Volunteer Spotlight: Meet Mike Riley

By John King ACE D.png, King Training Resources

The latest ODTUG Volunteer Spotlight focuses on Mike Riley. You probably know Mike as the past president of ODTUG (2009-2012) or ODTUG Kscope Conference Chair (2008, 2013-2014). You might even know he was once trapped in an elevator at Oracle OpenWorld 2008 with then-UKOUG President Debra Lilley for two hours until someone from Oracle Support saw her social media plea for help on OTN’s Oracle Mix and called the hotel to rescue them. You might even know Mike through his work as an Oracle ACE.

I was amazed to discover Mike had never been the subject of ODTUG’s Volunteer Spotlight before, pretty surprising for a guy who has been at the heart of ODTUG for years. In fact, Mike has overseen the transformation of ODTUG into one of the largest Oracle user groups in the world and expanded the always-super ODTUG Kaleidoscope Conference into the world-best ODTUG Kscope conference we know today. Kscope has grown so successful that it is known as one of the “big six” conferences to Oracle’s product managers and management.

Mike was even the original author of the ODTUG Technical Journal Volunteer Spotlight column (what goes around, comes around).

Mike is a family man who calls the town of Godfrey in southern Illinois home with his wife Lisa and their two super kids. Godfrey is 40 minutes northeast of St. Louis and a 30-minute commute from Mike’s employer, Hortica Insurance & Employee Benefits in Edwardsville, IL (southwestern Illinois, near St. Louis, MO). Hortica provides insurance to greenhouse growers, nurseries, florists, garden centers, some farms, some importers, and others in the agriculture industry. He and his family are avid St. Louis Cardinals fans.

Mike has been employed for 25 years by Hortica, where he is a man of many hats. Working as developer, development DBA, project leader, and in other roles, Mike is an invaluable part of the Hortica team. His technical background includes Oracle Forms, Oracle Designer, SQL, PL/SQL, Oracle Application Express, Cobol, Perl, and DBA skills.

As many of you know, Mike is battling cancer as I write this. He’s been through the first round of chemotherapy and radiation, followed by surgery and a month-long stay in the hospital, and is now beginning several months of chemotherapy. Mike’s pretty open and shares frequently on Facebook and Twitter @Mike_ODTUG. Chet Justice has set up a GoFundMe site (www.gofundme.com/fmcuta) to help with the expenses the Rileys are facing, if you are interested in helping out. In a real twist, Mike met Lisa when they were helping a mutual friend battling cancer years ago.

I asked people to share what they thought we should know about Mike and was overwhelmed by responses (look how many are Oracle ACE Directors and Oracle ACEs):

Kent Graziano ACE D.png– Past-President of ODTUG and RMOUG: “Mike is the kind of leader every group hopes for – one who can see a problem, consider options and solutions from all parties, then make an intelligent decision and move forward. Bottom line: Mike is just a great guy.”

Martin Giffy D’Souza ACE D.png– ODTUG Director: "I've known Mike for several years and really respect all that he's done for the ODTUG community. Mike was the one that really encouraged me to get more involved with ODTUG, and it's been an amazing journey so far."

Mary Lou Dopart – Senior Director, Oracle Global Customer Programs: “Mike Riley – he’s a favorite. I always know where we stand on any topic, and I love that we always end our conversations with hearty laughter!”

Jerry Ireland ACE.png– Past ODTUG Director: “Mike has excelled at the two most important ODTUG positions – conference chair and president. He is fiercely supportive of ODTUG, Mr. Dependable, and respected by all.”

Floyd Teter ACE D.png– Past OAUG Vice President: “Mike Riley: technical chops, wise advice, leadership, plays well with others, positive in the face of life's challenges, inspirational. My life is better because he's my friend.”

Monty Latiolais – ODTUG President: “He’s my best friend and the best friend ODTUG will ever have.”

