OTN, discussed how cloud is perceived in each market, discussed PaaS with developers and encouraged the local user groups. I shared with my fellow ACEs, and looked at the intersects of what we do, I made connections within Oracle and the Partner market. I answered every email I received, answered every question I was asked,  I worked on presentations for Certus customers, some marketing material, worked on a bid, reviewed a new offering, kept up with what is going on in the Oracle world. I worked on the agenda grids for UKOUG conference, reviewed strategy documents, wrote a couple of articles and had input into the HCM Apps Innovation Day next week. I wrote blogs and I learnt. I did my job.

But it isn't about working 24 hours a day, I do get to sleep and I also get to do other things, I still teach my silver surfers, have great fun with friends on tour and I can throw things high enough in the air to find time to dive, even organising a boat trip at Kscope later this month.

There is a limit to what you can juggle, my daughter is grown up and left home so whilst I spend time with her, I am not rushing home every day to look after a child or even husband for that matter. The juggling works when every component is what you you want to do. If there is an element you don't get satisfaction from the result, then you will take your eye off the job and everything will come crashing down.

One of the disruptions of Cloud is the changing procurement process and the variety of the organisations we are bidding for. In the last few months I have been working, as part of this great team with a gaming organisation, a household name in manufacturing, a charity, a public sector organisation looking for complete transformation, and the latest one is so exciting I just can't sit still. Many of these are net new customers for Oracle Applications and based on all we have learnt we have now we have just launched Engage HCM for Midsize.

I may be a very visible face of Certus but I am just one. Last month we had a customer JT Global talk at the Oracle Modern Applications Day about how Cloud had transformed their business and how the Certus Team had delivered for them, I never delivered one bit of that project but have helped others and now am helping tell our joint story, here, around the world and hopefully at OOW.

I remember at my interview being told everyone in Certus just pitches in and I would do everything from making the tea to talking to CIOs, well that's true and I'm so loving it.

I really do have the best job in the world.

Saturday, 30 May 2015


Finally I am home, laundry finished and even the expenses done!

OTNEMEA was a brilliant tour, despite the number of miles, it was actually quite relaxed, it only covered two timezones, so nobody had a jet lag issue, even Tariq who had travelled from the US seemed fine.

Portugal and Jordan were new user groups who I hope we have given the encouragement to keep going and gain more volunteers to help them grow. South Africa is a mature user group but with lots of change and I hope the new board have a successful main event later in the year.

'Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns Grow' - These events are not big stage, multiple stream conferences, they are little steps on the way to even more success, more members of the Oracle Community.

Thank you OTN for helping us be part of this.

OTNEMEA - South Africa

As I mentioned in the first of the OTNEMEA blogs, our flights for South Africa had been changed and we went via Dubai. The first flight was less than three hours and no problem at all and we arrived in Dubai about 10pm. The plane was parked away from the terminal and we were hit by 35'C heat, in the dark. It took a long time to get into the terminal and we had only just enough time to get something to eat before boarding the long flight to Johannesburg.

I enjoyed the flight and managed to sleep about three of the eight hours but either way it is hard when you arrive somewhere at 5.30am you are tired. We had arranged for a car to collect us from our hotel and it was so nice to be greated by a driver.

Heli & Bjoern
Animals at large
Sleepy kitty
Our friend Dina who lives in South Africa came up to meet us an hour later (just time for 42 minutes sleep and a quick shower), and we met again for breakfast. Why did we not sleep later? Well travel is a privilege and it is important to ensure we see a little of where we go, and that means sleep misses out. Dina took us to the Lion Park to experience some of the rich animal life of the region and we had the chance to play with the lion cubs.

Then we visited the Sterkfontein Caves, were the oldest known human skull was found 3 million years ago in an area now called the Cradle of Humankind a World Heritage site.

Java Man Skull
Java Man 

nice knees and headwear

There was a museum before we entered the caves and here we found that even million of years ago Oracle had a presence, or rather Java man did.

Tariq who took a different flight to us, meet up with us in the evening at the Carnivores restaurant. I had been there before on my first visit in 2013 but this was even my idea, a fantastic opportunity to sample the game Africa is so famous for. They didn't have candles on the table which perhaps they should as South Africa is currently experiencing planned (although they don't follow the plan) power cuts or load shedding and 3 times the lights went out and we had to wait the 42 seconds until the generator kicked in. It was a great evening and wonderful end to our free day, but we were all glad to get to bed, catch up on that sleep ready for the conference.

The event was held in the Oracle Offices in Woodbridge and as a novelty for this tour started on time, and the day flowed really well, in fact as they have horrible traffic at peak times they are happy for us to give additional content with both Heli and Bjoern doing an extra session.

During my cloud session we had the data residency discussion, but actually in South Africa there are far more fundamental issues than no oracle data center (yet) to run cloud, they have no reliable internet and as we had already found out not always reliable power. I know South Africa does have cloud customers but there could be a long wait whilst people have enough trust in their countries' infastructure despite the Oracle marketing on the wall outside.

