NZ professional named top Oracle director

President of New Zealand, Chilean and Latin American Oracle user groups recognised

Francisco Alvarez is the first local professional to be awarded the Oracle ACE director of the year. The title is the worldwide Oracle Magazine editor’s choice award for 2010.

Alvarez, who is CEO and technical director of Auckland-based database consultancy Database Integrated Solutions (DBIS), says he was surprised when he got the call, but he probably shouldn’t have been — he has devoted his entire professional life to working for the ubiquitous Oracle database.

For Alvarez the attraction to Oracle started early. After graduating with an engineering and Computer Science degree, he began working with the company’s systems in 1989.

“I was on the team that first introduced Oracle in South America,” he says.

He was so keen to get in on the project he worked for free for two months, to prove he was worthy of a place on the team.

From the start, Alvarez has been helping other Oracle users out on online forums and on his own blog, which now has around 25,000 visitors per month. Over the years he has become passionate about assisting the community with Oracle-related challenges.

“I’ve also learnt a lot myself by trying to help others,” he says.

Building up his own skills and helping other users have earned him first an Oracle ACE title, then Oracle ACE director, and now Oracle Magazine’s ACE director of the year award. The title has given Alvarez recognition in the industry, which helps promote his business, but the honour also comes with commitments. Last year, he spoke at 22 conferences in 18 countries in his role as ACE director.

He is not paid by Oracle, but the database giant pays for travel and accommodation. As the Oracle ACE director of the year, 2011 is shaping up to be an even busier year for the father-of-four. He is expecting to take upwards of 40 overseas trips this year.

In addition to being a global Oracle ambassador, and running his own business, Alvarez is also the president of the New Zealand, Chilean and Latin American Oracle user groups. How does he fit it all in?

“I work for New Zealand during the day and talk to Latin America and the US at night,” he says. “I wouldn’t be able to do it without my wife,” he adds.

When asked how he unwinds and recharges his batteries, his answer is somewhat surprising.

“When we lived in the US, I used to do volunteer work with paramedics,” he says.

The work was rewarding and gave a huge adrenaline kick, he says. Today, his after-business-hours activities bring a little bit less of an adrenaline rush; he is a scout leader, and enjoys spending time with his children and doing the gardening.

Alvarez started DBIS two years ago when he noted a lack of consumer-focused database service providers in the market.

He started out alone but now has six staff in Auckland and 19 worldwide, in Chile, Brazil, India and Columbia, with services available in four languages.

He was born in Chile but moved with his family to Brazil when he was three years old. He returned to Chile to get married and then moved to the US with his wife.

“The bad thing about moving so much is that you lose part of your identity,” he says. “Even though Portuguese became my first language, I was still called ‘the Chilean boy’ in Brazil. When I moved back to Chile at 22, I had a strong Portuguese accent and people called me ‘the Brazilian’. But the move to the US was easy because everybody called me Mexican there,” he laughs.

Funnily enough, a lot of people here think Alvarez is Indian.

“It happens that people come up to me and start speaking Hindi when I go to an Indian restaurant,” he says.

Alvarez and his young family returned to Chile after 11 years in the US. But the family soon decided to move again. The economic crisis made it difficult to return to the US and therefore Alvarez and his wife started looking at other English-speaking countries. While the UK and Canada were deemed too cold, Australia or New Zealand seemed like good candidates.

Alvarez contacted companies in both countries. Whereas Australian businesses asked him to get back to them when he had a work permit, this country welcomed him with open arms.

“I sent my CV to 10 companies in New Zealand and 10 companies called back asking when I could start,” he says.

Besides his duties as ACE director of the year, Alvarez has more big plans for 2011. With him at the helm, the New Zealand Oracle user group events are changing from being mostly business and sales-oriented, to being 95 percent technical and focused on sharing knowledge and experiences.

“We want [delegates] to be able to bring something back to their companies. Learning from experts and networking with experts and peers will help save money that would normally be spent on training,” he says.

Alvarez will bring Oracle “stars” from his own global network to conferences in New Zealand, he says.

He is also planning to finish a book he is writing this year. The topic? You guessed it – Oracle technology.

What is Oracle’s ACE programme?

The programme recognises and rewards Oracle Technology and Applications community enthusiasts for their contributions. Oracle ACEs and Oracle ACE directors can be nominated by anyone in the Oracle community. They are technical experts who willingly share their knowledge and experiences. Oracle ACE directors’ community work is closely affiliated with Oracle.

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