What to pursue
We will start with
free and work our way up in terms of cost. I am not including the cost of a
personal computer because you probably already have one for other reasons.
1. Download Oracle
documentation and software. The
only "cost" here involves having to register with Oracle Technology Network
(OTN). Being a member of OTN is something you want to do. There are no
negatives associated with belonging to OTN. All the documentation and Oracle
software you could ever want is available here seven days a week at the same
low cost to one and all: free. The only software you cannot get here is patch
software. In a learning mode, the likelihood of you running into a bug that
requires a patch is very low. What you miss out on by not having access to
patches is exposure to the patch installation process. The top books or guides
you should read are Concepts, Administrator's Guide (and its Windows version,
plus Getting Started for Windows), Installation Guide for <fill in your
OS> (and the release notes), Backup and Recovery Concepts, Net Services Administrator's
Guide, and SQL*Plus User's Guide and Reference. That is over 3000 pages - and that
is just to start with because there are plenty of other guides you will need to
to Oracle Magazine. Published
six times a year, this complimentary subscription provides news and information
about Oracle straight from Oracle. Several of the regular columns are very
good, first and foremost being Ask Tom by Tom Kyte. You should plan to make
regular visits to Mr. Kyte's website at OTN.
3. Visit Oracle
DBA websites. Most of these
websites, including the originating source of this article at www.databasejournal.com, have a free
question and answer forum. There are many very knowledgeable contributors to
these forums. Some are exceptional in their knowledge. Be aware that all
answers are not always correct, but even the wrong ones may help steer you in
the right direction at times. Before posting a question, make some attempt on
your own to have researched the answer. You can learn a lot by reading what is
posted, but you will learn much more and much quicker if you participate in
providing or posting answers. If you see a question no one has replied to yet,
look up the answer and post it. This means spending a portion of your day
surfing the websites and doing the research and writing, so be aware that this
type of internet usage during working hours may not be condoned by your
employer (i.e., do it on your own time).
4. Join a
local user's group. These generally are not free, and many companies
will sponsor their employees in these groups. Some groups have free access to
online technical information (even without being a member). Many groups have
quarterly meetings with guest speakers who cover a wide range of topics. Better
yet are the groups who host annual training days. Oracle's OpenWorld event is
the ultimate in this realm, and it commands a hefty price just to attend.
Oracle also hosts (free) Technology and Developer Days, which are half to full
day events where Oracle representatives put on demos or present lectures on
some aspect of a new or hot Oracle feature.
5. Buy books, and lots of them.
What is missing in one is usually covered in another similar book. You are no
longer in the land of the free (really, that's not a political statement), so
you'll need to contain your costs here. eBay is an excellent source of
acquiring books. One of the best places to purchase new books is at www.bookpool.com. Bookpool virtually always
beats Amazon and other online booksellers, and it always beats the price you
pay when buying from a "brick and mortar" store. Barnes & Noble, Borders
and other storefront sellers (including their online stores) almost always cost
more than what you can find at Bookpool. Which books to buy? Anything from O'Reilly
is going to be good. Oracle Press is a mixed bag of quality and is generally my
publisher of last resort. Oracle8i
DBA Bible by Jonathan Gennick et al is excellent. Mr. Gennick co-authored O'Reilly's
Oracle Net8 Configuration
and Troubleshooting, which is a superb reference on Oracle networking. Once
you are ready for the nitty-gritty details, you will need Expert One-on-One by Tom Kyte
(now published by APress, and previously by Wrox). This book is the gold
standard of Oracle. Do not buy books for older versions of Oracle. Buying the
complete reference set for Oracle7 is a complete waste of money, as are many of
the Oracle8 books (do not bother with the Oracle 8 exam prep book either).
Oracle8i books are still quite relevant, and there have not been that many
definitive books on Oracle9i.
6. Buy a set of certification
books and get certified. I happen to like the Sybex series for OCP.
Not only do the books provide you a fair amount of preparation for the
certification exams, they also come in handy as reference books (they are full
of examples and command syntax). The package deal for 8i (three books) is
cheaper than buying each book separately. In addition to buying the
certification prep books, you should be certified. Do not cheat yourself and go
down the cheat-sheet road for certification. Put in the time to study and pass.
Not only do you learn Oracle, you get some recognition for it as well. Some
tests are easier than others are, but it always feels good seeing the green bar
being longer than the red bar. The Self Test Software exam prep programs are
dead on with respect to what the real exams are like. Individually, they are
around $100 each, but STS frequently has sales promotions where you can realize
significant savings. The online version is the cheaper way to go. You do not
really need the CD's after you pass an exam.
NOTE: If you are thinking about getting Oracle8i certified,
today is not too late to start. On May 1st, Oracle announced the retirement of
the 8i track. You have until the end of 2004 to complete all of the 8i exams. If
you have any aspirations of becoming an Oracle9i OCP, your path here should
include first becoming an 8i OCP. Your cost to become a 9i OCP is one upgrade
exam. No ILT requirement. That alone saves you $2500. It's not too late, but
time is running out.
7. Purchase an
online training program (or use what your company may already have). Oracle has self-study CD courses, as do other
vendors. At $250 per day for instructor-led online courses, you can "attend"
the same classes you pay $500 per day in person. You can also purchase a one-year
subscription to an online library with over 400 courses. Here is a tip if your
company is in the partners program: did you know you already have a free
subscription to this online library? Otherwise, the cost is only $280.
8. Pay for training on your own.
At the high end of the cost scale, you can pay for classes and
training at a private company. Before signing a contract and spending around
$3000 for a three month or 250 hour long program of instruction (POI), do some
homework. Is the company reputable? Has it experienced a lot of instructor
turnover? Are the instructors well qualified to be teaching Oracle database
administration in the first place? Do you get your own workstation or PC while
in class? Any guarantees of retaking a class module if you fail an exam? Do
they offer financing? Are other package deals available (e.g., learn UNIX and
Oracle at the same time)? Is the company being sued for copyright infringement
(using some other company's training material and isn't it strange the front
page is always missing on their handouts)? Do books come with class, or do you
buy those on your own? If they come with the class, see if you can purchase
them on your own and save some money. Most employers offer tuition
reimbursement, but do not be surprised if your employer will not or cannot
offer this to you. The reason why? Because tuition reimbursement programs
require that the POI result in an academic grade.
Do not forget to look into your local community college or
university. Many universities offer courses in database administration, and
sometimes this is at the Master's level so be prepared to spend more money and
time this way. There's nothing wrong with pursuing the Cadillac option of
learning Oracle, but there is no guarantee that having an MS in Computer
Science will land you a job either (it's that experience Catch-22 problem
again, but you are in much better shape than someone with no degree in computer
science or no degree at all).
I hope that this two-part series has been useful to you, the
aspiring Oracle DBA. As mentioned, there is no one clear path or set of
guidelines on how to become a DBA. What is clear is that virtually no one hires
DBA's with zero experience. The first article discussed how you can get close
to Oracle by working in jobs related to Oracle, and this article went into
detail about ways you can learn Oracle. When the time comes, will you be ready
to be an Oracle DBA?
Follow up from the first article: Thanks to reader Russell
Johnson, who pointed out that a key benefit of working in a help desk position
is the opportunity to develop strong troubleshooting skills.
See All Articles by Columnist Steve Callan