I just realized that I haven't blogged about our certification program in some time. I dusted off a blog entry I did last year, updated it, and voila, here it is:
DB2 has six current certification exams that each lead to a different certification role. The most common certification is IBM Certified Database Administrator. Here are the exams that cover DB2 9 content:
* Exam 730 - DB2 9 Fundamentals * Exam 731 - DB2 9 DBA for Linux, Unix, and Windows* Exam 732 - DB2 9 DBA for z/OS* Exam 733 - DB2 9 Application Developer * Exam 734 - DB2 9 Advanced DBA for Linux UNIX and Windows* Exam 736 - DB2 9 Database Administrator for Linux UNIX and Windows Upgrade
Each exam has a time limit of 90 minutes, except the upgrade exam which has a time limit of 60 minutes. The number of questions and the cutscore for each exam varies. For example, exam 730 has 64 questions and you must score 59 percent or higher to pass it.
To become certified as a Database Administrator, you must pass both exams 730 and 731. Exam 730 covers basic DB2 concepts like SQL, installation, packaging, security, and concurrency. Exam 731 is much more detailed and focuses on the job tasks that a database administrator does in his or her daily job.
Certification Tips Common questions about certification go something like this: Do I have to get certified?, Is it worth anything?, and How do I get it? I've put together answers to these questions along with some other advice that I hope you find useful.
Do I need a DBA Certification to get a job as a DBA?
Not always as it depends on a number of factors. If you've worked as a DBA before or have a degree in an IT related field, and have experience using DB2, you may not need to get certified. I'd recommend it anyway, as regardless of what you already know, you'll learn something new during the process of earning a certification that may be tremendously valuable to you or your company If you have an older certification, upgrading to the most current level is an easy way to ensure that you stay on the top of your game.
If your employer requires you to be certified, or a job you are trying to get lists certification as a requirement, then for sure you'll need to earn the required certifications.
If you have little experience using DB2 or if you have a degree in a non-IT field and you're trying to break into the database arena, it's generally a good idea to get a few DB2 Certifications so employers take you a little more seriously. For self-study, also check out the free tutorials that IBM provides for most of the exams. The tutorials are broken into hour long segments of information based on the exam objectives. If have a great deal of experience, this may be all you need to prepare for the exam. To see the full set of exam prep tutorials that are available, see ibm.com/software/data/education/selfstudy.html.
Classroom education is an excellent way to learn, but may be difficult to justify for some people due to costs. If you find that you learn most effectively through classroom education, encourage your employer to pay for them. Don't forget to look into ILO training as this type of training gives you all the benefits of classroom education, but eliminates the travel costs. The best place to start to determine the classroom education that best fits your needs is with the training roadmaps: ibm.com/software/data/education/roadmaps.html.
Is there an easier way to get certified, that doesn't include studying?
Not many things of value don't require an effort. There are sites on the web that claim to have the actual certification exam for you to buy and memorize in order to pass the exam. These are created by a previous applicant who shares knowledge of the questions on a certification exam with a third party. There is no noble purpose of this information sharing. It is cheating, pure and simple. IBM has a non-disclosure agreement that they make every exam applicant agree to before they allow you to take the test. Any person who creates or gives out questions or answers from a certification exam is in violation of the NDA and if you get caught "dumping", you're likely to have your certs revoked, at a minimum! And, if you get caught using someone else's dump, you'll get your certs revoked and will never be able to get certified through IBM again.
Further more, there's the credibility issue of this information. Most dumps are littered with errors, spelling and otherwise. There are a lot of companies out there that sell brain dumps, but just because you pay for their version of sims / exams, doesn't make it legal. Be very careful of cheap exam sims because they tend to be brain dumps. If you have any questions about the validity of a company's product, ask other people in the DB2 Forums or go to IBM directly. As mentioned earlier, DB2 exams are experience based, so lots of practice using the product in as many areas as possible, may allow you to pass the exam without studying.
