Retaining your Oracle superstars
Oracle Tips by Burleson Consulting
January 10, 2015
In this recession, companies across America are laying
off staff, downsizing and moving
to remote DBA providers,
kicking thousands of marginal Oracle professionals to the curb. At
the exact same time, they are struggling to keep their top Oracle talent,
those indispensible professionals with irreplaceable institution al
In the recession of 2015, it has become a two-tiered
market, with marginal Oracle people getting laid off, while Oracle
superstars are being lavished with rewards.
In today?s highly volatile work environment, the average Oracle professional rarely stays with a single employer for
more than a few years because their skills increase at a rate faster than the company is allowed to give them raises.
While some Oracle attrition is inevitable, there are many techniques
that savvy IT managers can use to retain their top talent.
If you look at the help wanted ads, Oracle DBA
jobs look very appealing with salaries that rival engineers and other
professionals, with starting salaries as high as $85,000 with senior Oracle
DBA?s commonly earning over $130,000 per year with some consultants earning
over a quarter million dollars a year.
Oracle Corporation recently published their
2009 Oracle salary survey which shows an
2009 DBA salary of $97,000.
general guideline, a well-qualified Oracle
professional with a masters degree will
age times three, so a
30 year old Oracle professional can expect, on
average, to earn at least $90,000 per year.
Want to be an Oracle superstar? It's not
too late, as Oracle professionals are rushing to
universities to sharper their skills. Read my notes about
the 2015 Oracle marketplace and the skills that
will make you more competitive in this recessionary market.
Who are the Oracle DBA
While many Oracle shops have hundreds of technology workers, the
retention efforts are normally focused on the technical superstars
whose knowledge of the company?s systems are not easily
transferred to replacements.
These are highly educated Oracle DBA's
who have graduated from competitive universities (MIT, Stanford) and hold an
advanced degree in Information Systems or computer science
from a top U.S. university and are highly trained in system
For example, Oracle
hires their superstars from only top-tier universities, choosing the
best and the brightest from Harvard, Yale, Stanford and MIT.
In most shops, the Oracle superstars typically serve as
consultants, vice president of database administration, system architects,
or informaticists (functional professionals who possess a professional
degree and are also trained in professional areas, such as medicine or
The explosive growth of the Oracle industry has created a two-tiered
job market. The top universities often produce the Oracle superstars,
while lesser schools produce hundreds of thousands of Oracle
programmers and developers.
In this recession there is not
much demand for marginal talent, and corporations
have the luxury of recruit their junior Oracle superstars
from recognized graduate schools and state universities.
So how do you tell if you have an Oracle superstar? Answering the
following questions can help you find out.
- Do they have a history of preparing for an Oracle
career? This is the most important indicator of
all and it separates the real Oracle superstars from those who
simply want an Oracle job for the high paycheck. A real
superstar will show coursework from age 18 that indicates a
desire to manage a large database system, with progressive
coursework in computer science, engineering, data management and
Information Systems and a history of college jobs that involve
managing electronic data.
- Do they possess a professional degree or
certification? If an employee has earned an MD, JD, MBA,
MSEE degree or professional certifications such as a CPA, they will be very difficult to replace in the open job market.
- Are they Oracle certified? - While there
are many marginal Oracle professionals who can earn the Oracle
Certified Professional (OCP) credentials, the Oracle Certified
Master (OCM) requires a challenging practicum that only a
dedicate Oracle professional can pass.
- Did they distinguish themselves by graduating from a
competitive school? If
the employee graduated from a top-notch technical university
with rigorous admission standards, then he or she will command a
premium in the Oracle job market. These schools include universities with stellar reputations in Information Systems
such as MIT, Purdue, the University of Texas, the University of
California at Los Angeles, the University of San Diego, and the
University of California at Berkeley.
- Have they published Oracle articles? Many Oracle
superstars publish theoretical research in respected academic
journals (the Journal of the IEEE and the Journal of
Information Systems) to advance Oracle knowledge.
