Stuart Read, a Harvard graduate who grew up in Marblehead, Mass., and dreamed of becoming a naval architect, ended up in computer science, and spent six years at Oracle Corp., in Redwood Shores, Calif. "What took me into computer science was the need to pay my tuition bills at college," he says. "Programming was a much more efficient means of generating income than washing dishes, which is what most of the architecture people were doing." Now VP of marketing at AvantGo Inc., a Silicon Valley startup that caters to the personal digital assistant (PDA) market, Read joined Oracle in July 1988 as a product manager in the desktop division. By the time he resigned in August 1994, he was senior director of marketing in the new media division. Why did this rising star leave Oracle? "I was recruited into a videoconferencing startup by Bruce Mitchell, who was the person who hired me into Oracle in the first place." But Read's fascination with his former employer has not waned. His recently published The Oracle Edge: How Oracle Corporation's Take No Prisoners Strategy Has Created an $8 Billion Software Powerhouse, is only the second book that has been written about Oracle; the first was Mike Wilson's not overly flattering 1997 The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison. By contrast, The Oracle Edge is basically pro-Oracle. In fact, it's annoyingly so in the beginning. I almost threw the book at the wall in disgust. "It does start that way," Read admits. "I think I should have included a timeline as part of the book. At the beginning, Oracle was a very young and explosive company. I was completely rah-rah. Then once it started to become more mature, more dominant, and more visible, well, the bloom began to fade." Read's motivations for writing the book are seemingly complex--parts of it read like a memoir, while others simply document the way Oracle did (and largely still does) business. For example, Read describes how Oracle fostered internal competition and even quotes a senior marketing person as saying, "We would be in meetings and Larry would give the same task to two or three different people, quite openly. That way, those people would have to compete for Larry's attention and would really kill themselves to outperform the others...." Once you get past the first 20 or so pages, which can seem like an annoying series of sound bites, the book is a very good read that will help you understand Oracle's corporate culture. It's just an inside look for anyone who's interested in how Oracle generates huge profits. A few chapter and section titles give you a feel for the book's contents: "Image Matters: Dress for Success," "Develop for the 'Built-In Consumer,'" "Create Infrastructure that Supports Revenue Generation," and "Crush Your Competition." I spoke with Read during the book's launch at Oracle Open World in November 1999, where the publisher had arranged to have Read do a book signing one afternoon.Karen Watterson: Was this book sponsored or underwritten by Oracle? Did you spend any one-on-one interview time with Ellison for this book?
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