Archive by Author | Helen J. Sanders

Cast your Vote… for me!


ODTUG through the years… we work hard and play hard!

I stumbled upon ODTUG in the spring of 2103 when I was “Googling” how to do some such thing in SQL and I found the content link to past webinars and the tech search of their content libraries, that was for paid members only. Shortly afterwards I gave myself the gift of membership and have never looked back.

In the five years since joining, I have played many roles at the best user’s group on the planet:

  • Began as an abstract reviewer back in 2015
  • Leadership Program graduate (2nd class) and Program Coordinator (2015)
  • Database Community Contributor
  • Philadelphia Area ODTUG Meetup Host
  • Database Track Lead, Kscope 18 & 19
  • Kscope Community Day Volunteer
  • Presenter,  Kscope 16 & 17

And now I’m asking for your vote to get to the next level – a Board position where I can continue to serve our membership in a more vigorous role. If you were a Kscope 16 attendee, you may have seen my presentation with Chet Justice (@oraclenerd), where we extolled upon the folly that writing bad sql creates. Or you may have stumbled into my co-presentation with Justin Biard (@icodealot) in Chicago at Kcsope17 where we shared our knowledge of Regular Expressions and what they can do to make your life easier. Or perhaps you attended the very first Kscope Newcomer’s Reception, initiated by the fabulous 2015-2016 Leadership Program Class I was privileged to lead that year?

If we have not yet met IRL, please get to know me @HelenJSanders or  LinkedIn, or come by the next Philly Database Meetup introduce yourself, let me know how ODTUG has  influenced you.

I am humbled and grateful for all of the ways ODTUG has allowed me to grow as a leader and as a developer, and will continue to give back to this organization that has done so much for me. If elected I will continue to work hard for all of you. Full ODTUG members can vote here.

Thank you for your consideration!



East Coast Oracle Users Conference

Raleigh, North Carolina is the place to be September 18th and 19th

I’m happy to announce that I’ll be co-presenting this year at the ECO conference in Raleigh, in September. Jeff Smith and I will be volleying back and forth as “Product Manager” vs. “End User” in SQL Developer – You’re Doing it All Wrong! and it’s sure to be an entertaining and informative session!

ECO Keynote presenters this year are Penny Avril, Vice President of Product Management, Oracle Database and Rich Niemiec from  Viscosity North America. Penny will be speaking on how the Oracle DBA role is transitioning as cloud usage expands, and Rich is speaking on current hot topics of innovation, big data and the internet of things.

There are several worthwhile per-conference workshops on Monday, September 17th which include hands-on workshops on Oracle tuning as well as the Oracle Cloud, a session on upgrading to Oracle EBS Applications R12.2.7 and Monday is also APEX Foundations day – where you can get expert advice on all things APEX.

Early registration is going on now until July 27th.


Building a Conference Track


Have you ever attended a professional conference? If so, you probably didn’t think twice about the amount of work that goes into it behind the scenes, where the organizers plan for months to make sure the folks attending are in for a great experience. I have been on both sides of the name-badge, and this time, working on Kscope18 as Database Track Lead has been a rewarding, challenging, incredible learning experience!

For the past few years I have served on the Abstract Review Committee for  ODTUG’s Kscope Database Track, starting back in 2014 for Kscope15, Kscope16 and Kscope17. As an abstract reviewer, responsibilities include looking over what is usually well over 200 conference topic submissions (a.k.a “abstracts”) by hopeful presenters, and scoring them from “great” to “good” to “maybe not so good”, and handing off your votes to the Track Lead. Since Kscope is such a large conference with a focus on Oracle tools and technology, and where “Content is King“, it’s a big responsibility of the Database Track reviewers to make sure the abstracts selected cover a wide-range of interesting and relevant topics to both Oracle database administrators (DBAs) and developers.

This year, I was honored to be asked to lead the track. Under the guidance of Database/Apex Committee Chair, Jorge Rimblas, I gathered our international team of reviewers, who came from all over the globe, including Mexico, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Brazil, and all of the US time zones (Which made scheduling team webex/phone meetings quite interesting!) and we had a short time frame to plow through 220+ submissions this year. The abstracts submitted were soexcellent that it made our job to whittle them down to the number we could actually accept to be sessions in June very difficult; Admittedly, vetting choices from a list of excellent topics is a good problem to have.  The team did a fabulous job and I can’t thank them enough for all of their hard work.

This morning my work as Track Lead culminated in creating the “first pass” of the schedule, for the accepted sessions of the Database Track, which I have passed on to Jorge for his review. This year’s content is fabulous, and the attendees are in for a really, really good conference.

Registration for Kscope18 is open, with an early bird discount until March 29th, saving $300 off of the registration fee. See the tracks for a high-level view of what’s in store, and sign up for Community Service Day and the 5K.

