ODTUG Member Series: The Serial Diver




Debra Lilley is an icon in the Oracle world. Known for her leadership roles in UKOUG and IOUC, she is passionate about her Oracle user group participation. She travels the globe, speaks at conferences, and evangelizes the benefits of Oracle user group involvement.

If you follow Debra on Facebook, one of the first things you’ll realize is that her hobby is abundantly clear. Debra is a serious and committed scuba diver. She has been all over the globe and is always seeking out new and exciting dive spots.

Other Interesting Things About Debra

  • She's a committed Christian (“and that doesn’t make you boring,” she adds).
  • She teaches basic IT to silver surfers in a local sheltered housing community.
  • She achieved the Queen's Guide award, which is the highest attainable award for members of Girlguiding (similar to Girl Scouts).
  • She has a small tattoo on her leg that was done when she turned 40 "to prove I wasn’t old.”
  • For two years she worked inside the Berlin Wall.
  • Debra has another set of interesting hobbies related to clothing – dressmaking, knitting, and crocheting. She made her own wedding dress and many formal dresses for her family.

debra2.jpg(some of the many things she's made!)

Debra's History in Technology


(young Debra)

Debra adamantly touts that she is currently “not technical.” Although her career has been a long one in the IT space, she claims that her technical roots stem from her youth. She started her IT career accidentally by completing “an aptitude test that was about making a cup of tea ‘very British'.” Her first job was very technical as a COBOL programmer. Then she became an analyst.

Twenty years ago while working for Fujitsu, Debra was promoted. She didn't know then how much her life would be changed by this moment. She moved to Northern Ireland as part of the opportunity; it was where her-then husband had come from. She's been living there ever since. In those 20 years, she worked with both apps and "the tech that supports them.”

At that time, Debra was aware of user groups and saw the importance of them. She remembers complaining to a colleague that they weren't involved enough with them. Her curiosity eventually led her to leading the IOUC Product Development Committee. In 2008, she was awarded the Oracle Magazine User Group Advocate of the Year Award.

Since that point, Debra has been on the UKOUG Board for 11 of the past 12 years and was President at one point. She's spoken over 200 times at user group events internationally. She travels all year, and you can find her pretty much at every major Oracle conference. You can feel the passion in her voice as she says, “I can truly say I love my job.”

Her Journey into Scuba Diving


(watch out for the moray eel!)

Debra first learned how to scuba dive at the age of 49. Her Oracle friend Dan Norris suggested that she celebrate her 50th birthday with a dive trip. After that, she became completely addicted to it. She's been diving for five years now and recently during Christmas, she completed her 200th dive, of which she's very proud.

She also supports a charity called Deptherapy. This organization runs specially created diving programs for seriously injured service veterans. This type of therapy is especially helpful for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. "The freedom it gives them is priceless," she said.

Her favorite thing about scuba diving is "the peace and tranquility below the water, and the ability to wonder at creation, the friendliness of the people above the water and the friends I have made."

Her biggest disappointment with diving is that her daughter is unable to join her on her excursions. Debra gushes about her amazing daughter, who is an officer in the military. Although her daughter learned how to dive and was able to join Debra on at least one trip, she perforated her eardrum and is unable to share in her mother's passion.


(Debra and her daughter Brooke)

Debra loves scuba diving because it "makes me feel good about myself. It is a complete break from my normal daily routine, although I love my job, and what there is to see, if simply out of this world. I have made so many wonderful friends."

Top Five Diving Destinations

Over the past five years, Debra has dived the globe. Her top five diving destinations include the following locations:

  1. Gran Canaria – where she first learned to dive
  2. Sea of Cortez, Mexico – her first liveaboard (an overnight scuba vacation experience on a boat)
  3. Red Sea, Egypt – where she enjoys exploring the boat wrecks, especially the SS Thistlegorm (an armed British Merchant Navy ship built in 1940 and sunk in 1941)
  4. Manly Beach, Sydney, Australia – great for weekend diving while visiting Sydney
  5. Anda, Philippines – where friends were running a diving resort


(diving at the SS Thistlegorm)

In addition, last year after Kscope15, Debra and Holger Friedrich went diving in Florida. She recounts that they "were ‘bothered’ by two remoras, the fish that attach themselves to the underside of sharks. They weren’t really dangerous, but I did feel threatened; the way they attach is like a suction cup, and I didn’t want that."


(Kscope15 diving event! Great banner!)

Advice for New Diving Enthusiasts

Debra offers the following advice for anyone who wants to get into this hobby:

  • Never dive alone. One of the upsides of this rule is that you can make amazing friends with new scuba buddies you meet along the way.
  • Entry-level training takes four days. Be sure to make time for it.
  • If you can swim and are willing to learn and dive correctly, “a good instructor will make a diver of you.”
  • You don't have to be a fast swimmer. Debra has a damaged wrist and it doesn't stop her.
  • “Divers are friendly people and are always willing to help.”
  • One of the biggest dangers of scuba diving is complacency. "Observation and appreciation of what is going on around you helps you to anticipate dangers and allow you to dive safely. I undertook Rescue Diver Training to help me understand the most common issues and how to handle them." To emphasize her point about safety, she also goes on to add, “If you decide it will never happen to you and you skip the safety stuff, then I never want to dive with you."

She concludes with this final piece of advice: "Go on give it a try, find a good recognized instructor, and ask for a try session. If I can do it, you can."


(some of the beautiful things you'll see as a diver – these are clownfish)

Debra recently dived in the Maldives over Easter. Her ultimate diving destination is the Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of Australia.

Happy diving adventures, Debra, and thank you for the educational interview!


(Debra’s first-ever scuba experience – in Chicago 2011)


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