Oracle: How To Become a Database Expert – with Paul Sorensen

by Mirek Burnejko

Paul SorensenThis is an interview with Paul Sorensen (Senior Director, Global Certification Programs).

Paul is responsible for all aspects of the Oracle Certification Programs globally including strategy, development, operations and marketing.

Today we talk about Database certifications.

In this interview you will find:

  • What is the hardest part of achieving the Oracle Certified Master title?
  • Why required trainings for OCP are good idea?
  • What steps give you the best start in your career?


IT Certification Master: Let’s start from OCA DBA. Is OCA DBA good certification for employees and employers?

Paul Sorensen: OCA DBA is the first step to becoming a DBA OCP, however, please understand that OCA itself has definite value. To become and OCA DBA you have to know and understand SQL (if you take the SQL Expert path to OCA DBA then you need to know SQL very well). Additionally you need to understand key foundational administration concepts, skills and functions. I expect those who earn OCA DBA will have solid skills, knowledge and experience on Oracle database systems/tools. This puts them on the path towards higher levels such as OCP DBA and OCM DBA, yes, but earning an OCA DBA credential is a definite and respectable accomplishment.

ICM: What do you think about the idea of adding a short lab on the first level (OCA) and removing required trainings? Why, in your opinion, the computer-based test is good for your certifications (OCA and OCP)?

PS: First, there is no course requirement for OCA DBA. This only comes about at the OCP DBA level. I like the idea of an exercise at the OCP level, but coming up with something that is reliably distributed around the world, with a consistent candidate experience is not quite feasible at this point, at least in a way that would make it affordable for candidates.

Our course requirement is a method that helps candidates to training and hands-on experience (in the labs). I believe that this makes them well-rounded (well-trained, experienced, well-practiced and knowledgeable) which improves their credibility, knowledge and skills.

The team works very hard on the multiple-choice exams. For a number of years Oracle has used scenario-based questions that present real-world situations and require candidates to thoroughly consider and answer real-world solutions. These tests are tough, very thorough and psychometrically valid. They are very good measurement tools that require people to study hard, practice and solve complex problems/scenarios. Because of this people become better technologists (which is the goal) as they prepare for the Oracle exams.

Here are a couple of videos (on our blog) that address the Oracle approach for exam development: here and here.

ICM: I’m a big fan of your OCM DBA lab. Can tell us something what is the hardest step on the road for the OCM certification?

Oracle CertificationsPS: Almost everything about the OCM DBA is difficult, and as a result becoming an OCM DBA can be very rewarding. There are tough prerequisites, required training and a rigorous 2-day lab-based examination. To reach the Master level is an amazing accomplishment for an Oracle DBA and is highly recognizable. These folks are top-notch DBAs: well-trained, experienced and cool under pressure. The OCM credential represents a significant amount of dedication, experience and skills on the part of credential-holders. The career success that OCM DBAs enjoy is directly related to the hard work that they put in to becoming an OCM DBA.

ICM: Do employers need people with the OCM certification, or maybe this certification is good only for architects and Oracle employees?

PS: A lot of OCM DBAs are independent consultants and make a very good living. A number of OCM DBAs work for large enterprise-level companies supporting and trouble-shooting their complex systems and processes. Every OCM DBA that I have spoken to does very well career-wise and has many options. The OCM level is not targeted at internal Oracle employees.

ICM: What do you think about certification system from Microsoft and IMB (about databases)? What they can change?

PS: I am honestly not focused on Microsoft’s certifications and do not have an opinion on this topic. My focus is on supporting Oracle’s technology customers and those who support those systems with the valid credentials.

ICM: Do you have plan to add the OCM certification (with lab) for MySQL?

PS: Not at this time, but we are working on plans for MySQL.

ICM: Tell us about your plans in general. Do you have a plan to add new certifications or maybe remove your 9i and 10g tracks?

PS: I cannot speak about specifics plans. However there are plans to continue our efforts to build certifications that will support the IT professionals that support them, particularly for our flagship products. Any retirements, changes to credential availability or new certification will be announced through the certification website and certification blog.

ICM: My readers ask me one question: Where they should start?

PS: Here is my suggestion:

  • Understand the Requirements for the certification you are pursuing (found on the Oracle certification website)
  • Closely Review the Exam Objectives for the exam you are taking
  • Using the exam objectives conduct a Gap Analysis of the objectives Vs your skills and knowledge (rate yourself objective by objective)
  • Based upon your gap analysis create a Personalized Study Plan that will bring you up to speed (might include training, practice, flashcards, practice exams, flashcards, books, etc.). Oracle University has great preparation resources, so please be sure to visit the OU website
  • Execute Fully on your Personalized Study Plan and review your progress against your gap analysis.
    Once you are comfortable with your knowledge and abilities don’t wait to take the exam. Do it sooner than later (once you are fully prepared).

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Certification website (Primary source of information about Oracle certification), Oracle Certification blog, Twitter and Facebook.

[This is part of the Interviews with Vendors Series]