Growing With Google

File Jan 17, 4 16 01 PM

I am proud to say that I have been selected as a Grow With Google Scholarship recipient, and am starting with Udacity’s Front End Developer course!

The invitation to apply arrived in my inbox in November, buried within one of the many Women in Tech lists I am subscribed to, and I thought, “Why not?”.

According to the “Welcome” video, there were 100,000 applications received, so I am excited to have made the cut for round one.

The course is online, offered through Udacity. I have taken other courses on Udacity, so I knew the quality of the content and lessons would be worthwhile. They have given us three months to complete the course for this first go round. Students that complete all the course work on time and that are active in the online community will be vetted to see if they are then chosen to go on to complete the full Nano Degree program.

This first level of the program is basic HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jquery,  DOM and the final project will be a Pixel Art Maker created by me, that will encompass all the skills learned (hopefully!) in the program.

The skills I will pick up through the program will be a nice addition to my database, back-end experience.


When “Using the Google” is not Enough

I’ve been a SQL*Plus and SQL Developer user for about 10 years now, and there are still many features, commands, etc. I’m not familiar with. In fact, most days I feel as if I’ve barely scratched the surface of what the tools can do. Lately I’d been feeling that SQLcl was something I should know more about.

I’d watched a couple of online tutorials, read a few blog posts, and saw Galo Balda present on SQLcl at RMOUG last February, so I was becoming more acquainted, but still a little uncertain about what it could do for me.

I reached out to my favorite Senior Principal Product Manager at Oracle, Jeff Smith, to see if he’d be willing to follow up one on of his many offers to do a web-ex with my team and do some virtual training.  He graciously agreed he would, and last week, gave a one hour virtual demo and talk on SQLcl and SQL Dev for myself and a few of my colleagues.

After Jeff’s talk,  I downloaded SQLcl, got to the command prompt, but the screen looked nothing like what I’d seen others do, and I couldn’t figure out how to access the configuration settings. It was time for an intervention.

I reached out to Jeff once more. After a quick 5 minute chat, he steered me in the right direction on how to format SQLcl the way I wanted to – once again saving me hours of “googling” down the wrong path to get a simple answer.

This wasn’t the first time Jeff had answered an SOS call from me– far from it! In fact, our professional relationship began with my reaching out to him on Social Media over three years ago, to help resolve some issue I was having – I don’t remember what the topic was – but I do remember I sent him a message on Twitter, and he came back with the answer for me in about 5 minutes.  One Q&A via Twitter lead to a few more over time, eventually email contact and then attending some of his excellent talks at Kscope15.

Through the years, he’s been a steadfast, reliable technical resource for me who has always been there to answer the tough questions, provide teaching moments, be a mentor, and who I’m now lucky enough to consider a friend.

Google is a life-saver in our daily lives, but sometimes real human interaction is needed to get you over a hurdle. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your product managers for the tools you use. You may even make a new friend.


Tip for Newbies! (Or oldies that just can’t see)

Don’t you hate it when you’re running a REALLY simple script, and you get an Oracle error – and you just can’t see the issue? Like today – I am just running a simple little CREATE TABLE and I keep bombing – and I KNOW it’s something stupid like a missing comma or misplaced parenthesis, but I just couldn’t see where it was.

Error report –
ORA-00907: missing right parenthesis

So I tossed in this:


And when I ran the CREATE script again, setting ECHO on told me where to look:

where it is

And wouldn’t you know it – MISSING COMMA! Not a missing parenthesis – as the error would have you think – but it still points you in the right direction.  Right around line 13 ..but I sure couldn’t see it before even though I looked up and down my lines of code and even have color-coding set on my text editor!


Moral of the story:  ECHO ON can be your BFF on those days when you just can’t see clearly.


Thanks to @thatjeffsmith for pointing out that there is a squiggle line in sql developer that indicates you have a problem nearby:

sqlDevTo the Rescue

I’d probably seen that squiggle a million times and never noticed it before. EVER.

This is what’s great about working in I.T. – you can learn something new everyday, from really smart people.

SAS, R and Saturday Night Learning


I’m not sure I’ll ever be an actual “Data Scientist” … but I’m making my way towards understanding what I need to know by spending my Saturday night delving into some of the basics and intricacies of R vs. SAS.

For example:

What to call your data collection?

Dataset (SAS)

Dataframe (R)

How to view five lines of data from file called “CS1” ?


head(cs1, n=10)

How many rows and columns in CS1? (Observations and variables)



Small, basic, baby steps towards pulling it all together. One day I’ll look back on this post and laugh its simplicity.




Last night I attended my first session of my Data Cleansing course. 

The syllabus looked daunting. However, once there, the instructor polled the class of about 30 students to see who had any SQL background. Two hands went up – mine and one other student. When he asked if anyone was a programmer – mine was the sole hand raised. 

He then mentioned our first few weeks will be spent learning SQL basics by using MS ACCESS. I almost LOL’d. We have 4 weeks to complete the first homework assignment – which we will do in groups. Following ACCESS will be R Studio, then SAS. 

