The Database Design Resource Center

An Exclusive
Interview with Donald Burleson

Here is a personal interview with Donald Burleson, the author of numerous books on Oracle DBA issues, Oracle in Linux environments and much more Oracle related:

A short bio on Donald Burleson:

Donald Burleson Donald (Don) Burleson is considered one of the world's leading experts on Oracle DBA and tuning issues, , having written 30+ books on Oracle, including 5 books by Oracle Press and three books for O'Reilly publishing. Rampant Techpress).

For a detailed resume, check out Donald Burleson's resume.

So, let's start this interview with Donald Burleson:

Database Design Resource:

1. Mr. Burleson, you have an impressive production behind you: How did you find the time to not only write 30+ demanding books, but also running Burleson Consulting Inc., doing hands-on consulting yourself, as well as being able to spend time and energy on so many off-work activities as you do?

Donald Burleson:

In graduate school I was used to working 16 hours a day, and I carried on this stamina into the world of work. I was also forced to work very quickly, especially in shops where I personally managed dozens of Oracle instances. Now that I have a staff of experts, it’s my job to constantly research new trends and techniques.

Nobody ever wrote "I wish I'd spent more time at the office" on their tombstone, and I think that it's important to lead a well-balanced life, and mix work with pleasure. I love what I do, but I also make time to work with our 50 horses here at Burleson Ranch, help the blind, and pursue golf and travel. In my spare time, I also post a blog at

Database Design Resource:

2. Can you describe what led you to start up the company?

Donald Burleson:

I've been consulting since I graduated from College in 1983.

I'm lucky to have a good melding of technical and management skills, and it was always my plan to start my own business. I wanted to teach as an adjunct professor, so when I was still in graduate school I began teaching at local Universities, so that I would be able to become an Adjunct Professor upon finishing my MBA.

I taught over 100 courses at major universities (University of New Mexico, Webster University, the State Universities of New York (SUNY), because I knew that it is important to have a mix of theoretical and work experience.

I also recognized that it takes many, many years of full-time, hands-on experience to become an Oracle expert, and I waited until I had over 15 years of full-time experience before becoming a full-time expert. I kept the "day jobs" to refine my skills and keep a continuous income until the volume of demand allowed me to pursue consulting full-time.

(Impressive stamina)
Database Design Resource:

3. Can you give my readers a description of your company's status today?

Donald Burleson:

I learned in MBA school that slow and steady growth is the key to success, and I have been very careful not to over-step our growth, targeting to double our gross revenues every four years.

Today, we have over 60 independent consultants, some of the best experts on the planet, and we work closely with the major technical publishers to help educate the technical community. Even in this recession, our strong work ethic and adherence to high business ethics has brought us many loyal customers, including some of the largest and most complex database users in the world.

Database Design Resource:

4. I notice you call yourself retired these days, but are you able/ready to let it go (control), since you are still holding the position as CEO?

Donald Burleson:

I call myself "retired" out of shame, largely because I no longer have the stamina that I used to have, and for me, retirement is working less than 50 hours per week!

My wife Janet is a computer scientist from North Carolina State University, and she serves as CEO, while I spend my days as CTO, assisting the experts by doing research and publishing technical shortcuts. I still teach and consult, but I also make sure to lead a well-balanced life, with plenty of time for travel and golf!

Database Design Resource:

5. You seem to have attracted quite a few high-profiled/very competent employees/partners: How do you do that? And not least, how do you keep them?

Donald Burleson:

Yes, we are very choosey, soliciting only those people who have distinguished themselves.

We seek highly motivated people who have graduated from a competitive university, and have no history of moral turpitude.

I don’t hire people who show even the slightest inclination towards dishonesty, and we even avoid people who pay their bills late. We also place a high weight on quality work experience, hiring only the best and the brightest.

As for keeping the top people, I use the concept called Golden Handcuffs.

We treat our experts very well, and our senior staff goes with their family on an all expense paid cruise each year as a reward. This year, we did our yearly cruise on the Freedom of the Seas, the world's largest cruise ship.