Debra Lilley ACE D.png – Former UKOUG President: “Mike’s first blog as president was on volunteering and it motivated me. That’s what he is great at – true leadership.”

Andy Flower – Former IOUG President: “Mike Riley? He’s a glutton for punishment. Who steps down as president of ODTUG and into conference director? Only someone who is an awesome member and leader in the Oracle community.”

Tim Tow ACE D.png– ODTUG Director: “Mike is probably the person most responsible for Kscope becoming the go-to conference for Oracle EPM and Essbase professionals, which, in turn, has triggered the tremendous growth of the ODTUG organization in the past few years.”

Roel Hartman ACE D.png – Kscope APEX Content Lead: “Mike ‘The Man’ Riley: To me, he is the father of the ODTUG family, not because he’s old in any way. It’s just the way I got to know him during my first Kscopes, taking care of everything and everyone.”

Crystal Walton – ODTUG Executive Director: “You could not find a person more dedicated to ODTUG than Mike. He eats, sleeps, and breathes ODTUG and is constantly pushing the envelope on how to make the organization and community better.”

Edward Roske ACE D.png– Former Kscope Chairperson: “Mike Riley has done more to save the Hyperion community in the last five years than arguably anyone else on Earth.”

Bambi Price ACE.png– Former ODTUG Director and APOUC Spokesperson: “I have known Mike for over 10 years. During that time, I had the pleasure of being on the board at the same time as Mike. He has great ideas and is always dedicated to achieving the best for our members.”

Michelle Malcher ACE D.png– IOUG President: “Mike is passionate about seeing others succeed and is a valuable volunteer to the Oracle users community. He looks for better ways to support the community and doesn’t mind getting a little crazy to show his interest and passion.”

Victoria Lira – Oracle Technology Network Community Relations: “Mike Riley has the perfect combination of enthusiasm, determination, drive, and best of all, heart. He’s truly an asset to the Oracle community.”

Cameron Lackpour ACE D.png– ODTUG Director: “Mike's a unique guy: nice, visionary, human, unafraid to delegate, selfless in his devotion to his causes. I make Mike out to be a pretty noble character, but that's only because he is. Mike has the ability to see potential in others who may not see it in themselves. That's a not-very-common gift.”

Lauren Prezby – YCC Creative Director and ODTUG Conference Speaker Coordinator: “ODTUG is incredibly lucky to have Mike Riley as a volunteer. He has given his heart to the organization, and it is better for it.”

Chet Justice ACE D.png – ODTUG Content Chair and ORACLENERD: “Mike, despite all that he is going through in his life, made time to provide support to me. This speaks volumes to the type of person that he is.”

Barbara Morris – ODTUG Vice President: “Mike Riley: the person I can always count on.”

Karen Cannell O_ACE_Icon_wht.png – Editor, ODTUG Technical Journal: “Mike Riley? Strong, quiet, handsome, smart, and humble, with a touch of giant teddy bear. What more could one want in an ODTUG director and past president? Mike has set the bar high by example, encouraging us to join in and succeed on our own paths. Mike is humility in action.”

Kathleen McCasland – CEO of Your Conference Connection and Past ODTUG Executive Director: “I have worked with many great user group/association volunteers, and Mike ranks right at the top. He is dedicated, enthusiastic, creative, intelligent, reliable and a true leader. ODTUG is so fortunate to have Mike as an active member and volunteer. I am fortunate to have been able to work with him.”



ODTUG: When did you first get interested in computers and IT?

MR: I took programming courses in high school; keying Basic programs into the mainframe, that set me on the computer career course early on. I went to SIUE (Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville) with my focus on using computers.

ODTUG: Your degree was a bachelor’s in Management Information Systems; upon graduation, did you have any idea what your career would morph into?

