COMMUNITY: Up Close
Tough CrowdBy Jeff Erickson
After making it in New York, a former NYOUG leader looks ahead.
Paul Dorsey thinks the most frightening speaking experience of his career was the first time he spoke at a meeting of the New York Oracle Users Group (NYOUG). “It’s an intimidating place to speak, because head DBAs from half of the Fortune 50 are sitting in the room in front of you,” says Dorsey. “The speaker before you is probably Tom Kyte, and the one after you might be Steven Feuerstein. It’s a scary situation.”
Dorsey, an Oracle ACE in Oracle Fusion Middleware and SOA, must have done well in that first presentation. He went on to serve as president of NYOUG from 1999 to 2006 and is now president emeritus. (Michael Olin is the current president.)
I met Dorsey at the 2009 ODTUG Kaleidoscope meeting in Monterey, California, where his speaking skills were on display in presentations on everything from Oracle Application Development Framework Faces to Oracle Application Express. His talk “Oracle Fusion Middleware: Life in the Trenches” was so well attended that to speak to him after the performance, I had to wait in line like a starstruck fan. “What was it like,” I asked, “to take the reins of one of the oldest and largest regional user groups?”
“You spend the first year trying to find your sea legs and figuring out how to run the organization,” says Dorsey. “After that I think we were able to manage NYOUG’s mission quite well.” Under Dorsey’s leadership, NYOUG saw increased membership and established its annual NYC Metro Area meeting, a four-track, all-day event that attracts around 500 people from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut and brings in top speakers from Oracle and the user community. Dorsey also shepherded the group through the events of 9/11, including canceling the group’s general meeting scheduled for September 12 just two blocks north of Ground Zero. Dorsey is grateful for one thing: “We didn’t lose any members that day,” he says.
NYOUG: 25 Years and Counting
Formed in 1984, NYOUG is arguably the oldest and certainly one of the largest and most active regional user groups in the Oracle community. Over the past 25 years, NYOUG’s paid membership has grown to more than 700, with weekly e-mails reaching more than 3,500. It is part of the Independent Oracle Users Group Regional User Group structure, but NYOUG is an independent and self-funded group, supported by revenue from its membership dues and meeting vendor sponsors.
The group holds quarterly general two-track (DBA/Developer) meetings as well as SIG (DBA, Web, and Data Warehousing) meetings, in addition to the annual Metro Area event, which is free for all Oracle professionals, not just members of NYOUG. “We’ve got meetings just about every month,” says Dorsey, “and they attract some of the top speakers and leaders in the industry.” Past meeting keynote speakers have included Oracle’s Charles Phillips, Ken Jacobs, Tom Kyte, and Thomas Kurian as well as other leading Oracle gurus such as Jonathan Lewis, Michael Abbey, and Arup Nanda. NYOUG also produces a quarterly technical journal, using papers from the meetings’ technical presentations and other tips and tricks from NYOUG members.
Key Word: Independent
NYOUG can be tough on Oracle. “This is a user group, and we are here to support the users,” Dorsey says. “If we’re happy about something, we’re not afraid to stand up and shout Oracle’s praises. But if we’re not happy, we are not shy about that either. Over the years, we’ve had a variety of Oracle executives come to speak, and we’ve discussed whether or not we ought to supply them with T-shirts with bull’s-eyes on them.”
It’s all in a day’s work, according to Dorsey. “It’s a great membership—heavily DBA-centric, very smart folks,” he says, shrugging. “But it can be a tough crowd. We’re New Yorkers. We have a reputation to live up to.”
Dorsey is now in Africa helping to build a low-bandwidth, easy-to-use Web architecture for the developing world. “I do much of my work in Ethiopia now, which is why I’m less involved with NYOUG,” he says.
I imagine that Dorsey is encountering tough situations in Addis Ababa. But after conquering the NYOUG, I suspect that he feels right at home.
Jeff Erickson is a senior editor with Oracle Publishing.