For the observant, you’ll have noticed that I have a logo on left side of my site saying Oracle Ace. Periodically I get asked what is it, what does it mean, and for those who are less involved in the Oracle community probably don’t know what it means.
Most developers will probably have encountered the idea of Java Champions or perhaps Microsoft MVPs (Most Valued Professional). All of these badges, and other large vendors such as SAP have comparable ones are a recognition of individuals outside of the organisation (in this case Oracle) who do a lot to support the community and wider technology ecosystem.
These contributions vary but typically take the form activities such as writing blogs/articles/books, answering questions on StackOverflow and other community sites where questions are raised and answered by experts. Organising and/or presenting at conferences.
This is the content helps bridge the gap between the standard guidance, documentation, white papers that the vendors will produce and real world practical experience.
Whilst you in theory you don’t have to be an expert to be part of these advocacy programmes, the reality is to communicate the meaningful value you need to have a level of experience and understanding that is more than the majority. I know a number of people in the Ace community who would deny being experts, and the only thing that differentiates them from everyone else is being willing to stand up and share what they have learnt. I would say that inevitably they are experts, as the processes and resource (atleast for Aces inevitably enable that development of expertise as I will try to illustrate shortly).
But before we progress, let me quickly summarise the advocacy communities that Oracle support …
- Java Champions – these are people working in the pure Java ecosystem
- Oracle Ace’s – within this community we have three tiers of Ace and which tier reflects the amount of time actively involved in the Ace programme and how much you contribute. So you start out as …
- Ace Associate progressing to
- Ace then a at the top are a smaller community of
- Ace Directors
Ace’s generally focus on Oracle’s mainstream products from database to Middleware like WebLogic and Apps
- The final group are Groundbreaker Ambassadors – this group are comparable to Ace Directors and actually progress through the Associate and Ace accreditation. But rather than focus on more traditional Oracle offerings this group tend to work with what could be described as modern app dev tech from Microservices and APIs to Blockchain.
Why get involved in such a community? Whilst I can only speak for myself, I suspect some of my motivators hold true for others, for me it’s about…
- The is a strong sense of community amongst the Aces and obviously an inbuilt common interest. Given we often encounter each other at conferences etc, it makes it a lot easier socially when attending conferences. Stuck for a coffee conversation? Go say hello to someone you already know.
- The value in knowledge and experience is in the sharing of that information, and you can’t beat the sense of validation when someone says – thank you, that really helped me.
- Talking to other Aces means you may pickup useful insights. Certainly the Ace community are encouraged to develop relationships with Oracle product management (to be nominated for Ace Director / Groundbreaker Ambassador you need the sponsorship of a product manager).
- These insights will further your knowledge which makes the day job easier. It becomes easier to influence Oracle when it comes to having features or priorities set that are of interest.
- Some employers and customers put value on the Ace recognition as
- there is the implicit expertise
- gives indirect channels to product management
- track record of sharing and enabling others
- …so it creates some extra career opportunities or a foot up. If you look at eProseed’s website you’ll see that they are very proud to employee a lot of Ace Directors.
Coming back to the point of expertise, as you develop within the community, the chances of learning from others increases, but developing relationships with product management means getting to hear about what’s next etc as well as getting to hear the product managers and their thinking. In fact Ace Directors and Groundbreakers have dedicated briefing sessions and additional access that provides further insight into the product, strategy and direction. These relationships can start to create a virtuous circle of knowledge accumulation.
Carrying the badge of a vendor, and obviously contributing to a vendor’s community carries the risk of being perceived as not being independent/impartial or perhaps understanding the wider landscape. But having been part of the community, this is deeply inaccurate. The community members I know take pride in being professional which usually means being clearly impartial and appreciating the wider IT landscape in which they specialize. Being an Ace doesn’t mean you only know Oracle products, many Ace’s in the integration and development space are often also certified on the Azure or AWS platforms for example. What you won’t find is an Ace publicly calling Oracle out, but then with the access afforded/acquired into the organisation means where there are concerns/challenges/issues they are communicated through the relationships developed and this input appears to be taken very seriously.
When it comes to benefits, there are some, but I wouldn’t want people to think that it will ‘pay’ for the level of effort put in. The benefits are very much in the realm of acknowledgement for the contributions made. So yes, we get a few goodies – nice polo shirt with the community logo and the alike. Engraved glassware acknowledging your progress to Ace. The real reward for me, is the community and having opportunities to share insights and a bit of acknowledgement of the effort invested, everything else is a bonus.