I also gave my #PaaS4SaaS presentation in full here and was a little concerned that the audience might find it a little technically light, but actually Bjoern and a delegate both independently gave me great feedback that they enjoyed the story telling of what my company had done.

There were also delegatesi had met in 2013 although the user group people are new, they have had a lot of changes recently and the support they got from Oracle to put on the day was greatly appreciated. For us Dina, who I hope we have persuaded to do more with SAOUG was our best resource, not only did she look after us as friends but she was responsible for at least half the delegates who attended.

Tariq left straight after his sessions, but Bjoern, Heli and I had another wonderful evening with Dina at another local african restaurant, Moyo by the zoo, where we had not only traditional food but also our faces painted and great music played in the background.

Before Heli flew home the next day we did the traditional quick visit tourist 'red bus', which I was very much split on beforehand. I know that Oracle travel warnings are always exaggerated and for this trip we were told there had been shoot out by our hotel and the advice was

"In the event of a shoot-out, take cover behind the nearest solid object and minimise physical exposure to the violence. Criminals are unlikely to aim directly at individuals who pose no threat to their escape."

Normally I would laugh it off and be (a little) brave, but Dina the local is always telling us about incidents and told us to take no valuables at all on the bus. But we had Bjoern so off we went and it was quite enjoyable; it is sad to see so many things run down but Dina did say she saw small signs of regeneration that made her hope for the future.

Having packed Heli off in a taxi, Bjoern and I went with Dina for a family evening and then before we left the next day we had a leisurely breakfast at Stonehaven on Vaal, and a boat ride.

All too soon OTNEMEA was over (well except for the long journey home).

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

OTN EMEA - Jordan

Stop two was Amman in Jordan, and a lesson in preconceptions and assumptions.

First we had to get there and it was two flights, one to Istanbul and then onto Jordan, both on Turkish Airways. We should have had just 2 hours in Istanbul but the 2nd flight was delayed which gave us another few hours to enjoy what must be on of the world's nicest lounges. 

It wasn't my best journey, I was given a great seat at an emergency exit on the first plane but some dutch person decided he would spend almost an hour stood in front of me. Now I understand they need the leg room they are so tall, but it doesn't need to be my legroom! I was on the verge of air rage but being British never said anything. I also had a guy in the row in front who kept trying to take selfies with me in them. So I kept ducking my head, again I never said anything, I was frightened of losing my temper. Bjoern, sat across the aisle form me just couldn't stop laughing.

Then Bjoern had a bad few hours, lack of sleep, lack of food and lack of decision making, just got to him. So OTN Tour Tip #1, ensure you include a dictator or selfish person. 4 people traveling who are all polite means 'nobody minds' and no decisions are taken quickly. Alternatively we need a random generated decision maker app. However wonderful food, coffee and a Skype lesson from his wife on how ignore Bjoern, everything was OK again. 

I then tried my hardest to get us thrown out the lounge by reaching out to a stack of coffee mugs, grabbing one and turning it up the right way.  Problem was I had grabbed a jug of milk in error and then poured it over not only the floor and myself but the stack of at least 42 mugs. Wish I could understand turkish, I bet they had some colourful things to say about me.

Once we finally took off for Amman, that flight was fine, the only issue being that we didn't arrive until 2.30am. Our host from the local, Jordan Amman Oracle User Group was fellow ACE Director Osama Mustafa and he was waiting for us at the airport, now that is dedication. We actually arrived at our hotel at 4am, just as the call for morning prayers was starting.

Just a few hours later it was time to go to the venue Princess Sumaya University for Technology , a beautiful venue. AJOUG had a decent registration, a mix of local professionals and many students interested in Oracle. Unfortunately it was graduation day for students and somehow this meant we lost our student delegates. I think there had been a misunderstanding in that those not graduating had been told to stay away from the University, and that our event had not been identified as an exception. This was disappointing for AJOUG but hopefully, the connection has been made with these students and they will be able to continue with that, and we have all offered to do a webcast if it helps later.

graduates celebrating
What I learnt was that when you graduate in Jordan it is a big thing. There was a party on the campus with lots of noise and dancing, and in the evening they all drove around the city with balloons and students hanging out of windows and honking of horns. Looked great fun.

The audience was now very technical and they loved the sessions deep down in the database, and that combined with a very late start, a combination of local culture plus time spent looking for our students, and the university cutting short our access to the venue, meant I decided to drop my sessions for this event. I had good conversations with individuals about Cloud Applications and adoption, so I didn't feel too bad, and for the audience it made sense.

After the event we were treated to an amazing local lunch including the most amazing sweets. Discussions over lunch were really interesting, understanding what people are doing and what they are interested in, and this discussion led to the offer from Bjoern to do a session on Solaris that evening. Then we had a couple of hours to sleep off the lunch (by the pool) and try and get some of the lost sleep back from the travel. 