MR: I was open to wherever things would lead. I got lucky that the first job I had was nearby with a consulting company at Scott Air Force base for about a year and a half; I went from there to a clothing and shoe retailer for another year and a half in downtown St. Louis. I wasn’t really looking but saw an ad in the paper that Hortica was hiring and thought, “Hey, it would be great to have a short commute rather than the one-hour commute,” and I was excited about the flexibility of working with a small company. They’ve been real supportive in my current situation, and I just started back full-time and will work as many hours as my treatments and recovery permit me.

ODTUG: How did you make the move into Oracle?

MR: I was hired by Hortica when someone left during a conversion from Wang to Oracle Database and Oracle Forms on VAX. Some forms had been started but not completed until I was hired. Next followed several months worth of parallel processing, then comparing and contrasting to make sure we had things right for dailies, weeklies, monthlies, etc. Some things we defined for one purpose got repurposed for other purposes. I had a micro-VAX of my own that held the test database for everyone. For a while I moved toward being DBA-focused, but I backed off and stayed the Development DBA. Today I review designs before they go into production, perform primary modeling, troubleshoot development databases, and back up the production DBA when needed.

ODTUG: What’s the most significant change in your career over the last 10 years?

MR: I think, for us, changing how we create new software. We used to “get the specifications from the user.” They would tell us what they wanted, and we would give them what they needed. Today, it's a much more cooperative environment with agile thinking instead of the traditional waterfall approach. Instead of having everything specified out far in advance and then changing ump-tee-ump times and reworking, we work collaboratively and save time.

ODTUG: What types of systems do you work with?

MR: I’ve been primarily involved in the development of new rating systems. In one case, we rewrote a workers-comp rating system using Forms to one that was 100% generated in Oracle Designer. Later, it was decided to rewrite everything but go away from Designer. Today we’re using a ratings engine that is agnostic to rating types and is configurable. Previously, we tried to create rating systems for each line of insurance and spent too much time working around idiosyncrasies of various lines’ processing. Then, we often had to adjust many of the policies before things went out the door; today we hardly have any issues other than convincing the user community that the new way is the correct way to do things.

ODTUG: How has ODTUG helped with your job?

MR: I’ve tried to leverage my ODTUG relationships to help the company: XML help, conversion help, performance help, etc. Generally I get quick answers from folks and get pointed in the right direction. For instance, I’ve reached out to experts like Tim Gorman when we needed help with performance issues.

ODTUG: How did you first get involved with ODTUG and the user community? Did you start with St Louis user groups?

MR: No, we were working on using Oracle Designer without much knowledge, and we needed an event to go to that had information about Designer. In 1999, I went to IOUG-A Live in Denver with my boss and a coworker. We met Peter Koletzke and Kent Graziano, and they helped us get started. A couple of us took some training from Kent’s company, and then Kent came out to do some consulting. Kent was president of ODTUG and suggested that we get involved.

ODTUG: What year did you first attend Kscope?

MR: 2001 in San Diego.

ODTUG: Did you get involved helping out right away?

MR: Not the first year. It was more about feeling out the group and conference. The next year ODTUG had a “share the value” contest; the winner got a free registration to the conference the next year – and that was me in 2002 in Las Vegas. In 2003 I got to go to Miami for free!

ODTUG: What has been your favorite Kscope session ever?

MR: Ha-ha-ha. That is so hard to say. In recent years, I have not been able to go to many sessions due to user group duties. Paul Dorsey’s first Business Rules Symposium was really enjoyable. Lots of people talking about theory helped me redirect my thinking and helped me create a configurable Perl generator that is still in use today. My favorite non-technical session was easily Doc Hendley’s presentation last year; it was awe-inspiring.

ODTUG: When did you get more-involved with ODTUG?

MR: First, I got involved in the content team for what was then Kaleidoscope. They hooked me during 2005, and I put my name into the board election unsuccessfully. Then, I got a phone call from ODTUG President John Jeunnette informing me that even though I had not been elected, ODTUG would like to have me involved in a committee with Maggie Tompkins. From there, I became the overall ODTUG SIG chair. In 2007, I was one of the content team for the conference in Daytona Beach. I got elected and joined the board in January 2007.

