COMMUNITY: Up Close
Making Friends Down Under
By Jeff Erickson
Building connections comes easily to New Zealanders.
Lynne O’Donoghue is the global user group liaison for her country’s user group. That her country is New Zealand—“a small geographic area,” as she describes it—means she’s worn a lot of hats for the New Zealand Oracle Users Group (NZOUG).
“I’ve held a number of positions—I’ve looked after the finances, I’ve been vice president, I’ve held other positions,” she says.
And because New Zealand is “at the end of the earth, except for Antarctica,” the job of the global user group liaison is to “connect with other user groups around the world to share ideas and experiences—as well as content—so that we can enrich the experience of our users and also be part of the world,” O’Donoghue says.
That’s exactly what I found her doing the day I talked to her on the Oracle campus, where she was representing NZOUG at the International Oracle Users Group Community conference. Back in New Zealand, though, NZOUG uses a combination of face-to-face and online learning to stay in touch.
“We run WebEx sessions on our Website,” O’Donoghue says. “Presenting over the Web lets us get coverage over the whole country. And at our annual conference, we have both overseas and local presenters, which gives our members a global view but shows how products and services are delivered in a local context.”
NZOUG serves the entire country. “We cover all of the Oracle products and services within New Zealand,” O’Donoghue says. The group’s members work in both applications and technology areas, although the differentiation isn’t as strong as it used to be.
“We used to differentiate between technology and applications, but we do this less and less now,” she says. “Even within the technology area, differentiating between database technologies and development technologies is less relevant—there’s such huge crossover now.”
This blending of boundaries between technology and applications has advantages. “People in New Zealand do not have highly specialized jobs,” O’Donoghue says. “We tend to have very broad jobs, so that works well within our community—that the products are coming together and the technology and applications are coming together, because that’s sort of what people do anyway.”
That’s because companies in New Zealand tend to be small on a global scale, O’Donoghue says. “Most organizations don’t have a large number of employees, so there’s not really room to be highly specialized in your area,” she says. “If you look after databases for an application, you probably look after many databases for many applications, and they may be Oracle and non-Oracle. So you’ll tend to have a very broad range of responsibilities.”
The experience is similar on the applications side. “You may be looking after one system or multiple systems,” she says. “It’s very normal to look after multiple systems—human resources, finance, everything all together. You tend to know about business processes very well, and about all the applications that support those business processes. Having this broad but deep knowledge gives us the understanding to appreciate Oracle’s strategy in bringing the applications closer together, and to take advantage of that where it is most relevant for the business.”
She acknowledges that this experience is unique. “It’s different than in North America, where the volume of activity is far greater,” she says. “It’s fun, though. We have a lot of variety.”
Connections are important to NZOUG, precisely because the country is small. “If you’re having a problem, we’ll call people in other organizations and find out if they’ve got the same issue. And we’ll ask what they did about it or how they fixed it. It’s really about sharing. It’s not about the problems you’re having, it’s about how we can solve problems,” she says.
Likewise, NZOUG has a good relationship with Oracle New Zealand. “We always invite Oracle to our board meetings—and they attend,” she says. “When Oracle New Zealand puts on an event, there’s communication with the user group, and we often do an introductory presentation, so it’s a close and successful partnership.”
It’s the kind of relationship they barely have to work at. “It’s a friendly work environment, and that crosses over from personal life to professional life and the user group communities, O’Donoghue says. “It’s just part of our Kiwi nature.”
Jeff Erickson is a senior editor with Oracle Publishing.