Lombard firm succeeds as experts on Oracle

August 23, 2004

BY MICHAEL KRAUSS

Bill Clinton's My Life is a best-seller this summer, but for thousands of Oracle software users, there's a hotter publication. This Thursday copies of Oracle Database 10g: The Complete Reference roll off the presses thanks to Rich Niemiec's Lombard-based firm TUSC. For the legion of Oracle users, it's a must read.

Most Chicagoans never hear of Niemiec, but the attendees at Oracle's International User Conferences afford the 42-year-old Niemiec rock-star status. In the past 12 years, his company was named top presenter six times. When Oracle created a Certified Master's program, Niemiec was among six honorary inductees. When Nokia ran into Oracle database headaches, Niemiec flew to Finland. When Oracle needed a user group in Bangladesh, Niemiec got it started.

In 1987 Niemiec was a software engineer in Oracle's Chicago office. Along with colleagues Brad Brown and Joe Trezzo, they pushed and prodded the product. They proved it could work in the emerging client-server technical environment.

"We discovered early on Oracle was this complicated animal," says Niemiec. "We tried to simplify it so that everyone could understand it."

That concept transformed Niemiec, Brown and Trezzo into successful entrepreneurs. Today their firm employs 110 Oracle experts, and generates over $20 million in annual revenue from consulting, training and publishing. Niemiec's clients include Northern Trust, Clearing Corporation, Archipelago, the Board of Trade, Levy Restaurants, Argonne National Labs, Motorola and United Airlines.

"TUSC is one of Oracle's longest-standing partners, and has deep expertise implementing many versions of Oracle's software," says Oracle Senior Vice President Thomas Kurian. It's clear from what Kurian says that when Niemiec speaks, Oracle's product developers in California take note.

"We've always been the mirror for Oracle," says Niemiec. "We show them what people love, what people hate. We try to make the product better."

Niemiec estimates he's trained over a million Oracle users through articles, speeches, consulting and reference manuals.

Niemiec believes in human potential: "Everybody is a Michael Jordan at something." For Niemiec that's being the ultimate fine-tuner of Oracle's software.

NEC's Gillies seeks help

Ron Gillies, 43 is riding high as the new GM of NEC's Visual Systems division in Itasca.

Since taking the helm last year, sales of plasma flat screens and digital projectors are up 76 percent. Along with senior marketing director David Woolf, 34, Gillies is behaving more like an entrepreneur than a traditional corporate shogun.

"We're trying to keep that momentum going," says Gillies, who's redesigning his products to be sleeker and focusing on Web-based direct-to-customer marketing. Gillies' predecessors might have been satisfied building relationships with various channel partners like CDW or Ingram Micro. He recently signed up Best Buy to sell his wares.

But Gillies is also collecting consumer e-mail addresses and striving for innovative ways to reach out to individual buyers to build his brand.

Gillies wants to get more involved with Chicago. "We'd like to use the city as a test bed," he says. One obstacle: "It's hard to find tech marketing talent that will come to Itasca."

Gillies and Woolf joined NEC from upstart electronics manufacturers. "At [digital projector maker] InFocus, we rode the wave from $50 million to $1 billion. At NEC we want to duplicate that growth," Gillies says. Sounds like they're on their way.

Bits & bytes

Five Illinois companies get honored Tuesday by CIO Magazine. This year's CIO 100 list includes the Board of Trade, W.W. Grainger, Allstate, CNA and Griffith Labs ... Advocates of space exploration descended on the Palmer House over the weekend as the Mars Society held its 7th International convention. The conclave "brings together scientists, astronauts, government officials along with grass-roots members," says local space exploration proponent Jeffrey Liss, senior vice president of the National Space Society. Liss reports filmmaker James Cameron was on hand. The event was sponsored by the Adler Planetarium and the Museum of Science and Industry ... Technology events brought them together and wedding bells ring Saturday for ePrairie's Brad Spirisson and Katie Kaufmann (formerly of the Chicago Software Association).

Michael Krauss is a Chicago-based tech writer and consultant.

 

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