ODTUG: You became ODTUG vice president in 2007, Kaleidoscope content chair for 2008, and stepped in to become conference chair for 2008 in New Orleans.

MR: I was completely green, but the ODTUG executive committee stepped in and helped make everything go well.

ODTUG: You were elected vice president during your first year on the ODTUG Board. Your peers on the board (I was one of them) thought pretty highly of you. You became president in 2009 when John Jeunnette went to Ethiopia on an extended project; Jerry Ireland and John Jeunnette then co-chaired the rest of the conference. At the time you became president, ODTUG was having some pretty lean years. Then, when Oracle purchased Hyperion/Essbase, you dove in and almost single-handedly brought the EPM community into ODTUG.

MR: At the 2008 winter board meeting, we had talked about reaching out to the Hyperion community. I thought to get in touch with Edward Roske through his blog, and Edward involved Tim Tow. Using their blogs, they got the Hyperion/Essbase community excited about Kaleidoscope and ODTUG. I was in the right place at the right time and definitely got connected to the right folks to help provide a welcome home for the EPM community within ODTUG and Kscope.

ODTUG: At the same time, you had a big hand in starting the ODTUG APEX (Application Express) community as well. How did that get started?

MR: At Oracle OpenWorld in 2007, we created and expanded an APEX SIG run by Dimitri Gielis and asked that he let us know if we could do anything. We ended up giving half the the day at OpenWorld User Group Sunday to APEX and then added APEX to Kaleidoscope in Daytona Beach. A year later, a highlight of Kaleidoscope 2008 in New Orleans was a “shoot-out” with ADF (Lucas Jellema) and APEX (Dimitri Gielis) that drew a huge crowd that was probably three-quarters of the non-Essbase attendees.

ODTUG: With you at the helm, ODTUG became bigger and better each year. Where would you like to see the organization in five years?

MR: Certainly not continuing an explosive growth rate. At some point we need to stabilize and not have a constant influx of new people. Maybe more smaller traveling conferences similar to our SP conferences and more support for local user groups and OTN tours. ODTUG can still grow, but that growth needs to become more gradual rather than explosive.

ODTUG: I know you are co-chair of Kscope 14 in Seattle. What paper or event are you especially excited about?

MR: With my health situation, I haven’t had a chance to really look at the papers in detail as much as I’d like to (plus, that is why we have such great content chairs and content teams). Perhaps the thing I’m looking forward to the most is how much the local Seattle community is getting involved with Debbie Gollnick and the Street Team generating local buzz. I’m hoping that this serves as a model to future Kscope conferences involving local people and improving the impact of the conference. There is a chance that I might be able to attend this year. I’ve had five weeks of chemotherapy and radiation followed by surgery to remove the cancer. Now I’m in another round of chemotherapy where I get hooked up for four hours to an IV, then spend another 46 hours with a pump pack strapped to me and feeding a port in my chest. Then, I get to rest for 12 days before they hook me up and start the whole process over again. If I get to go to Kscope14, it will be during the last couple of cycles of chemotherapy. I’m hoping to get to experience Seattle with all of my ODTUG family.

ODTUG: Thank you for all you do for ODTUG and thank you for your time today. I’m looking forward to seeing you later this year at Kscope14 in Seattle.

About the Author

John King is a partner in King Training Resources, a firm providing instructor-led training since 1988 across the US and internationally. John specializes in application development software on a variety of platforms and has worked with Oracle products and the database since Version 4. He develops and presents customized courses in a variety of topics including Oracle, ADF, Java, User Experience, XML, C++, DB2, and .NET. John is an active member of the user community, serving as an ODTUG director for six years and currently on the Kscope14 Conference Committee. He is part of a team restoring the AZORA (Arizona Oracle User Group), member of RMOUG and IOUG, an ACE Director, and member of the OakTable Network. John presents frequently at Oracle (and other) conferences and user groups within the US and internationally.

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