If I take the assessment exams repeatedly, will I eventually see all the questions on the certification exam?In the past, IBM offered free assessment exams to all candidates. It seems that several people were taking these exams multiple times in a possible attempt to memorize all of the questions. The bad news for these people is that the set of questions on the assessment exams is different than the set on the certification exams. Also, memorizing the questions and answers will not help you learn the material at all! I suggest that you take at least one assessment test to see how ready you are, but only AFTER you have read the exam objectives and had either experience or training. By the way, the assessment exams now cost $10 per take, so that will help you limit the number of assessment exams you decide to take. Here is the site that will get you to the assessment exams: ibm.com/software/data/education/cert/assessment.html.
Can I gain experience by reading DB2 Forums and Blogs?
Absolutely! There are several DBAs who firmly believe helping out on the various forums have helped us gain a deeper understanding of subjects that were on the exams. So, contribute to those forums. You're not only helping other people, you're helping yourself as well! Most likely you'll find members of the DB2 development team actively taking part in the forums as well.
Here are the sites that I recommend, at the least:Planet DB2 - a blog aggregator that combines DB2 blogs from around the world.IBM developerWorks - DB2 PortalIDUG – International DB2 User’s Group
Is it true that the DB2 Fundamentals Exam (700 or 730) caters to an LUW audience?
Not at all. The DB2 Fundamentals Exam contains only questions that are true for each and every platform! In fact, I've noticed that people whose primary area of experience is with DB2 for z/OS find this exam pretty easy.
Recommended Learning Path for Certification:
Here is the recommended path I suggest you take to prepare for a DB2 exam:
1) Choose the exam you want to take based on your job role. The DBA and AppDev certifications first require that you are certified as a Database Associate. To help you decide where to start, see the certification roadmaps: ibm.com/software/data/education/cert-roadmaps.html
2) Read through the exam objectives. Every question on the exam relates directly to one or more of the exam objectives. For a breakdown of the exam objectives and the recommended study materials, see ibm.com/software/data/education/certprep.html
3) If you are experienced with DB2 and feel that you are prepared to pass based on what you saw in the exam objectives, take an assessment exam. You'll get a report after taking the assessment exam that can help you pinpoint your weaknesses.
4) If you are NOT experienced with DB2, download a free version of DB2 Express-C and give it a try!
5) Decide on how you best want to increase your skills, and test your level of skill achieved by taking an assessment exam: ibm.com/software/data/education/cert/assessment.html.
a) Consider buying one of the Certification Study Guides to refresh and deepen your skills: ibm.com/software/data/education/bookstore/
b) Take a free tutorial: ibm.com/software/data/education/selfstudy.html.
c) Take an education class from IBM or one of its partners.
6) Feel ready? Book your test! Testing centers are located around the world. Find a location closest to your office or home: www.prometric.com/ibm. If this is your first time taking a certification exam, review the steps on this site: ibm.com/certify/process/t_proc.shtml
Which book is best?
DB2 9 for Linux, UNIX, and Windows: DBA Guide, Reference, and Exam Prep (6th Edition) by George Baklarz and Paul ZikopoulosWhat can you find in this book? Well, 1136 pages, for starters! As you can tell from the sheer size of the book is that you'll find much more than exam prep details! In fact, I would suggest that you continue to buy / read the Exam Study Guides by Roger Sanders to prepare for DB2 Certification Exams, but buy this book as your way to learn what you need to know, beyond the exams.
For exam prep, the best books are these:DB2 9 Fundamentals Certification Study Guide by Roger SandersDB2 9 Database Administration Certification Study Guide for Exam 731 by Roger Sanders DB2 9 Database Administration Upgrade Certification Study Guide for Exam 736 by Roger Sanders. You can find these books for sale at online book retails across the world.DB2 9 for z/OS Database Administration Certification Study Guide for Exam 732 by Susan Lawson and Dan Luksetich
You can find these books for sale at online book retails across the world.