Database Design Resource:

6. Actually, I first noticed your company because you personally answered a question from one of your forum members with a link to a page of mine for handling ref cursors in Oracle a couple of years back. I thought that spoke for itself as for paying attention to (possible) customers. Thank you. Do you still enjoy giving detailed answers to forum visitors in return for nothing?

Donald Burleson:

Yes, I spend time every day helping beginners. It keeps my research skills sharp, and it’s always nice to give back to the community.

Today, we have our own forum, where everyone chips-in and helps people from all over the world.

Database Design Resource:

7. Oracle as a product is growing more and more complex: How do you cope with getting the details of new releases?

Donald Burleson:

We have clients who represent all areas of technology, and we are lucky to have Oracle Certified Masters and Oracle ACE’s on-staff who possess exceptional diagnostic skills!

Database Design Resource:

8. What is your/your company's relationship to Oracle (as a company) today?

Donald Burleson:

One reason for our success is our spirit of independence. It’s important for our clients to have a consulting source that is never tainted by partner relationships.

Our clients want a disenfranchised consultancy that can offer advice without any hidden alliances or bias. Hence, Burleson Consulting is independent from all software and hardware vendors.

Database Design Resource:

9. In these times (May 2009) we're in the middle of a worldwide recession: Wouldn't you think that companies (your customers) should use the opportunity to put even more emphasis on optimizing their IT solutions, or do they keep their pockets closer?

Donald Burleson:

In MBA school, the professors teach that every organization should spend at least 15% of Net Income on IT activities. This is sound advice, but the trick is to spend that money wisely.

Our company has grown during this recession because we offer a smarter way to spend their IT budget, providing on-demand support from certified experts.

(Exactly what I anticipated: My hat off!)
Database Design Resource:

10. I love to ask this question: What has been your biggest professional mistake(s), that you can now talk about/laugh at? :-).

Donald Burleson:

Back in the 1990’s Larry Ellison announced at Oracle OpenWorld that Oracle was moving big-time into object-oriented databases. I love OODBMS, and I spent a great deal of time preparing for this major revolution towards object-orientation.

Today, of course, we all know that the end-user community rejected object-orientation, and I still have hundreds of pages of research on a topic that the market rejected!

(If it puts you at ease, I did exactly the same mistake...)
Database Design Resource:

11. On a personal note: I did a search on Wikipedia for your name, and the best hit was for "Black Beauty"... No offense; it was one of your horses. You seem like a true outdoor/animal lover. It must be refreshing to be so polarized (databases/animals)?

Donald Burleson:

Yes, Black Beauty held the Guinness record for the World’s smallest horse for many years. Janet and I both love animals and we share our space with 50 horses, three dogs, numerous cats, not to mention chicken, ducks and other woodland critters.

Database Design Resource:

12. Finally, I find it refreshing that you are able to put some redneck humour/views on life right into your business site: You must have spent quite some time pondering over the matter/lifestyle?

Donald Burleson:

Back in the early 1990’s I undertook a project to research my family tree and discovered that I am related to hard-working country farmers who helped colonize America, the original pioneers.

The Burleson’s came to America in the 1600’s, and fought in the American Revolution, but it was a shock to discover that I’m part Cherokee Indian and that I hail from a long line of redneck country folks!

My Great Grandmother was a Cherokee Squaw who smoked a Meerschaum pipe, and my Grandpa used to chew tobacco while he delivered moonshine in an old Jeep, out-running the “revenuers” through the hills, a practice that later became NASCAR!

Don, that was G-R-E-A-T! What fun to know such things about one's ancestors!

Database Design Resource:

Thank you, Don, for taking the time to give the readers of this website a closer insight into the world of Oracle DBAs, business building/development, and not least, getting to know you and your company a little better!

This has been a personal interview with Donald Burleson, one of the top Oracle DBA experts in the world: Much appreciated, and I must say, even if I myself conducted this: A true pleasure to get to know you better, Don!

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