Oracle Aims at Brand-Name Schools for Recruits

News Analysis: Unless you're coming out of MIT, Stanford or another of a handful of brand-name tech universities, you could be out of luck. Better go try MySQL or IBM instead.

Hey, tech genius, want to work in Oracle product development?

Sorry—unless youre coming out of MIT, Stanford or another of a handful of brand-name tech universities, youre very likely out of luck. Better go try MySQL or IBM instead.

eWEEK has viewed an internal memo from the desk of Oracles Terri Mason on the subject of the database empires college recruiting program dated June 6 that gives the list of colleges from which Oracle actively recruits.

According to the e-mail, Oracle recruits "top candidates" for product development from MIT, Stanford, CMU (likely Carnegie Mellon University), Princeton, Wisconsin, Yale, Dartmouth, Brown, Caltech, Berkeley, Harvard and Cornell.

In addition, the e-mail continues, Oracle will consider "top candidates" from the University of Texas Austin, Duke, Penn, Georgia Institute of Technology (grad students) and "any top international schools," it reads.

Oracle had not provided a spokesperson to answer questions on its recruiting practices before this story was published.

The most relevant question likely is, however, whether Oracle eschews candidates from other schools altogether, or if the company keeps its mind open regarding nontraditional sources of talent.

Other database companies interviewed for this article noted that while college degrees are required for some positions, when it comes to database engineering, at least, proven experience wins the day.

"For prospective engineers, proven experiences with databases is usually more important than educational degrees," said Boel Larsen, senior director of worldwide human resources for MySQL.

For its part, MySQL, the scrappy little open-source database company that grew out of its home in Uppsala, Sweden, hires from "literally all over," Larsen said. As it is, MySQL has over 300 employees working out of 25 countries.

Many of MySQLs engineers have been hired based on their work as members of MySQLs open-source community, she said, where its easy to get a preview of a job candidates talents.

"It is easy to see the type and quality of their work so we have an idea ahead-of-time if they would be a good fit for a certain job," she said in an e-mail interview.

When it comes to sales and senior executive positions, MySQL uses more traditional recruiting methods, such as networking, job postings and applications through its Web site.

Past Oracle employees interviewed for this article who requested anonymity said that Oracle has, at least within the past seven years, required a technical degree for all positions, including sales, finance, public relations or marketing.

Other companies arent so strict. MySQL "usually" requires a bachelors degree for sales, finance and management positions, Larsen said, but when it comes to the heart of the business—product development—proven experience is generally rated higher than an educational degree.

When a given position does entail a degree, MySQL has no rubber stamp-approved list of institutions.

"Considering all the countries we hire in, that would be a very hard list to keep track of," Larsen said.

"We evaluate candidates on a case-by-case basis. Their past work experience is usually much more important than where they went to school."

But MySQL is a quirky open-source company with a culture thats fittingly diverse. What about a proprietary vendor? Do they tend to be more conservative?

If IBM is indicative, the answer is no. When asked about its recruiting practices, Big Blue pointed to Jeff Jonas, a chief scientist behind IBMs DB2 Anonymous Resolution technology who came onboard in January 2005 after having sold his company to IBM.

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Jonas, whose groundbreaking algorithms are at the heart of terrorist-tracking software and whose technology was backed by the CIA, dropped out of high school to pursue his work in development.

Of course, its understandable that a large, extremely successful company would have to come up with a means of dealing with a constant deluge of job applicants.

MySQL, for its part, has a host of people devoted to dealing with its growing popularity as an employer—the problem-that-isnt-a-problem.

"A lot of people are involved in this," Larsen said. "After a brief scan by HR, promising candidates are forwarded to the appropriate hiring managers. Most MySQL managers take a very active part in recruitment, and usually several team members are involved reviewing resumes and interviewing candidates. Some of our employees have been hired based on e-mail and phone interviews, without ever having a face-to-face meeting."

Because most technical positions require very specific skills, just looking for the right buzzwords rarely is enough, Larsen said. "You more or less need to possess those very skills yourself in order to be able to fully validate a candidate."

The final ironic footnote: Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. Like many technology geniuses, he dropped out of college.

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