PS: Check out Kate's blog entry with details about the upgrade exam: www.ibm.com/developerworks/blogs/page/katedawson[Read More]
The developerWorks Connections platform will be sunset on December 31, 2019. On January 1, 2020, this blog will no longer be available. More details available on our FAQ.
Keep on Learning
From archive: February 2008 X
IBM Information Management Software Services consultants go beyond technology to consider business impact—they strive to understand customers’ ultimate business goals and use technology to gain a competitive advantage. By linking technological solutions and business success, Software Services consultants help drive customer innovation.
Check out this site that provides profiles for a few of the consultants that make up the team of IBM Information Management Software Services consultants.
Steve Graves, Migration Solutions Architect - Carve out your next migration projectWith more than a decade of Services experience, Steve Graves has carved out a specialty in migrations to DB2 from competitive products. Steve has a deep understanding of the challenges unique migrations, and has expertly led dozens of customers through successful projects. Steve discusses how his clients have benefited from IBM Software Services when they made the move to DB2.
Bill Williams, Solutions Architect - Get tuned into migrationAs a Solutions Architect with over 25 years of Services experience, Bill is tuned into migrations. From SAP and Teradata migrations to Oracle and Sybase migrations, there is virtually no database that Bill hasn’t seen. Bill talks about IBM Software Services and his experience building a successful migration center of excellence.
Dan Gibson, Software Specialist - Dive into Data Warehousing With years of experience on countless customer projects, Dan Gibson is a Software Specialist with a deep understanding of Data Warehouses. Dan talks about the many ways that IBM Software Services can dive in to help you can gain strategic advantage during your next Data Warehousing project.
Edin Aganagic, Database Specialist - Gaining an edge on your next Data Warehousing ProjectWith more than two and a half decades of Services experience, Edin has carved out a unique specialty in Data Warehousing on SMP systems, MPP systems, and loosely-coupled systems-clusters. Edin discusses his approach to Data Warehousing and how IBM Software Services can assist you with your next warehousing project.
Maksym Petrenko, Database Consultant -Going the distance with DB2 Deeply involved with IBM database technology since the beginning of his career, Maksym knows DB2. With dozens of unique and challenging customer experiences under his belt, he has developed an expertise in application tuning and knows how to get the most out of your database. Max discusses his approach to DB2 and how clients have increased database performance and improved business results with Software Services.
For more information as to how you can engage these services, see IBM Information Management Software Services .
PS, check out Kate's new blog: http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/blogs/page/katedawson[Read More]
Are you aware of the The Future Runs on ?????? webcast?
Join the call to find out "what IS going on?" first hand. Join Bob Hoey and Jim Stallings tomorrow, February 26, 2008 at 02:00 PM Eastern Standard Time. Audience members may arrive 15 minutes in advance of this time.
Hear about a new product that will be introduced.
PS, check out Kate's new blog: www.ibm.com/developerworks/blogs/page/katedawson[Read More]
We are off to a great start in 2008 with an incredible 29% increase over December 2007. Information Management software published six IBM Redbooks publications in January: five books and one paper. The most active book in the month of January was "DB2 for z/OS Stored Procedures: Through the CALL and Beyond" followed by "Content Manager OnDemand Guide".
DB2 for z/OS Stored Procedures: Through the CALL and BeyondThis IBM Redbook helps you design, install, manage, and tune stored procedures with DB2 for z/OS. Stored procedures can provide major benefits in the areas of application performance, code re-use, security, and integrity. DB2 has offered an ever improving support for developing and operating stored procedures. DB2’s enhancements are related to tooling, language support, system environment, and have opened new possibilities for secure, highly portable applications in line with the e-business strategy of today's organizations.
Content Manager OnDemand GuideThis IBM Redbooks publication covers a variety of topics relating to the practical application of Content Manager OnDemand (simply referred to as "OnDemand") for Multiplatforms Version 8.3 (also known as Version 220.127.116.11), z/OS Version 7.1, and IBM eServer iSeries Common Server Version 5.3 of the OnDemand product. Where necessary, separate sections are included to cover variations between the different platforms.
