Recently I posted that I was teaching a class in Switzerland. I’m home now in good ol’ Virginia, over the jet lag and ready to blog.
Class went very well. I taught the Burleson Consulting 3 day Oracle RAC course, one of our most popular courses which I am called upon to teach frequently. This class has it all: theory, installation, internals, tuning, network setup, disk setup, and tips from the field.
But enough about that for the moment…I just got back from Switzerland!
Unfortunately bad weather postponed my flight by a day, and so I missed a good amount of time in Geneva. However, the next day air traffic was a little better, and I was able to get the flight from Norfolk to Newark, then Newark to Geneva. From what I understand, Newark Int’l is one of the few US airports with direct flights to Geneva, so at the least it was very convenient.
The visit to Switzerland was outstanding. Upon landing in Geneva I was picked up by a cousin who works for the WTO. He took me to his flat in Versoix where I got to visit some family I had never met before.
I didn’t sleep on the overnight flight, but I was determined to fight the jet lag and see some of the city. One of my relatives took me into Geneva from the Pont-Céard train station so I could tour the city a bit. She attends college in Geneva so she had to go off to class, but gave me an important piece of advice: keep an eye on the river and you can find your way anywhere.
The whole day I pretty much wandered around Geneva, finding various shops and disgracing the name of international travel by having a coffee at Starbucks (I know, I know). Later my cousin caught up with me and took me several places I hadn’t been, including up what felt like a thousand stairs to the top of the north tower of Cathédrale St-Pierre (St. Peter’s Cathedral). Turns out it was only 157 extremely narrow and tall stairs. Once at the top, the view is breathtaking. The room offers a complete panoramic view of Geneva and the mountains as you can see from these pictures:
After the flight, walking all over the city, and the climb up the tower (going down wasn’t so bad), I was pretty much beat. After dinner my cousin drove me to Lausanne and dropped me off at the Hotel Victoria Lausanne, a beautiful hotel on Avenue de la Gare (Gare being the train station).
There are two things I learned about Lausanne that made it startlingly different from Geneva:
- Less people knew English. I had to pick up a few more French phrases
- Everywhere was either up a hill or down a hill
Lausanne is a city built on a mountain (actually three hills that are part of a mountain). It was my first trip to a multi-level city, where every destination required a climb up steep roads or long stairs. While it made for beautiful scenery, it also made for aching quads and a burning desire to quit smoking immediately.
While not teaching, I wandered Lausanne (up down, up down). Every time I thought I’d seen the city I’d climb a new hill or set of stairs and find a whole new area to explore. I found several great shops and hangout spots. One of the nights I had dinner with my client at the fabulous Café-Restaurant du Vieux Lausanne, an excellent restaurant featuring an assortment of fresh game.
On the final day of class I caught the train after work towards Geneva. The plan was to take a regional train to Coppet and catch another train from there to Pont-Céard, but it didn’t quite work out that way. When I arrived in Coppet there were two other trains and no sign explaining their destinations. They left before I could ask anyone and I was stranded at the Coppet train station. I called my cousin in Versoix who came to rescue me after a bit.
After dinner with my family he took me to the Mövenpick hotel near the airport so I wouldn’t have to take a long train ride early in the morning.
My flight left the next morning, a long drawn out flight behind a man who obviously forgot to wear deodorant for a few days running. But hey, no flight is perfect, right?
When I told my family where I was going, one of the first things they asked was “Why fly you all the way from the USA?” Why indeed?
Sure, Oracle has offices in Europe, and of course there are some great Oracle minds in Europe as well. However, I think that an American DBA Consultant has two major things going for them:
- Client volume. I don’t have any numbers on American vs. European Oracle clients, but I’m pretty sure that Oracle enjoys heavier use in the USA. What’s more, the niches of these Oracle shops are many and varied: military, banking, internet, media, software, hardware, etc. I’ve taught classes for clients who design video games, clients who design and write microcode for enterprise storage arrays, clients with some of the largest and most active databases out there, and many more. While Oracle is used all over the world, it has its roots here in the USA, and it has the client list to prove it.
- Dollar value. Right now the value of the dollar makes a US consultant very appealing. What used to be pricey is now affordable due to exchange rate inequities.
The combination of broad expertise and low cost make it a win-win for everyone.
