When (and How) Europe Met Pythian

May 12, 2008 / By Peter Simecka

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Thanks to Paul for announcing the founding of Pythian Europe. Paul finished his blog by inviting me to tell you the story about “how we met Pythian”. Here it is.

As I get older, I am starting to see some symbolic links connecting significant moments of my life. I realize now that the link to Pythian started 20 years ago in Prague in the year 1988. Let me share with you the trip. Although in Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev began to moderate the totalitarian regime by introducing Perestrojka, the government of Czechoslovakia was still ruling with an iron hand.

I worked as a VMS administrator on a Czechoslovak clone of the VAX computer and, by the way, I became an expert in backup/restore, an expertise I had to exercise several times per week due to frequent crashes of our 29MB disks (also a East European clone). Besides administering VAX/VMS systems, I had to write hundreds of lines of Assembler, Fortran, and C code, just to handle inserts, updates, and queries for records in a few data files.

One day a colleague of mine brought me a tape, which he had smuggled from Vienna (there was an embargo on US software imports). On the back of the tape was written, “Oracle V4 for VAX/VMS.” Oracle V4 was released in 1984, the year I knew better as the title of the famous George Orwell novel. Out of curiosity I installed it after hours.

The “Readme1st” said to run one script with a strange extension — “.SQL”. Some program called UFI logged in as scott/tiger into a “database” and did SELECT * FROM EMP, DEPT WHERE EMP.DEPTNO=DEPT.DEPTNO AND DNAME = 'SALES', and then increased the salaries of all salesmen by 10% by one simple UPDATE command.

I was so fascinated that I spent the whole night playing with SQL, as I did on many evenings over the next two years. Once, after returning from a political demonstration in Old Town Square, I escaped back into my SQL world. Despite tanks running the crowds down and the imprisonment of the dissident Vaclav Havel, I perceived strongly that regime change was as inevitable as the victory of SQL.

By November 1989 the Velvet Revolution had started, Havel had become president, and together with freedom, Oracle V6 had arrived legally into Czechoslovakia. Since then my professional life has been connected with Oracle. I became an expert in the administration and tuning of several Oracle database versions on Unix. I slowly started losing it, however, when I became Support Manager at Oracle Czech.

Nowadays, I use Apex when I need to write a piece of code and I Google SQL commands when looking for the right syntax. My interests have turned more to the customer services and service management area. At Oracle support, I lead my teams through several phases of service delivery: from local phone support to the global internet support, and from local on-site advanced services to global remote outsourcing.

Lately, I have spent long hours discussing with my colleagues the paradoxes of service delivery in this changing world. We see consultants traveling to customer sites every day, even though the gas prices are skyrocketing and the use of biofuel contributes to the food crisis. On the other hand, outsourcing companies which use remote access to their customers threaten the jobs of in-house DBAs and build “communication firewalls” (better known as call centers) between customers and delivery organizations.

Jan, Lukas, and I started to weave plans about “outsourcing 2.0 services” and to conceive of how to deliver such service into maturing outsourcing market. We wanted to become “a remote services company big and experienced enough to deliver and small enough to care.” In December 2007, Lukas pinged me the link to the Pythian site. I studied Pythian’s service philosophy and especially the article What is behind Pythian’s Growth and Market Success?, and suddenly I had the same intense feeling as when I ran my first SQL script: this is it!

We got in touch with Paul Vallee, shared our plans with him, and in return we got the invitation to come to Canada. After spending a few days in Ottawa, we felt assured that Pythian really was a special company, just as we felt after first contact. Pythian’s team consists of top talents from all parts of the world, and in the office you can feel the energy and enthusiasm. We were lucky that we could take part in Pythian Days and be introduced to some of the North American customers. It was refreshing to find out that Pythian has very honest and open relations with clients and employees as well.

Nineteen years after the Velvet Revolution, the Czech Republic became part of the European Union, with a booming economy and a new generation of well educated and motivated people. This advantage, together with a geographical location in the heart of Europe, convinced many global IT players to establish their near-shore centres in our major cities, Prague and Brno. Paul appreciated the combined advantages of a strategic position of the Czech Republic in Europe with our Oracle outsourcing experience. Together, we have founded Pythian Europe in Prague.

Right now, we are sitting in an office near Prague castle and we’re looking forward to meeting our first European clients. I invite you to contact us to be one of them.

Peter Simecka
Vice President, Pythian Europe

One Response to “When (and How) Europe Met Pythian”

  • Julien Lamarche says:

    Bonjour Peter,

    Great blog post. Love how you mix political history with IT history. After all, code is law.

    Hope we get a chance to meet here in Ottawa.

    Julien Lamarche
    MySQL DBA
    The Pythian Group

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