DB2 Security and Compliance Solutions for Linux, UNIX, and WindowsIn this book, we discuss the existing and new DB2® security features introduced in DB2 9.5 for Linux , UNIX, and Windows. These enriched DB2 security features provide you the capability to protect your data and comply with regulatory requirements.
More Popular Downloads for Information Management Software This Month
High Availability and Scalability Guide for DB2 on Linux, UNIX, and WindowsAs organizations strive to do more with less, IBM DB2 for Linux, UNIX, and Windows provides various built-in high availability features. DB2 further provides high availability solutions by leveraging enterprise system resources with broad support for clustering software such as HACMP, TSA, and Microsoft Windows Cluster Server. This IBM Redbooks publication describes DB2’s high availability functions and features, focusing on High Availability Disaster Recovery (HADR) in the OLTP environment. The book provides a detailed discussion of HADR, including setup, configuration. administration, monitoring, and best practices.
Dimensional Modeling: In a Business Intelligence EnvironmentIn this IBM Redbook we describe and demonstrate dimensional data modeling techniques and technology, specifically focused on business intelligence and data warehousing. It is to help the reader understand how to design, maintain, and use a dimensional model for data warehousing that can provide the data access and performance required for business intelligence.
Oracle to DB2 Conversion Guide for Linux, UNIX,and WindowsIBM DB2 has long been known for its technology leadership. This IBM Redbooks publication, intended for technical staff who are involved in an Oracle to DB2 conversion project, is an informative guide that describes how to migrate the database system from Oracle to DB2 Version 9 on Linux, UNIX, and Microsoft Windows platforms.This book provides conversion methodology and step-by-step instructions for installing and using IBM Migration Toolkit (MTK) to port the database objects and data from Oracle to DB2. It illustrates, with examples, how to convert the stored procedures, functions, and triggers. Application programming and conversion considerations are discussed, along with the differences in features and functionality of the two products.In addition, you can find script conversion samples for data loading, database administration, and reports that are useful for DBAs. The testing section provides procedures and tips for conversion testing and database tuning. The laboratory examples are performed under Oracle 10g and DB2 Version 9. However, the migration process and examples can be applied to Oracle 7, 8, and 9i.
IBM WebSphere Information Analyzer and Data Quality AssessmentIBM Information Server is a revolutionary new software platform that helps organizations derive more value from the complex heterogeneous information that is spread across their systems. It enables organizations to integrate disparate data and deliver trusted information wherever and whenever needed, in line and in context, to specific people, applications, and processes.
IBM WebSphere Information Analyzer is a data profiling and analysis tool that is a critical component of IBM Information Server. It is designed to help business and data analysts understand the content, quality, and structure of their data sources by automating the data discovery process. Bundled with IBM WebSphere Information Analyzer is AuditStage, a data rule monitoring tool that is designed to help business and data analysts validate data and assess ongoing data quality trends.
Data Modeling Techniques for Data WarehousingThis redbook gives detail coverage to the topic of data modeling techniques for data warehousing, within the context of the overall data warehouse development process. The process of data warehouse modeling, including the steps required before and after the actual modeling step, is discussed. Detailed coverage of modeling techniques is presented in anevolutionary way through a gradual, but well-managed, expansion of the content of the actual data model.Coverage is also given to other important aspects of data warehousing that affect, or are affected by, the modeling process. These include architecting the warehouse and populating the data warehouse.
DB2 UDB for z/OS Version 8: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know, ... and MoreIBM DATABASE 2 Universal Database Server for z/OS Version 8 is the twelfth and largest release of DB2 for MVS. It brings new synergy with the zSeries hardware and is the first major subsystem to exploit the z/OS 64-bit virtual addressing capabilities. DB2 V8 offers data support, application development, and query functionality enhancements for e-business, while building upon the traditional characteristics of availability, exceptional scalability, and performance for the enterprise of choice.
