John Matelski has headed IT operations for the DeKalb County government in Georgia since 2012, initially as CIO and now as chief innovation and information officer; in addition, he's currently president of the Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG). But Matelski started his career as a network engineer. Because of that, he brought three database administrators and five functional application-focused staffers from his team with him to the Collaborate 15 conference jointly held in Las Vegas by the IOUG and two other Oracle user groups.
Matelski strongly believes that technical people can take on leadership roles in groups like the IOUG. But, he said at the conference, "your typical DBA may not be strategic, may not have the skill sets and the professional development" required to handle such roles. So, Matelski devotes some of his time at the IOUG to mentoring IT professionals from other organizations in leadership skills.
The IOUG is the most technically-minded Oracle user group, with a focus on databases and the technology stack surrounding them. According to the IOUG, DBAs make up 40% of its membership roster, a greater percentage than any other job function in the user group.
Matelski wants to see more DBAs and other technical types on the IOUG's board of directors. "We're trying to attract and retain board members," he said. "We're trying to get people in the right technology space."
Return engagement at IOUG helm
This is Matelski's second term as president of the IOUG. He has been on the board of directors for the past six years and served his first term as president three years ago. At the time, "my goal was all about succession planning," he said. He mentored his replacement as president, Michelle Malcher, and had planned for another mentee of his, Todd Sheetz, to succeed her. However, when Sheetz took a job with Oracle, disqualifying himself from remaining on the IOUG board, Matelski took over the top spot again in May 2014.
"I had to step in," he said, "because there was no one -- I mean there were a couple of folks I was still mentoring, but no one that we felt was ready for prime time."
Matelski, though, is now preparing to hand over the president's position to Maria Anderson, an IOUG board member who initially worked as a systems analyst and application developer before making a career change and becoming an Oracle DBA. Anderson, who is now manager of the IT program office at Canada-based energy company Encana Corp., joined the board of the Oracle user group in May 2011 and has been its vice president of finance for the past year. She's scheduled to become president next month.
"You can't just take a DBA, throw them onto a board and say, 'Hey, drive the organization,'" Matelski said. "You really have to vet everyone and make sure that they've got a good core skill set and then over a few years mentor them to the point where they're someone like Maria Anderson." He described her as having "the leadership level and the skill level to help move this organization forward."
Getting DBAs out of their usual element
Matelski loves being a mentor to colleagues like Anderson. "It's really awesome to find those DBAs in the community who have an interest in expanding in terms of leadership development and professional growth," he said. "Some of those network engineers and DBAs, they're awesome at what they do, but you kind of just want them in their cube doing what they do best. I try to get them out of that mindset and that clichéd thinking."
As part of Collaborate 15, the IOUG held an all-day series of strategic leadership sessions. Three of Matelski's technical staffers from DeKalb County attended, and he visited the sessions throughout the day, seeing 30 to 50 people in the room at any given time. "The majority of them were DBAs and your techie types, not your directors and C-level type people," he said.
That was gratifying to see, Matelski added. "You can be a leader at any level of your organization, so just getting leadership skills and having that desire is very refreshing."
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