My new role as “product responsible”

For nearly 6 months now I do something different than just technical work. I am currently – what they call at Rabobank – “Product Verantwoordelijke”. In English it sounds a bit weird: “product responsible”, or “responsible for the product”. And the product in question is Enterprise Manager and other tools or applications we use for administration.

“Product responsible” is a job where I’m basically deciding and advising on the technical stuff. So that doesn’t sound too big a job, especially because it’s just for Enterprise Manager, right? Sitting with two feet on my desk all the time?

Well, not quite apparently. It would be the case if a small DBA team of 4 people would use it, but in this case our team of 60+ DBAs and Fusion Middleware specialists use it. Also, it’s not supposed to stay like that. We’re working towards a Enterprise Manager as a Service model where a lot more people will get access to their specific targets via Enterprise Manager.

The idea what a product responsible’s job was, was varying from who I talked to too. For some it was just the technical aspect. But we’ve come from a place the management team was understaffed a couple of times and so other product responsibles started to compensate for that. I knew one thing: I’m currently not a good manager. I knew my job would be to lead people – on the technical stuff, but I was sure I wasn’t ready to that whole management thing.

Still, I had questions: “when am I doing this job right?”. To be honest, our culture isn’t like everyone is telling you regularly you’re doing it right. But after a while, I got a better idea where I wanted our products go. Also, fortunately my current manager does that coaching thing and I do know when I’m on the right track.

One thing I figured out quickly was: I wanted to have a clear vision of what we would do and not do. So I talked about that with the previous product responsible and we managed to paint a clear picture. We had a lot of overdue work on the implementation of Enterprise Manager 12c. So that’s priority number 1. Then we had to make changes for an important migration. Allright let’s call that prio 2. And so on.

So I told the team working on Enterprise Manager about my vision and … well after a while it was forgotten mostly. What happened? Turns out that was because their working days were full of adhoc planning. Was the team chaotic?

Well, turns out that if you did what I later did with the team and my manager: make a solid planning and make only one person per day responsible for all daily tasks and worries, they actually were able to do their work and keep to their planning. Smiling faces everywhere. Well, at least with me and my team.

Another thing was – and I knew this – we at Rabobank are really, really bad at decisions sometimes. Maybe it’s a Dutch decease actually. You pronounce a decision and everybody agrees (or doesn’t voice objections) and months later everything is forgotten and apparently we’re doing the other thing. I’m still not a manager, but hey, I knew it was possible to combat this. From the book “Decisive” from Dan and Chip Heath for example. It was about time to do something with that knowledge.

I decided to start with a decision document in which I would write down all decisions we made as a team. But not just that: in the document I (or someone else maybe) would write:

  • What we decided.
  • Why we needed the decision.
  • What the reasons were for our solution.
  • What other things we considered, but did not choose.
  • And on what date we will review the decision.

Sounds like a bit of work, but when you write this down, it makes everything so much clearer. And now our whole department might adopt this thing.

I’m not on easy street yet. There’s a lot to be done. And I still am looking how to manage my whack-a-mole style to-do list (I’m currently listening to Georg McKeown’s (audio) book “Essentialism” for better strategies for that). But I’m sensing I’m getting a positive influence and that was exactly what I hoped for.

 

So let’s do an imaginary Q&A.

Am I still doing performance tuning?

I’m not currently doing performance troubleshooting. I miss it sometimes. But I do give advice from time to time. Which is not exactly the same. I still have this “let me try, let me try” kind of feeling when I see performance issues. As Sean Connery once said: “you can’t win them all”.

On the other hand, performance related capacity management is becoming a more important topic now and I’m very much involved in that one.

 

 

Am I still doing security?

I should certainly say so. I’m involved in security in many ways. But I’m not configuring Database Vault or similar technology. I’m not missing it that much. I’m more meddling with keeping on track, making sure we’re not making mistakes. Even if it wouldn’t be my responsibility, I still would speak out on security issues, because I know a lot about scenarios how we could get hacked and I would like to avoid these pitfalls.

 

Am I still a hacker? Will I continue with Metasploit and other tools?

I never felt I was a real hacker, because I never came up with my own hacks. But yes, I will continue trying out tools like Metasploit and even come up with new possible additions. But this always was a spare time project. Rabobank doesn’t pay me for that. I don’t think a lot of companies would, except maybe companies that specialize in security.

I’m thinking of doing a presentation of using Kali Linux 2 to do penetration testing on Oracle databases. Because I love conferences and this kind of topic might allow me to be selected to speak on Oracle conferences (except Oracle Open World of course).

 

Will that Hack Attack idea ever come from the ground?

A long time ago I came up with the idea for making a course called Hack Attack, similar to the famous RAC Attack course. It has been on the back burner, but Kali Linux 2 is a really wonderful product that would make a great platform for a Hack Attack. With few additions I could make a course for that… if I find the time. Always the time. I’m at a point that I’m starting to plan my spare time, and plan projects like these and avoid doing other projects at the same time. Because otherwise it will never be started, let alone done.

 

If you stop playing Kerbal Space Program, you could easily make time for Hack Attack. Have you thought about that?

Not for a minute.

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About Marcel-Jan Krijgsman

Ever since I started working with Oracle, I had an interest in Oracle database performance tuning. This led, eventually, to a four day training I made and gave for customers of Transfer Solutions. Since 2012 I work for Rabobank Nederland. A few years ago I also became interested in Oracle database security. All technology aside, it is my experience that security usually plays out on a political level. I'm a Oracle certified professional for the 8i, 9i, 10g and 11g databases and Oracle Database 11g Performance Tuning Certified Expert.
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