Congratulations to Phil Gunning for the release of his latest book: DB2 9 for Developers!
This new book needs to be on your desk if you’re a DB2 developer or database administrator facing the task of implementing DB2 9. In it, recognized DB2 guru and top consultant Philip Gunning shows how we have integrated native XML into the DB2 engine and gives developers and DBAs a detailed roadmap for implementing and exploiting the new XML capabilities.
Amazon.com is selling the book at a 37% discount.
Also on amazon... see the latest 5 star reviews!
Contents: Chapter 1: What's New Chapter 2: DB2 9, Which Version is for You Chapter 3: The DB2 XML Evolution and Revolution Chapter 4: XML Essentials Chapter 5: Developing DB2 XML Applications Chapter 6: Service Oriented Architecture (SOAP), Web Services and XML Chapter 7: XML Database Design – Designing a DB2 Hybrid Database Chapter 8: XML Indexing Chapter 9: Database Administration Chapter 10: The DB2 Optimizer Chapter 11: Tuning the DB2 XML Hybrid Database Chapter 12: Tuning SQL/XML Queries Chapter 13: Monitoring DB2 Applications Chapter 14: High Availability Chapter 15: Problem Determination Appendix A: DB2 Catalog Views Appendix B: DB2 SQL/XML Limits.
Here is what our instructors are saying about ILO:
Instructor-Led Online courses truly offer a global learning opportunity. Having the option to take a course on your own terms, in the location of your choice, while still being able to experience live interaction with an instructor is highly beneficial for our global customers."- Joan Dunn, IBM certified instructor, U2
"When you look at Instructor-Led Online, it comes down to one thing: convenience. For the student on the go, online access to a real-time instructor means savings in time and money."- John Zucchero, IBM certified instructor, Informix
"Live instructor interaction, high-quality course content, hands-on labs, with flexibility, no travel expenses and real-time skills building with peers… it’s almost a question of why wouldn’t you take an Instructor-Led Online course."- Melanie Stopfer, IBM certified instructor, DB2
The promotions we were running with the user groups were very popular. At last check, there was still room for the IIUG promotion, but one for IDUG members was full. Click the links to be sure.
IDUG: Two special online lecture topics will be offered: SQL procedural language February 26, 2008 & DB2 for LUW Advanced Monitoring March 18, 2008. These offerings have been created for IDUG members only!
IIUG:This special session will be offered on February 19, 2008 from 11:00am - 12:30pm Eastern and will be taught by Mike Lowe.
Also new... a podcast that provides details on this type of education.
For me personally, the last two courses that I signed up to take, there ended up being a major snowstorm on the same day. I managed to make it into the classes, but now I wish they had been ILO classes so I didn't have to risk my life by driving in.
Last week our web team launched the Information Management Education and Services Web sites to officially welcome Cognos and Optim! Here is a summary of the changes: Education* New link to Cognos Education site* New link to the new BTO Optim catalog pages * New link to the Optim Podcast
Services* New Optim Services PDF* New Cognos graphic that links to Cognos consulting site
Thanks to Nicole and her team for pulling this together!
P.S. There is a new Cognos book about to be published that will also be valuable: Cognos 8 Business Intelligence: The Official Guide by Dan Volitich,[Read More]
Make sure you bookmark the ChannelDB2 website to see the very latest videos that are uploaded. Rav Ahuja filmed me when we were in Las Vegas for the IOD conference last year where I spoke about the latest releases of books related to IM products. Here is the link: My Video.
Personally I'm not happy with how it turned out... but my co-workers tell me that it's fine. (Do we ever like seeing ourselves on video?)
I asked Rav to make an update as there have been several new books published since that recording was made. He suggested that I simply turn the camera on myself, film a new segment and upload it. I think I'll do that! And I encourage anyone else who feels that they have something to share to do the same.
I also noticed that there is a place to put photos as well. I have a few photos from several conferences that I'd also like to share, so I'll add them there too.
