Near the end of the year I have been doing some housekeeping at work during the quiet days of December. I was about to install mongodb on a development server for a new project, when I noticed the server was low on disk space. The culprit, an Oracle database I had installed near the beginning of the year. This made me laugh out loud when I realized that our team had not been using at since May. After the initial amusement had worn off, I suddenly realized something:
I had forgotten to how to uninstall Oracle. The temerity!
After all, at my last job and for the past few years, installing and working with Oracle DB servers had become old hat to me. Whether we had to do some testing on a dump from production or we just needed a new development database, I had learned how to do it myself. Now, a year later, I was back to being an Oracle noob, fumbling around looking for documentation. Scouring Oracle blog posts for useless information and broken links to supposedly useful information. It finally came back to me deep inside some byzantine directory like “/u01/app/oracle/11/dbms/oui” that I found what I needed to know. Perhaps some last bit of forbidden knowledge had been shaken loose by all of my searching, but eventually I was able to properly remove the last remnants of Oracle 11g.
At first I felt a little ashamed: perfectly good knowledge of mine which had gone to waste from lack of use. However, thinking about it some more, it made me feel pretty good. It was equivalent to forgetting how to wiggle the TV antenna to get a broadcast station to come in without the static. The tools I’m using now are far less convoluted and are usually pretty easy to work with. Anyone that I work with is perfectly capable of setting up anything we use. This made me think about what that role is like in a general case. It can be enticing to be “that wizard” who can get something working that no one else can. Sure, you don’t want to ask them any questions about what they had to do in order for it to work, it must be magic! Sadly, I’m no longer that person when it comes to Oracle database setups on random GNU/Linux or Solaris systems.
While it was nice to have people rely on you for something, it’s not necessarily a good thing if it is just because you know something no one else really cares about. If setting up Oracle database systems was my only talent, I would be in a pretty bad spot at my current job. Suppose at your family you have “Uncle Frank” who is a wizard and knowing where the tinfoil goes on the rabbit ears to make your 4 channels come in without static. Now, when you get cable and no longer need the rabbit ears, Uncle Frank might seem to be a little grouchier than normal. Fortunately for me, that’s not the case, as I’m happy to leave that part of my experience in the past alongside other embarrassing knowledge that once seemed important.