The PL/SQL story of Steven's life

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I have two confessions to make: first, I have got to be one of the most narrowly specialized technologists in the world. I really just know one thing: PL/SQL. Fortunately, I know that pretty well—and fortunately also, Oracle has done a splendid job of designing, building, and enhancing the language. Sure, I used to write Fortran, but these days if you ask me about anything outside of PL/SQL you will draw a blank. Second confession: I am not really much of a technologist. I took three “101” courses on programming in college, and that is it for formal education. I have come to recognize over time that my strength is not that I am an amazing computer scientist sort of guy, but that I am an effective communicator. People seem to be able to actually read my stuff, understand it and then learn from it. And it hasn’t hurt, from what I am told, to let my sense of humor appear in my books…

OK, having said that, I got my beginning with Oracle as a presales person. I spent a couple of years following salespeople around to accounts and doing the dog-and-pony shows for them with SQL*Plus, SQL*Forms, etc. I can still remember my first public seminar for Oracle. Basically, what we were doing back in 1987 was running SQL*Plus scripts and saying, “Isn’t this language amazing?” So I was given the standard script from Oracle for the presentation, drove up to Milwaukee with my boss, John Cordell, and got up in front of about 30 people to wow them. Now, I am a compulsive tinkerer, so I decided that there were some ways I could improve the script. Unfortunately, I am also not the most disciplined person so there were two bugs in this canned script! It was quite embarrassing, but I survived, and John was very nice about it.

Presales was interesting and sometimes exciting, but programming was way better, so I would constantly dabble with the Oracle tools, building little apps for my co-workers to use. This developed into TeamSell, a sales support application that caught the eye of Mike Fields, head of U.S. Sales in the early ’90s. I was drafted to join a small dev team and we started building some very cool SQL*Forms apps to support the U.S. sales force. Then Larry canned Mike, and I was told to go back out on the road to help sell Oracle. I said no thanks, took the first consulting job I was offered, and ended up spending three years at McDonald’s headquarters in Oak Brook. While there, I saw an appeal on CompuServe for Oracle authors and I thought “Why not? I can write.” So I wrote that first book, which was the first independent text on PL/SQL, and it changed my life. From that point on, I was virtually a full-time student of the PL/SQL language, researching, writing, teaching, building code, etc. As I mentioned earlier, once you can structure your own time, all it takes is discipline—and reasonably good typing skills—and you can accomplish an awful lot!