Monday, October 29, 2007

October Travelogue #3:

Written on Saturday, October 27:

Here I am in seat 31C of an old Air India 747, making my way north to Paris and from there to Chicago. In some ten hours I will be home, at long last, after two weeks away - one in Europe and one in India.

For the last six days, I traveled to four different cities in India - Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai (Bombay) - and in each one, my friends at Quest Software India (led by Krishnan Thyagarajan, a very tall, very smart and very experienced software industry executive), put together a busy agenda that had me exhausted by the end of each day. My time in India was also just about the most successful, gratifying and exciting country tour I have ever experienced.

I'd been told for several years that there were lots of PL/SQL developers over in India who would love to come hear me speak. And, of course, I also knew that India was a country in transition - population growing rapidly, the high tech sector exploding even faster. Well, this was one case in which knowing intellectually about something and experiencing it personally are two very different things.

And before I say anything else about my time in India, I need to say this: I saw very little of it, and most of what I saw was from the window of a moving car. Of those six days, I spent a total of four hours as a tourist, being driven around Delhi, seeing some interesting tombs, mosques, monuments, etc. The whole rest of the time, I was either (a) presenting on PL/SQL best practices and Quest Code Tester to enthused groups of developers; (b) driving in totally insane traffic between those presentations; (c) sleeping in very nice hotels (but having time to nothing but sleep in them, sadly); (d) going to and from airports; and (e) flying around in planes.

I am not complaining, though. I told Krish that I was not coming to India to be a tourist. I wanted him to make the most of my short time there, and he did just that. In the five work days, I spoke directly to some 2000 developers! My audiences ranged from 10 (which was also one of the best in terms of discussions) to 400, at my public seminar in Mumbai just last night. I usually did three or four presentations each day (and I must tell you: I do not want to even think about presenting on best practices for quite a while).

Even with that very limited view of India, I could write for pages and pages about what I experienced. Sadly, I have many other things to do. So instead I will offer a scattering of impressions and highlights.

PL/SQL Ascending!

PL/SQL is an interesting language and the people who write PL/SQL code make up a very unusual programming culture. It is relatively small - perhaps a couple million developers. And PL/SQL developer are generally more focused on getting the job done than on debating the pros and cons of methodologies like Extreme Programming and Test-Driven Development. Yet there is a broad and deep appreciation of the language, from its simplicity and ease of use to its powerful methods of accessing the Oracle database.

In the US and Europe, it is also a language that is seeing very slow growth, in terms of numbers of new PL/SQL developers. It would be fairly typical for me to present to a group of 200 at an Oracle User Group event and find that only 10 people have started using PL/SQL in the last year or two.

In India, the numbers are starkly different. In a group of similar size, easily 50-75 people will be new to PL/SQL! That really warms my heart and gives me hope of ever blossoming book sales (:-) What can I say? I still need to food on the table...). And they are so young! One of my standard jokes goes like this:

"The programs you write today are likely going to still be running 20 years from now. How many of you have children under the age of 15?"

And in the US crowds of 200, perhaps 1/3 will raise their hands.

"Then there is good chance," I continue, "that some of those kids will grow up to be programmers. And maybe, just maybe, your daughter or son will end up maintaining your code. So you have two choices: either never put your name in your code or write code that you are proud of, that will not cause nightmares for little Johnny or Sally."

That gets a pretty good laugh in most of my presentations (so yes, I admit it: I have a standard repertoire of jokes. I am a "stand up comedi-programmer."). But in India, when I ask "How many of you have kids under the age of 15?" they all stare back at me unmoving. Heck, I think some of them are 15 years old!

In India, PL/SQL developers are young, they are energetic, they are enthusiastic, they are eager to learn. It was a real joy to spend time with so many of you in this past week, and I very much look forward to my next trip!

Rock Star!

I travel around the US and Europe mostly, doing trainings and presentations. And I always remind the people who are organizing the events that while it seems like it is easy to get people to come attend my events in respectable numbers, if you want to get lots of people to show up, you have at least pretend that the event is a BIG DEAL, really super special, etc. Otherwise, why would anyone else think it was going to be a big-deal, must-attend event?

Well, Quest India really took this advice to heart. Besides the on-site presentations at something like 15 companies, Quest organized two public events, one in Bangalore and the other in Mumbai. Hundreds of people attended each one and they were greeted by quite a show. I expect to post some vide clips on YouTube soon - you will not believe your eyes. A full stage backdrop set up, with an introductory video with pounding music...and then the phony fog hisses across the stage and as I step through the door in the center, confetti explodes into the air all around me! I have never experienced anything like it (and, honestly, I am not sure how much I want to :-) It was very entertaining, but I sure did a little bit weird).

After that rousing introduction, though, I got right back down to talking about PL/SQL, running code and so on. But for those few moments, I could pretend I was a "rock star."

.... to be continued ....


Sanj said...

Hey Steven... you may not have been a rock star but your presentation definitely ROCKED! Its been the most entertaining, informative and positively INSPIRING tech talk I've ever attended (and believe me, with 10+ years in the IT industry I've attended quite a few and given some of my own as well) :)

I really really wanted your slide set to convey all those high quality ideas to my team mates in office, and was delighted to see you've so generously put them on the net...

Unfortunately when I tried downloading it from here

it goes upto 99% and then says Server reset connection. I've tried this quite a few times on different days and even from different machines. Could you please mail it to me (or maybe see if thats a generic issue which other users are facing, or maybe its something to do with our local proxy server) Though I took down a lot of notes, I just cant wait to get my hands... er mouse... on the main thing! :)

Hey btw Im a fellow in your ppt who has a kid less than 15 years old, my son is 4 months as of yesterday :)

Anyway your presentation really changed my perspective of PL/SQL programming, and the best part of it was packed with so many invaluable insights beyond the core topic! Thanks a lot... :)

Aman.... said...

hi sir,
I am feeling so stupid not to read your blog and having a slightest idea that you would be coming to india.And moreover feeling so unlucky that I couldnt attend your seminars despite being in Delhi and Banglore so frequently.
hopefully some time in the future, I shall be there in your presentations and/or may be will attend them in US.Hope you had a great time in India and wish that you would come back soon.
Best regards,