IT Hero: Oracle Database Services Manager

Regional Manager, Oracle Support OT - PSE
3 min read
IT Hero: Oracle Database Services Manager

The Data Base Services Job Involves Complex Problem Solving

For Mark Smith, a regional manager for Oracle database services on the Rimini Street team, the work day is all about complex problem solving. His Oracle Support Team helps more than 1,500 clients across all industries in eastern and central North America and in Latin America manage around 20 Oracle and on-Oracle database and middleware products. Many of the team’s clients are major international companies and some are tech companies that provide database services to other customers.

While the work is technical, the level of problem solving complexity ranges widely with the issue at hand and the level of technical skill the customer brings. Cases may be serious, like a major failure in a customer’s infrastructure, a database that’s down with no backups, or middleware that’s not serving a report properly. Other queries may be less consequential such as seeking advice about how to convert a report into an Excel spreadsheet or fixing an issue caused by a simple mistake.

“It’s very varied,” says Smith. “As an engineer, it keeps you very busy. It keeps you on your toes. You get to learn a lot.”

A Day in the life

During a typical eight-hour day, Smith’s team—divided between workers in the US and in Brazil—spend from 8:30am to 2:30pm EST focusing on high-priority problem-solving. A customer raises a case through a portal or a hotline, and is directed to that customer’s primary support engineer. Smith’s team stands ready to jump on a video call with a customer as soon as they raise an issue and the team prides itself on moving quickly.

“We have a rigorous, standard, documented process,” says Smith. “It ensures our customers get a very fast response. The last time we averaged it out, it was 2.39 minutes.”

Each case that’s raised has its own scope—some very small and some much bigger. Smith’s team aims to revolve each case within 15 days, but bigger issues can take longer. Some simple issues can be dealt with in five minutes. Team members do follow-up customer calls during the couple hours of each day when they aren’t serving as first-line responders to incoming tickets.

These calls show clients that the team is working to resolve the problem and help them advance solutions more quickly. They also give the team a chance to be proactive by asking the client about any upcoming actions or projects that could trigger a problem with databases or middleware in their ecosystem.

“We see if they have something scheduled for us to be aware of, like they’re going to update the database in four weeks,” says Smith. “Then we say, ‘Do you need help with that? Is there anything we can do?’”

Part of being proactive is answering questions before problems arise, such as advising a client on potential pitfalls in migrating to a new server. Smith’s team asks customers to call them before doing anything major or seeking out advice elsewhere.

“We want them to approach us first so we can advise them,” says Smith. “The worst case is that a customer rushes into a major change and it goes wrong. We want to help them avoid that as much as possible, so we volunteer ourselves to get involved in the process a bit earlier.”

In everything the team does, the focus is on customer satisfaction.

“Though technically we support the product, we’re actually providing support to the customer,” says Smith. “We look at it as though we’re supporting the individual who raises the question.”

‘The very best thing’

Originally from the UK, Smith got his BA in England and his MA in France, then stayed in France for his first couple jobs in IT. While many who end up Smith’s role start as a junior developer or junior systems administrator, Smith made connections that allowed him to jump right into a role as a database administrator. He went on to work for many employers, including Panasonic, British Telecom, and the UK government, before moving to the US with his American wife. Statewide, he did database administration for large ecommerce companies and then found a role at Rimini Street due to his expertise in a product called Exadata.

Smith’s extensive experience has taught him that hands-on learning is vital for success as a database services manager.

“You’ve got to live it,” he says. “I’ve interviewed people who are technically fantastic, but they’ve not learned the hard way. I ask everyone, ‘Have you ever recovered a production database that you’ve lost?’ You must have done that in order to move on in the hiring process.”

It’s that first-hand knowledge of how to fix very complex problems that allows the best database troubleshooters to reap the special rewards of the position.

“The very best thing is knowing that you’ve gotten the customer out of a major problem,” Smith says. “They were on the phone terrified and worried about losing their job or the impact on their business. And you’ve gotten them out of that situation or improved something that’s very important to them.”

For him, this type of satisfaction is just part of the job.

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