Are we big fish in a small pond?

How well do we as Oracle professionals cope on the worldwide stage?

I was struggling to answer a question on my forum yesterday. My gut reaction was that both the question and answer were simple, but I seemed incapable of grasping the issue. The reason for my difficulty was that English was not the first language of the person asking the question. This made me feel guilty on a couple of levels:

  • I’m a bit ashamed of the fact I can’t speak another language. I was terrible at French and German at school and two years of Japanese lessons left me in a position where all I can do is count to 10 and introduce myself. Not a massive return on my investment 🙂
  • I could imagine the frustration on the part of the other person. A newcomer to Oracle has enough to deal with, without having to cope with a language barrier on top of everything else.

This got me thinking about how we in the English speaking Oracle world must be percieved on the world stage.

I did a quick scan on the net and found a Population by Country breakdown. When you take a look at the numbers you’ll see that in comparison to China and India most countries seem relatively insignificant in population terms. Both these countries have recently seen a boom in their IT industries to the point where they are fast becoming IT superpowers. With that in mind, our myopic view of the IT industry seems very much like being a big fish in a small pond.

In actual fact, the IT industry is more than aware of this fact. So much so that even a certain company with the motto “Don’t be evil.” thinks nothing of censoring its content to get its foot in the door. Of course, they’re not the only people at it:

To return to my initial questions:

  • Are we big fish in a small pond? I think so.
  • How well do we as Oracle professionals cope on the worldwide stage? Not so well.

I would be interested to know the reactions of people on both sides of the debate. If English is not your first language do you feel left out in the cold, or have you come to accept that English is a prerequisite in the IT industry?

Cheers

Tim…

Author: Tim...

DBA, Developer, Author, Trainer.

9 thoughts on “Are we big fish in a small pond?”

  1. >> accept that English is a prerequisite in the IT industry?

    Tim, that’s the single largest complaint that I hear about Oracle consultants, and not just the ESL (English as a 2nd language) professionals.

    Communications skills are critical for any IT person, DBA, developer, programmer, especially writing skills.

    BTW, I see loads of USA people who cannot communicate clearly in writing.

    When I was in some CS courses, I was the one of the token USA-minorities in classes full of overachieving ESL students with great quantitative skills, but very poor English.

    I had many candid conversations with these folks and they all tell me that learning effective English is way-harder than even the most challenging calculus class, and that’s why most foreign-born USA students gravitate towards quantitive majors such as math and CS.

    I wholeheartedly agree about the huge diffficulty in mastering a foreign language, and I can’t imagine how hard it would be to learn conversational Hindi of Mandarin.

    Nonetheless, the market demands proficiency in both technical and commnuications skills.

  2. Don Burleson said…

    Nonetheless, the market demands proficiency in both technical and commnuications skills.

    I agree with this point, but should those communication skills necessarily be in English?

    At this point in time software production is dominated by English speaking companies (Microsoft, Oracle etc.). If this pattern shifts as the east becomes more dominant, it’s rather arrogant of us to assume English will be the language of choice.

    A quick look at the net will show you there is a great deal of non-English content out there. If we get to the point where a google search brings back more information in Mandarin than English we will be forced to reassess our values.

    I think we are at the beginning of a very interesting road. Perhaps keeping our skillsets up to date may soon include mandatory langauge classes at Oracle University 🙂

    Cheers

    Tim…

  3. Don Said
    “I can’t imagine how hard it would be to learn conversational Hindi of Mandarin.”

    Never bother about it! India has 18 official languages(including English)

    Tim,
    I have to accept that English is a prerequisite in the IT industry.

    India and China might be doing good in IT Industry. But that’s only in the Service sector(read ‘cheap labour’). When it comes to product development, the west still dominates.

  4. If English is not your first language do you feel left out in the cold, or have you come to accept that English is a prerequisite in the IT industry?
    English is pretty much a prerequisite in the IT industry because either the technology has roots in an English speaking country or the main consumers are in an English speaking country.

  5. Rajesh said…

    Never bother about it! India has 18 official languages(including English)

    One of my friends during University said she would travel to the next village and struggle to understand some conversations. Lots of langauges and lots of sub-dialects I believe. Perhaps English is a good choice.

    Regarding “service sector” and “technology roots”. I agree with those statements now, but what about in 10, 15, 20 years?

    Cheers

    Tim…

  6. >>> I can’t imagine how hard it would be to learn conversational Hindi of Mandarin.

    Hindi is the official language of India. Mandarin is the official language of China.

  7. Hi.

    I guess Don meant “or” not “of”. Pesky computer keyboards not self correcting when your fingers go wrong 🙂

    Cheers

    Tim…

  8. According to Star Trek, we all settle on English in the end anyway, so we might as well do it now. Even Mr. Sulu and Mr. Chekov speak English. Even the Vulcans and Romulans speak English. 🙂

    I speak 2 languages fluently and 1 language at a basic level. I have never had much use for any language other than English.

    And I have met many people who have English as their FIRST language and still can’t speak it very well.

    Nevertheless, you raise a very good point Tim. This is a situation we’ll have to deal with more and more over the years to come.

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