As Published In
Oracle Magazine
March/April 2010

COMMENT: In The Field

How to Learn

By Mike Riley

Choosing the best way to acquire knowledge

Keeping up with current trends, product releases, and protocols is more important than ever for today’s IT professionals. How should busy specialists acquire new information?

The methodologies are many, and in this day and age, Oracle Development Tools User Group (ODTUG) members realize that they have to make smart choices when considering how to broaden their knowledge. With so many opportunities out there, how do you decide the best way to expand your technical repertoire? Let’s discuss a few of them.

The Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Method

This option is tailor-made for individualists. Crack open a book and read. Get the tool out and play with it so that you can learn the nuances. Eventually, every learning method will guide you to your goals; however, in using the DIY method, you’ll learn and perfect your craft by trial and error.

With the DIY method, your costs may be the lowest possible. However, you are on your own to learn, so your speed of learning might be low as well. Still, you can gain significant payoffs learning this way. The pride of knowing that you were able to accomplish your learning without relying on others is a nice reward—and in experimenting far and wide, you may learn more than you bargained for.

Learning from Others’ Mistakes

This method enables you to learn from others who have gone before you. Attending a local conference (or an international technical conference like ODTUG Kaleidoscope), taking a course from Oracle University, and getting your education from one of the many tremendous professional training firms out there all take you down this path. Your teachers have already put in the time and energy to be proficient in their technology subject matter, so you can build on that foundation.

Learning from the mistakes of others is a more costly option, especially if you travel to attend a conference. Registration fees and hotel, transportation, and other expenses can be significant. However, you may reach your learning goals more much quickly in this fashion.

Sharing Your Knowledge

One of the best ways to expand your knowledge is to teach others, which forces you to become more familiar with your topic. Teaching can take many shapes and forms. One place to start is at the office. You can always share what you know with others less experienced in your area.

You could also present at a conference. Many local user groups have regular meetings and events, and these groups are always looking for presenters to share their knowledge. Regional groups have periodic events, with more competition for speaking slots. Get accepted here, gain some experience, share your knowledge, and learn from the attendees’ questions and feedback. Take it to the next level. Submit your proposal to speak at an international event, such as ODTUG Kaleidoscope, or even Oracle OpenWorld. Get accepted at one of these events, and you will truly be at the pinnacle.

Teaching others requires an investment in time both to learn and to present, but you’ll receive a nice payback for your efforts. Most conferences offer a complimentary registration for accepted presentations, so when you’re not presenting you’ll be able to attend other presentations and learn even more. And of course by presenting, you’ll also get the satisfaction of knowing that you’re helping others achieve their learning goals. 

Next Steps


 REGISTER for Kaleidoscope 2010

Sharing my knowledge is my favorite method of learning more about a subject. It forces me to dig deeper and have a better understanding of the material than learning by other methods. Of course, learning in this fashion is a two-way street. As a presenter, I will most often learn something new based on the questions I’m asked during the presentation.

Attend Kaleidoscope 2010

You’ll have the opportunity to learn from others if you decide to attend ODTUG Kaleidoscope 2010 from June 27 to July 1 in Washington DC. More than 170 presentations are offered, and maybe by attending this year, you’ll be inspired to submit an abstract for a presentation at our 2011 conference. It’s a great way to share your knowledge and pay back the community for the lessons you learned along the way. 

Mike Riley ( is the president of ODTUG. Riley is a project manager/DBA for Hortica Insurance & Employee Benefits, in Edwardsville, Illinois, where he has developed applications using Oracle Database and Oracle tools for more than 20 years. Riley was ODTUG’s vice president in 2007 and 2008 and served as the 2008 Kaleidoscope conference chair.

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