While publishing on a blog or web site may indicate dedication,
a real Oracle superstar will get published in Oracle Magazine,
OTN, Computerworld and other major periodicals.
- Are they trained in a specialized skill? Oracle
professionals with specialized, difficult-to-find training are
often Oracle superstars. Examples of specialized skills include
Java, Oracle Applications, and J2EE.
- Are they a recognized Oracle expert? If an employee
has published books or magazine articles or is in demand as a
conference speaker, then they may be an Oracle superstar.
Don't be fooled by honorary titles like the Oracle ACE, whose
member talents range from amazing to abysmal. Instead look
for popularity as a writer and speaker at Oracle conferences.
- Do they possess irreplaceable institutional
knowledge? If the employee serves in a mission-critical
role such as chief architect or DBA, his or her departure may
create a vacuum in your Oracle department.
Now that we understand how to separate the wheat from the chaff, let's
take a look at how we can keep our Oracle superstars happy and productive.
Retention techniques for
the Oracle DBA
While no method can guarantee employee loyalty, there are a host
of techniques used by Oracle management to reduce attrition among
Oracle DBA staff. These techniques include:
- Flex time: Burnout can be a real problem among the
Oracle DBA who must typically work evenings and holidays to
maintain the computer systems. Many companies offer formal
comp-time policies or institute a four-day workweek, allowing
the DBA to work four, 10-hour days per week.
- Fun travel: Travel to exotic
destinations can be a real motivator, and some companies send
their superstars to their Caribbean offices and offer free
travel for the spouse. Me, I do a yearly
- Telecommuting: Many Oracle DBA's are allowed to work
at home and only visit the office once per week for important
- Golden handcuffs: Since a high base salary does not
always reduce attrition, many Oracle managers use yearly bonuses to
retain top Oracle DBA staff. These golden handcuffs may take the form of a
Management by Objective (MBO) structure whereby the superstar
receives a substantial annual bonus for meeting management
expectations. Some companies implement golden handcuffs by
paying the employee a huge signing bonus (often up to $100,000)
and requiring the employee to return the bonus if he or she
leaves the company in less than ten years.
- Office perks: Since many Oracle professionals
have responsibilities and
salaries commensurate with a corporate vice president, Oracle
superstars can get private offices, company cars, fly first class
and have access to the secretarial pool.
- Prestigious Job titles: Because Oracle DBA professionals command high
salaries, many are given honorary job titles. These include
fellows titles such as the Apple fellow, whereby the corporation
grants special privileges to Oracle employees granted fellow status.
Other Oracle DBA superstar titles include vice president of database
administration, chief technologist, and the new job title (used
by Bill Gates), chief software architect.
- Specialized training: Some shops reward your top Oracle DBA's by
sending them to lavish Oracle conferences and specialized Oracle training
classes. For example, Oracle Applications professionals
visit Hawaii for major conferences, and
training cruises have become an extremely popular reward for
the Oracle superstar, sailing to exotic destinations.
My company has among the highest pay in the
Oracle industry, and we only hire
experienced Oracle rock stars, one of whom
actually was a real
About 12 years ago I was giving a keynote
presentation at a conference when I noticed a High
School kid in the front row taking feverish notes
and hanging on my every word.
After my presentation, he leapt up and commanded
hammered me with question-after-question on
become an Oracle DBA and how to distinguish
himself as an Oracle Professional.
This was not the last time I would see this young
man. Since that day, he got a job
as a senior instructor at Oracle University, became
the world's youngest Oracle ACE and Oracle Certified
Master, and wrote several books on Oracle technology.
Now I ask you, how could I not hire
In sum, while the recession of 2015 has created a shakeout within
the lower ranks of Oracle professionals, Oracle managers remain committed
to retaining their top Oracle talent, and those Oracle professionals with
specialized skills are still in high demand. Oracle is imperative that
Oracle managers recognize his or her Oracle superstars and take active
measures to retain them.