Osama was late picking us up (no surprise) but we got to watch people arriving at the hotel for a family party. One of my assumptions was that Jordan was an Arab state and that the dress code especially for women would be very conservative. Osama had told us they were a very 'open' country but it was still a shock. The dresses were often traditional but the shoes were amazing. I was worried about showing my ankles and wrists and yet here they were being giving centre stage.

Then Osama met us again and drove us to a Shisha cafe to have even more to eat ( a definite trend on this trip). In this cafe I had my first taste of Shisha, which was quite entertaining and I totally failed to even inhale yet alone taste it. 

Again the evening had many great talks and sharing of stories about using Oracle, what community is all about. Bjoern as promised gave the Solaris presentation and a new SIG was born.

Another great evening and another culinary highlight was this amazing hot chocolate drink.

1st Jordanian Solaris SIG

 We managed a late start on the Sunday, before being collected again by the wonderful Osama and taken to the airport, where we had time for a foot massage (again an Osama treat) before flying on to South Africa.

OTN EMEA - First Stop Portugal

My part in OTNEMEA was all too quickly apon us. I arrived in Lisbon at about 6pm, having worked on the 2 hour flight, and still had a conference call to take part in. Luckily Heli Helskyaho was expected at 7.30 so I was happy to find a quiet corner and get on with it.

Luis and Nuno from the Portuguese Oracle User Group came by to collect us and although Heli's flight was delayed an hour it didn't seem to matter that we didn't join the boys,  until 9pm; they eat late in Portugal. In fact when we left restaurant at 11:30 people were still arriving. It was a fantastic meal and I really pleased that whilst the national dishes are mainly fish they also had some great meats for me (I don't do fish).

My hotel was a wonderful surprise a beautiful room but with a bath simply in the middle of it, complete with remote control mood lighting! 

The next morning we walked to the university where the event was held, and I was really pleased for the Portuguese User Group who had got 60 -65 people signed up for the event. It started a little late, which is normal culture but for 3 europeans and an american being corralled by a german, it is scary! Still once we got going all flowed well, nobody overran and the audience had a great day.

My "Do Oracle Applications Stack Up?' was my first session and I had some great questions including from very technical people who recognise Cloud is here. Later in the day I had my more technical "AppAdvantage" presentation where I did talk a little about PaaS.

OUGPT is a relatively new user group and it was wonderful to be part of their growth. Luis and Nuno from the user group were such wonderful hosts and after the event we went down to the Tagus River and for a flight on the sky lift, gondolas that travel 30 metres above the river in the evening sunshine. Then we walked back along the river and a wonderful evening meal, then taking the metro back to our hotels.

Luis & Tariq
Bjoern, Me & Heli

As always with these tours, next morning it was off to the next location, two flights via Istanbul to Amman.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Off On The Road (Again)

I saw a tweet linking to Heli's blog today, talking about the OTN EMEA tour we start tomorrow.

I think I am getting blasé about travel, I packed my suitcase on Sunday and have been in London since yesterday, and whilst I know I am flying to Portugal tomorrow, it doesn't seem that imminent.

As Heli said we have had an issue with our flights, how rescheduling flights by days is acceptable I don't understand, but even more worrying is the travel agent didn't point it out either. Anyway that is now sorted.

I remember after one long OTN tour in South America saying to the organiser that the itinerary needed to have cities with direct flights, as travel is tiring. Bjoern who has arranged this trip obviously never got the memo. Portugal to Jordan is via Istanbul (Turkey) and Jordan to South Africa was to be via Cairo but now via Dubai. However I will shut up now, I know just how much he has put into setting this up and it is very appreciated.

Earlier today I had another little panic, I checked the visa requirements; Bjoern did tell us it was all OK but I have been caught out before when speakers from different countries had varying visa requirements.

My phone app said I needed a Visa for Jordan, NOT GOOD when I leave UK in < 24 hours, but when I went to their website, it said I could get it on arrival. phew!

I am actually quite prepared for my sessions. Over the three conferences in Portugal, Jordan and South Africa, I have 3 different presentations all of which I have given before.

I am really proud of my PaaS4SaaS presentation, it talks about our Proof of Concept and has led to us working even closer with Oracle Development and whilst it is semi technical I love discussing what you can do technically and why?

My AppAdvantage presentation is based on a joint presentation I did with Oracle at last year's Open World, and I have updated it to include a bit on PaaS.

The third presentation on 'Do Oracle Applications Stack up' has been updated to include the story of JT Global, a Certus Customer who just today has been making an Oracle Customer Success video after being the first live implementation of Oracle Cloud Time & Labor globally.

As with each OTN tour I am looking forward to sharing with the local user groups and learning myself from the discussions. Making new friends and hopefully seeing a tiny bit of the places we get to visit.

Tours are hard work, lots of travel, and we still have to juggle the day job, but our world of Oracle Technology is in an amazing transformation and I am so honoured to be part of it.

Thank you OTN ACE program, Bjoern and the 3 user groups for making this happen.