Such a sense of relief and satisfaction washed  over me. I’m pretty sure I’ll ace this one!

Happy New Year!


Reflecting on the just-passed and brand-new years, a few things come to mind. I achieved quite a bit in 2016 and had many new experiences including, but not limited to:

  • Co-presented at my first Oracle conference in June (Kscope16) with @oraclenerd, and visited Chicago for the first time.
  • Was a track lead for the Student Track, for the first time at the PABUG conference.
  • Co-presented my first online webinar, about SQL Developer with @thatjeffsmith.
  • Was part of a panel discussion for young, middle-school aged girls interested in technology and spent the weekend with them as we built steam rockets.
  • Started leading the Leadership Program for the Oracle User’s Group, ODTUG
  • Was accepted into my second Master’s Degree program and began diving into the world of business analytics.
  • Monitored priority registration for the first time, at my job.
  • Worked on my management skills as I became responsible for two new direct reports at my job.

I’m not one for making New Year’s Resolutions, however, I have a few goals I’d like to achieve in 2017:

  • Update this blog more frequently!
  • Be able to walk 4 miles without back issues or asthma attacks.
  • Become at least familiar with the following: Python, SAS, JMP, APEX, R.
  • Produce at least three webinars for PABUG.
  • Maybe a webinar for ODTUG with Justin (@icodealot) co-presenting.
  • Presenting at least once, at a conference this year.
  • Boost up the ODTUG Philly Database Meetup.

What I’m most looking forward to, at this point, in 2017:

  • Temple U, where I work, is considering moving to APEX – and that really excites me. I am looking forward to diving into this technology that I’ve been wanting to learn more about for the past 3 years.
  • PABUG has created a new track, and asked that I lead it this year, for Online Learning. This came about due to the great response our first webinar received. I’m really looking forward to making this program great and offering real value to the PABUG community.
  • I’m super-charged to get the group project going for the ODTUG 2016-2017 Leadership Program, that will come to fruition soon and will be completed by Kscope17. I’m also stoked that Kscope17 is in San Antonio this year-one of my favorite towns, and I’ll get to visit with some close friends that live nearby that I don’t get to see IRL all that often.
  • I’ll be attending RMOUG for the first time, and volunteered to be a session ambassador. This will be great and though going to Denver in February is a bit intimidating, I’m hoping the weather will cooperate and we won’t get snowed in! I admire Kellyn (@DBAKevlar) and Tim (@timothyjgorman) – the work they do and the knowledge they share, so much that I am super-excited to be a part of this conference this year. I’ll also get to spend time, learn from, maybe even have a beer or two with more good people that I don’t get to see IRL too often.

Wow…All that and it is only January 1st!

May the new year bring us all peace, prosperity, growth, love and happiness.


That Time the Parens “Almost” Got Me

As a developer, there are days when you pat yourself on the back for the cool, innovative code you wrote, and smile at how clever you are.

Then there are times when you wonder how you can walk and chew gum at the same time. I had one of those “Duh!” moments yesterday.

I am working on a project for our admissions office. They used to get boxes and boxes of paper Advanced Placement(AP) test scores from high school students who are considering applying to Temple. AP tests are exams that high school students can take, usually in a subject they excel in, such as math, history or biology, and if they score high enough on the exam, they can obtain college credit for a course they normally would have had to take.It can shave 3 or more credits off of their academic program of study once in college.

The admissions staff were known to have manually entered over 2,000 scores during any one admissions cycle. As of this past summer, those test scores are now arriving electronically and loading into Banner – our student information system. However, there is a third party system we are using to evaluate those test scores and how the AP credit can be applied towards Temple programs. That system is where the admissions staff used to key in the test scores, and that is my part of what is now a two-step automated process- I have to take the scores out of Banner, and massage the data and get it into the third party solution, where the actual evaluation of AP credit to Temple credit occurs.

My team and I have made good progress so far and I was testing my part yesterday. The university has dozens of types of tests that come in for students such as entrance exams (SATs, ACTs, MCATS, LSATS, etc) and placement tests. The AP scores are designated in such a manner that the first two characters of the test code are “AP”. So for example, “AP20” is a biology test, “AP25”  Chemistry, etc.

In my querying of the database, I was grabbing all AP tests that had been added to students’ records , with a score of at least three, and that had no “DR” code in another column. However, in my result set I was getting tests that did not start with AP. Where were those EETK, MP1, MP2, MP3, EESS scores coming from ?


After scratching my head a bit and a few expletives mumbled under my breath, the “Ah ha” moment arrived. Lines 7 and 8. The lack of properly placed parens (parenthesis) with the ANDs and OR was doing me in. Once I got them right, my result set looked much better.


Moral of the story – you can never be too careful, even when you “think” you have this SQL thing nailed down. Take the time to check yourself!


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