Also see my blog on PlanetDB2.com.[Read More]
Do you read the foreword for a book before you buy it? Sometimes the foreword contains some very valuable information to help you make a buying decision. Kim Moutsos, the Editor of DB2 Magazine and DB2mag.com, wrote the foreword for the book: Understanding DB2: Learning Visually with Examples (2nd Edition) by Raul Chong, Xiaomei Wang, Michael Dang, and Dwaine R. Snow. In my opinion, this is one of the best forewords that I've read and if I didn't already own the book, I would surely buy it after reading this.
What a difference two years makes. When the first edition of this book came out in 2005, DB2 Universal Database (UDB) for Linux, Unix, and Windows version 8.2 was the hot new entry on the database management scene. As this book goes to press, DB2 9.5 is making its debut. While this latest DB2 release builds on the new features introduced in 8.2, it also continues along the new direction established by DB2 9: native storage and management of XML by the same engine that manages traditional relational data.
Why store and manage relational and XML data in the same data server, when specialized management systems exist for both? That's one of the things you'll learn in this book, of course, but here's the high-level view. As a hybrid data server, DB2 9 makes possible combinations of relational and XML data that weren't previously feasible. It also lets companies make the most of the skills of their existing employees. SQL experts can query both relational and XML data with an SQL statement. XQuery experts can query both XML and relational data with an XML query. And both relational and XML data benefit from the DB2's backup and recovery, optimization, scalability, and high availability features.
Certainly no newcomer to the IT landscape, XML is a given at most companies today. Why? Because as a flexible, self-describing language, XML is a sound basis for information exchange with customers, partners, and (in certain industries) regulators. It's also the foundation that's enabling more flexibility in IT architecture (namely service-oriented architecture). And it's one of the key enabling technologies behind Web 2.0. That's the high-level view. This book's authors provide a much more thorough explanation of XML's importance in IT systems in Chapter 2 (The Big Picture) and Chapter 10.
DB2 9.5 addresses both changes in the nature of business over the past two years as well as changes that are poised to affect businesses for years to come. XML falls into both categories. But XML isn't the only recent change DB2 9.5 addresses.
A seemingly endless stream of high-profile data breaches has put information security front and center in the public's mind—and it certainly should be front and center in the minds of companies that want to sell to this public. Not only do security controls have to be in place, but many companies have to be able to show in granular detail which employees have access to (and have accessed) what information. Chapter 11 covers the DB2 security model in great detail, including detailed instructions for understanding and implementing Label-Based Access Control (new in DB2 9), which enables row and column-level security.
When new business requirements come onto the scene, old concerns rarely go away. In fact, they sometimes become more important than ever. As companies look to become more efficient in every sense, they're placing more demands on data servers and the people who support them. For that reason, performance is as important as it has ever been. Chapter 17 covers DB2 tuning considerations from configurations, to proper SQL, to workload management, and other considerations. It also explains some of DB2's self-managing and self-tuning features that take some of the burden of performance tuning off the DBA's back.
Though thoroughly updated to reflect the changes in DB2 in the last two years, in some important ways, the second edition of this book isn't vastly different from the first. Readers loved the first edition of this book for its step-by-step approach to clarifying complex topics, its liberal use of screenshots and diagrams, and the completeness of its coverage, which appealed to novices and experts alike. Browsing the pages of this second edition, it's clear that the authors delivered just what their readers want: more of the same, updated to cover what's current today and what's coming next.
Kim MoutsosEditor, DB2 Magazine and DB2mag.com
Thanks to Kim for this foreword, and of course, all her work on DB2 Magazine and DB2mag.com!
Also see my blog on PlanetDB2[Read More]
One of the things that I love about my job is the ability to meet highly motivated and creative people. Sam is a person who I've known of for years, but only recently am I getting to know him better. You see, although he's written two books, I wasn't involved with them.... but now I'm trying to get a new book idea of his signed.