Dine In or Delivery?
Burleson Consulting specializes in onsite training; this means I fly to you and teach in your shop. In some situations I’ve had clients who book a hotel conference room for a classroom. But why go with that as opposed to in-class training from Oracle or another provider?
First off, I will say this: I have worked as a Sr. Instructor for Oracle University. It was a fun job and I got to work with some great people who taught Oracle daily to dozens of students. Oracle U. is a great place and good for foundation training.
One reason to go with on-site training is cost. I’ve had classes ranging from four students to twenty. Some may think it’s better to cram as many people as possible into a classroom, but it really depends on what you hope to get out of the class. More students means less time for real one-on-one time and an in-depth experience. Too few students can mean you fly through too quickly as there are not enough questions to keep the class moving. Even with only four students, you can’t beat the price.
Our 3 day RAC course is $9,000 for up to 20 students plus travel expenses for the instructor. The 5 day Oracle University course is $3,750 per student plus travel expenses for each student. Send four students to class and you’re talking $15,000 plus expenses for four. Send 10 students and you’re topping $40k with expenses, which could have bought roughly 4 in-house Burleson Consulting courses. For that price, you could even reward your DBAs with a cruise on which they can learn Oracle!
Another reason for on-site training is comfort. Just like a dining experience you have two choices: dine in or delivery? The pros and cons are much the same as well:
Dine In – You travel to an Oracle University near you and get the authentic Oracle experience. The white wire-bound notebook, the Oracle Corporation slide deck, the Oracle Instructor who delivers the course and administers the labs. The course you take will be written by dedicated courseware developers and will cover all of the topics necessary to gain a foundation in your chosen topic. Labs will be pre-created and ready to go to let you try what you’ve learned. However, as with dining there are some negatives as well:
- You don’t know who your waiter will be. Let’s face it, going to class is luck of the draw. You will get an instructor that has been chosen to teach the class, not chosen specifically for your needs.
- You don’t know the crowd. The rest of the class may not care about the things you do. In a packed class of 20 or more it is very easy for the class to get side-tracked on something that doesn’t help you, or for your question to get lost in a flurry of other questions.
- Custom requests may not be feasible. Sometimes it’s difficult getting questions answered in a mixed classroom environment. Your instructor, while knowledgeable, may not have seen the situations you have. As such, they may not be able to answer your questions. Additionally it is not possible to go into long drawn-out scenarios or problems in a class.
Delivery – With a class delivered to your company door, you get a class made for you. The instructor (that’s me) is there for the needs of your company and no others. The course can shift and vary, going in the direction that is most important to you. No matter how large the question, no matter how drawn out the explanation, no matter what the scenario, you’re the one and only client and therefore you’ll get results.
One huge benefit of going with a company well known for both consulting and training is that you get an instructor who has been in the field. Many times when I’m asked a question in class, I can say “You know, I saw that same thing just last week.” We show up to class with fresh war stories, a plethora of advice, and a broad perspective. I’d much rather hear an instructor say “Oh, I had that problem and did this to fix it” than “A student of mine had that problem. I wonder how he’s doing?”
I honestly love the combination. As a consultant I get the best of both worlds: consulting in a wide variety of databases, and training with dedicated clients. Sometimes the two meet: mentoring is a huge part of my consulting practice (it is horrible when a consultant leaves a client wondering how something works), and Q&A and problem solving are part and parcel of the classroom experience. And in the end, it is the client who reaps the benefits.
Yet another benefit is that you get to choose your instructor. Instead of choosing a course and date, you choose the options that work best for you. Instead of luck of the draw, you get an instructor and a course that works exactly how you need it to work. When you have a mission critical project coming up or employees that must be trained to work on your environment, having these choices can be the difference between a great project and a failure. If you really like your instructor, you can hire them for consulting too (hint hint)!
- The trip to Switzerland was a blast. I got to see Geneva and Lausanne and have a great time in both.
- When it comes to training you have options, even with an ocean between you and your instructor. It’s a good idea to weigh your options carefully.
- Remember YMMV – Your Mileage May Vary. Some people work better in a dedicated classroom environment, some work better in a familiar environment like their workplace. Both individuals and companies play a part in the decision making.
- I need to learn more French for next time I head to southwestern Switzerland.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you’re enjoying the holidays!