Saturday, November 24, 2012

APEX Tour 2012 - The Inaugural Event

The Beginnings


When I received an email in December of 2011 I never would have imagined it would lead to a group of APEX experts traveling through three countries in South America sharing their passion and expertise. The email was from Marcelo Burgos who was writing on behalf of the Comunidad Oracle Hispana. Marcelo learned that I had an affinity for the Spanish language and wanted to know if I'd participate in a podcast for the community.

I explained to him that I hadn't had the time to work with the language very much lately but I set aside my fears and agreed to do it. As we traded emails about the podcast, the subject of the OTN Latin American Tour came up. The tour was scheduled to be in Argentina in August 2012 and for a brief moment I considered joining it but for one reason or another it didn't work out. That's when Nelson Calero thought outside the box and proposed we make our own "APEX Tour". Trato hecho! (done deal)


The Plan and the Prep


The plan was to visit three cities in different countries for the inaugural event: Sao Paulo, Brazil; Montevideo, Uruguay; and Buenos Aires, Argentina. I was scheduled to give three presentations alongside a group of local APEX experts including Ricardo Stumpf of Brazil, Daniel Bozzolo of Uruguay, and Gonzalo Sanchez of Argentina. The catch??? All presentations were to be done in Spanish!!! The only exception to the rule was Ricardo's presentations in Brazil as he could do those in Portuguese. Anyway, it sounded like a good idea when I agreed to it...

About weeks ago, after eight months of planning, I boarded my flight to Sao Paulo. The preparation for the my presentations was unlike any I had done before. I was presenting on topics that I was already comfortable with but the thought of doing the presentations in another language was TERRIFYING! The preparation reminded me of times in high school Spanish class when I had to speak in front of the class: lots of flash cards, lots of practice, and lots of pressure! Luckily I had help from two amazing women: my wife Sonia and Clarisa Maman Orfali. I'm very grateful to both of them.

Dinner
The day before the event I finally met some of the people that I'd been trading emails with for months. When Marcelo Burgos saw how nervous I was he gave me a serious look and said, "Dan, we can reschedule the event." I looked at him, surprised, and he finished, "Yes, we'll change the date to: When Dan is perfect." Marcelo, if you haven't already guessed, has a very dark sense of humor. But his point was well taken. I was just going to have to do the best I could - on with the show!


Sao Paulo


Marcelo, Eduardo, & Ricardo 
The first day of the tour started with breakfast and was followed by everyone piling into a couple of cabs and heading to Oracle's offices in Sao Paulo. Rush hour in Sao Paulo is serious; everything I'd heard about growth in Brazil was confirmed during that drive. Upon arrival I found that Eduardo Hahn had done an excellent job putting together the event - it was highly organized and (unfortunately for me) it was also very well attended! :)

The first day went very well. I was both relieved and excited when we had all finished. To sum up things on my end, I'd say I did alright. That's better than bad but leaves lots of room for improvement. I'm pretty sure I dropped an r from the word cargar at some point. The only clue to my mistake was the sudden burst of laughter from a few people in the audience.

Ricardo
The other speakers did great - I was really impressed. Mind you, I had only just met them and I had never heard them speak. Ricardo and Daniel were polished professionals and Gonzalo, speaking for his first time, did a great job convincing others he was as well. For some reason listening to the others speak made me think of the Merovingian Speech from the Matrix. As Spanish isn't my native language, I would be happy if I could eventually speak just half as smoothly as they do.

As we were getting ready to leave, I made one big mistake: I forgot to grab the power cord for my laptop. I only realized my mistake when I got back to the hotel and at that point there was no one in the offices at Oracle. Gonzalo offered to swing by on the way to the airport the following day as the rest of us were flying out too early to do so. Fingers crossed...


Montevideo


Ricardo, Dan, Sonia, Nelson, Edel, & Clarisa
Arriving the next day in Uruguay was a real treat. Nelson Calero and Edelweiss Kammermann (Edel), who organized the event in Montevideo, were kind enough to meet us at the hotel and, along with Daniel, they gave us a tour of their hometown. That was awesome because it's rare that I actually see a city while traveling on business.

The next morning Daniel gave everyone a ride to the University where we were scheduled to present. Gonzalo wasn't due to arrive until around lunch time. Until then, I was dependent upon whatever battery power I had left. The computer told me I had just over 30% power which it estimated would last a little over 60 minutes. Given that the presentation was only 50 minutes I thought I was golden. Then Murphy, who's law is known around the world, showed up and shut my computer down about half way through my presentation. Smooth...

Daniel
What Murphy hadn't counted on was the super-relaxed temperament of those that call Montevideo home. It was as though there was no problem at all. We switch up the schedule and we were back on track in no time. By lunch time I had a massive headache (I don't share the super-relaxed temperament) and when Gonzalo showed up, despite having tried very hard, he didn't have good news (much less a power cord). Luckily, Nelson and Edel managed to find a temporary power cord which arrived around the time that Edel returned from the store with headache medication. Mil gracias!


Buenos Aires


Buquebus
We left Montevideo for Buenos Aires as soon as we finish with the event. Rather than fly we took a ferry known as the Buquebus. Unfortunately, the address we had for the hotel was incorrect and I underestimated the walking distance to the correct hotel - that was fun! Needless to say we got in late, but I slept well, the first time in days.

During the cab ride to the Argentine University of Enterprise (UADE) we could finally see the city. Buenos Aires is beautiful, reminiscent of some large European cities but with its own style. The room where we held the event was packed, the highest number of attendees throughout the tour. By this time I had given up on my laptop and decided to use the one my wife had brought. That turned out to be a really good idea.

Gonzalo
I'm one of those guys that likes to be ready for anything. I remember having a survival kit as a kid, just in case I got lost in the wilderness. I'd actually forgotten that I had set up that other computer as a back up. But when I needed it most, my presentation files were ready to go (thanks Dropbox) and I had all the software I needed (even Firebug and Web Developer). For once my planning paid off!

The event was awesome and not by accident. Many people worked very hard to make that event a success, including Marcelo, Clarisa, Gerardo Tezza, Fernando Garcia, Marcelo Ochoa, and others. Everyone did a great job presenting but I was most impressed with Gonzalo who had updated his presentation for the third time during the tour based on feedback he'd received - well done. I also wanted to say thanks to Paola Girotti for her support and for saying a few words at the event.

Clarisa, Paola, Fernando, Marcelo, & Gerardo


Final Thoughts and the Future


In the end I felt the tour was quite successful. Many of the attendees were new to APEX, seeing it for the first time. I could tell they got it - that for web based applications on the Oracle Database, APEX was the way to go. Thanks to everyone that worked to spread that message and to everyone that came to hear it. I left with many more friends than when I arrived.

Of course not everything was perfect. We received lots great feedback from many attendees, both good and bad. We plan to use that feedback to make the event better next year. We also plan to grow the event next year. More countries, more speakers, more APEX! Look for more details in the coming months...



A hungry bunch!

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