Another thing that I love about my job is that I'm in an office building with 2500 highly created people: IBM Toronto Lab. From an authoring perspective, we have many successful authors who work out of this building. One of our internal newsletters profiles a different author each month. I enjoy reading about the experiences of these authors and was particularly interested in the profile on Sam Lightstone... and I've decided to share some of the profile with you.
Sam is the Program Director for Open Database Technology and an STSM. As a teenager, Sam was a competitive fencer, nationally ranked and carded. Because he still uses the equipment a few times a year to horse around with his kids and their cousins, I would recommend that all DB2 team members be very polite when they meet Sam in the hallways. He also plays the guitar on occasion.
Sam, what is your work experience? Tell us a little bit about what you do at work.I’m currently the Program Director for DB2 Open Database Technology and an STSM. Previously I led the product planning and several architectural projects for our Data Warehouse needs in DB2. I also sit on the DDAB, which is great fun because it allows me to see and contribute to broader technical issues going on in the product. Most people know me for the work I’ve done in Autonomic Computing for DB2, an initiative I founded in 2000 along with Guy Lohman from the Almaden Research Center.
What have you published so far and what impact do you think it has had on our customers / community? I’ve published mostly along two tracks: academic papers and professional books. Roughly 40 papers and two books most of which were published since 2001. The papers focused largely on research and industrial results from our Autonomic Computing projects. The two books I published cover database design, one on logical design and the other on physical design.
The impact varies with the kind of publication. Research papers can influence the direction our industry takes over time. You can see the impact when other research groups begin to incorporate your ideas in their own projects. It’s fairly easy to track by citations of your publications. Industrial and trade publications focus on a different space, and are clearly more valuable in helping our customers and our field experts. There’s no question that whitepapers, customer facing articles and IBM Redbooks are massively appreciated by our customers; they help our customers consume our technology, build larger more committed technical communities around IBM middleware and help maximize the value that our customers can achieve from our products.
You can find links to some of my papers on DBLP.
You can find information on my Physical Database Design book, along with some reviews.
How did you get started? I started with failure. I submitted a couple of papers to conferences then waiting on pins and needles for months only to be rejected. It was disappointing and motivating at the same time. I realized there was something fundamentally wrong in my writing strategy. At the same time some of my counterparts at Microsoft were publishing prolifically, and I asked myself “what is it about their papers that they get accepted so regularly?” I printed off several of their papers and looked for a pattern, and I found it! Every one of their papers used the same template and certain stylistic elements. I started using a similar formula and found my papers getting accepted almost immediately. My team submitted papers to some important venues – SIGMOD, VLDB, ICDE, and others, and had 90% of everything we submitted accepted even in venues where the acceptance rates were 1 in 6 or 1 in 9. Between 2001 and 2007 my team published over 35 papers. We became incredibly efficient at it, authoring very professional papers in just a few days almost always using ideas and experimental results we had on hand from our regular line item development work. By splitting up the effort, we could compose a solid paper with everyone just doing a small fraction of the work.
Authoring a book was an entirely different experience, which came later in 2005 and then again in 2006. Much much harder, more profound, and more satisfying.
What do you like about publishing? Publishing is a way to make a contribution to the industry that goes beyond your normal circle of influence in IBM. Publications are read and reviewed by our competitors, our customers, and academics around the world. I remember sitting down to lunch at VLDB 2004 and coincidentally sitting beside a program manager from Microsoft SQL Server. He told me he had been reading my papers, and a few were circulating around Microsoft. I managed a forced painful smile and thought – “Oh no”. Then I thought… “Cool!”. It was a stark reminder to me that everything we publish can be used against us, but at the same time when we publish important ideas our influence extends beyond IBM.
Industrial publications such as whitepapers, IBM Redbooks, etc directly help our customer and our IBM field staff maximize the value they get from our products. What can be more satisfying than realizing you’ve helped an entire organization do things better and more easily?
In the case of the professional books I’ve written I have a real sense of contributing to the entire database community including application designers, DBAs, professors and students.
