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About Martin

I am an independent Oracle RDBMS consultant based in the UK. I specialise in performance, database design and VLDBs. I am also a proficient SQL & PL/SQL developer. I offer these skills to clients who need help in the short to medium term, ie days to weeks, in addressing critical issues. I have worked for clients in both the UK and also mainland Europe.

I have been working in the industry for over 20 years and, whilst duration is no guarantee of ability, most clients over that whole span have offered me further work.

I have been presenting at conferences and user groups for the last 12 years, both in the UK and abroad. Mostly I present on technical aspects of Oracle but I have also been known to present on management issues and IT disasters.

In 2010 I was delighted to become a member of the OakTable network and in December 2011 Oracle were kind enough to make me an Oracle ACE.

If you need help with an Oracle project or a performance issue, please contact me at mwidlake@ora600.org.uk.

 

Well, that’s the usual “Who am I” sell to potential clients out the way. Whilst all the above is true, it’s not quite the whole picture…

I am now semi-retired. While I do still take on assignments, I only do so if the role looks interesting, it’s a part-time/home-based role or someone asks me nicely. Usually a combination of two of those three is needed but I am a sucker for friends asking for help. I don’t consider work as a production DBA as, frankly, I lack the correct skill set and recent experience. Please don’t ask, I would be terrible for you. That and I’ve done my share of regular evening and weekend work.

As a result of my semi-retirement I can usually be hired at fairly short notice to help with performance or design issues. I’m based in the South of England, near Cambridge and close to Stansted airport, so within easy travel of much of Europe. However, also as a result of my semi-retirement I am often outside working with noisy power tools and I miss phone calls.

I now do as much Oracle Community stuff as I do paid work. I present at conferences, both in the UK and further afield, maintain this blog and occasionally run training courses. Actually, I have not run a formal training course for 5 years now, which is damned annoying as I really like doing them. I am actively involved with the UK Oracle User Group, as deputy chair to the RAC, HA & Infrastructure SIG and this year (2014) I’m chairing the Database working group for the annual Tech conference.  If you are involved in a user group and think I could offer talks you would like, it’s always worth asking me as I am terrible at remembering to submit abstracts in time. I’ll always offer to do my Disasters talk, but most people want boring technical stuff. *sigh*.

I should probably mention I am not really a computer programmer. I’m a failed scientist. My degree is in Genetics and Zoology and I’ve remained very interested in Genetics. I only fell into IT as, when I graduated, the UK politicians at the time had pretty much destroyed the UK scientific base and jobs in that area were rare. Even rarer than normal jobs, which were pretty hard to find. You can only pick strawberries and do farm labouring in the summer.

The NHS offered me a role to help develop clinical lab systems – but on the day I arrived a couple of the people hired to work on the more generic patient admin systems failed to appear. As a result I was re-assigned before I even touched a keyboard. Thus I started on the road to being a “normal” computer programmer. One of the few external applications we had was a report-generating tool based on some odd concept called Relational Databases and SQL. Everyone hated it as, frankly, the package was awful. My boss in turn hated me, so I had this tool and a set of manuals dumped on me before I was sent out on site to teach the hospital staff how to use it. I actually got it to work and quite liked it. Then in about 1992 Oracle was hiring people who knew NHS systems and, in particular, the one our systems were based on. As I already knew the basics of SQL they took me on and, well, that was my fate sealed. At the time the system we were creating was classed as a VLDB as the database was sized to grow to {cue drum roll}….50GB.

You never know what is going to come around though. I left Oracle after 3 years and became a contractor doing database design, performance and PL/SQL work. I kept stumbling into roles where I was using new Oracle features and the databases classed as VLDBs. Then, in 2001, a role came up as the database services manager for the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (WTSI) – the UK side of the Human Genome Project. They wanted someone who knew the latest Oracle, VLDBs, development and…Genetics. And was cheaper than most average developers in London. That was me then.

It was a wonderful role and I got to do some very challenging and interesting things. I ended up managing both the DBAs and several development teams, which widened my experience. We built some of the largest Oracle databases around at that time, at least ones that people would talk about. Our largest was almost 100TB when I left and the team got it to 1/2 a petabyte before another institute took it over – and immediately shut it down as it scared the hell out of their DBAs. We won an award off Oracle at the time, which unfairly had my name on it. Fairness was partly re-established when I took the trophy out the box and it cut my hand wide open.

The role came to a conclusion and I returned to selling my soul to the highest bidder, only now in London and the financial sector and not the Midlands near Birmingham. Better pay, way more obnoxious banker types. At least I got to read “New Scientist” on the commute in and out, I saw many more different ways of running IT departments and development projects and it’s let me retire whilst I still have the whit to enjoy it. Semi retire.

 

Comments»

1. Fahd Mirza - August 10, 2010

I am also very much proud of my 2TB database, and yes I also ‘foolishly’ yes to most of my employer’s demands, but that has always resulted in learning new skills and pushing my limits.

2. Rohit - November 3, 2010

Very informative blog Martin.

Oracle people love tinkering with very large databases. Though I am not into Oracle, but delivered few apps. on Oracle back-end too.

I want to create a sample VLDB, but not following how to gather data.


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