I get a lot of satisfaction when these ideas survive the peer review process. Particularly in the academic space these publications are often reviewed by some of the biggest names in the industry; there’s a real satisfaction that comes from knowing that your ideas have been reviewed by that community and are still recommended for publication. Many of us in IBM share the problem that the technical work we do can be hard to describe to our family and friends if they’re not themselves in one of the IT professions. Publishing however is something that I can show my family. Even if they don’t understand the content of the publications, they understand that a book or a paper has been published. It helps my family connect with my work life and share in it.
As a manager I found that my team enjoyed publishing and while authoring papers didn’t require much time it was a fun and team-bonding experience. One of my beliefs as a manager is that happy and enthusiastic employees are far more productive than those who aren’t. I feel strongly that whatever time we spent authoring we recouped tenfold in productivity gains within the team. Perhaps it’s counterintuitive but publishing is time well spent in building a high efficiency organization.
And finally, ya… it’s definitely nice to see your name in print!
Has publishing had any impact on your 'day job'? First and foremost I find that publishing forces me to learn things in a much deeper way that I otherwise would, and I grow professionally as a result. I’m always amazed how many times I think I know a topic thoroughly but once I start writing I discover so many aspects I’m forced to understand more deeply. I feel I’m a significantly broader and better engineer, database expert, and computer scientist because of it.
Inside of IBM promotion to higher bands along the technical track can come in many ways and publishing helps. It’s true that you can get promoted to Senior Technical Staff Member, Distinguished Engineer and IBM Fellow without an extensive publication history. Even so, publications and inventions are a key part of the promotion “package” for the higher bands. You don’t need to be a prolific author to reach these levels in IBM but it helps.
Any advice for new writers? Great question. A few thoughts:
Write what you know. Even when writing about a topic you know very well you’ll have a lot of research to do getting little details right about syntax, semantics, competitors etc. This is true for professional publications and academic publications alike.
Focus on quality. In the end the quality of what you write is what will propel you, not the volume. Authoring frequently without quality in the content may get you a few more publications awards but over time it will work against you. Take particular care when writing for venues where there isn’t a strong independent peer review process. In the absence of a critical review process, try to impose one on yourself by finding at least three skilled people to review what you’ve written.
Would you bother to read it? If you wouldn’t why should someone else? Use yourself as a guide post and try to focus on authoring things that you would personally feel compelled to read.
In general, collaborate with co-authors. Almost always collaboration means less work and a much better publication. It’s very rare than any of us have the depth of skill and business understanding to cover all angles of a topic thoroughly and articulately. At the very least make sure your publications are rigorously reviewed by two or three experts on the topic.
Style matters. There’s more to writing than just having something to write about. Study the styles and strategies that others have used successfully.
Don’t write to get rich. The IBM publishing program offers authors some compensation, but you won’t pay off your next home with it. Book publishing is another story because there are royalties involved, but most people don’t understand how little these usually are so here are some facts: Most technical books don’t make it to a second printing – which means they sell less than 3000 copies. Authors usually get a small percentage of the sales price (exact amount varies with the contract), which they divide between them if there are multiple authors. So the royalties are relatively small, and after taxes there’s not much to take home. (You’ll make a lot more money over time by spending just a few more hours a year managing your retirement investments!) What about all those millionaire authors you read about? After all isn’t JK Rowling richer than the Queen? True… but they weren’t writing about databases. Here’s a true conversation I had with my wife recently:“All we have to do is sell a million copies of my book Physical Database Design, and then we can retire”“That’s great honey, how many more do you need to sell?”“About a million”
Consider the long term benefits of publishing. In the short term the ‘benefit to time-spent ratio’ may not appear compelling. Authoring can be a lot of work with very little immediate return. But in the long run writing pays off many times over and in unexpected ways. Help customers, influence the industry, broaden and deepen your skills, propel your career, produce something your family can connect with and be proud of, see your name in print. It’s totally worth it.
That's it... I hope you enjoy this profile as much as I did.
See my blog and others on planetdb2.com.