Digital Technology Instructor Interview: Eric Kellener

This month we interviewed Eric Kellener. He is a professional management consultant and has been teaching with us for the last year.

UCLAx: Please tell us about yourself and how you got to where you currently are in your career?

Erik: I’ve had the good fortune to know what area I was interested in from an early age. I was one of those kids working with computers since I was 11 years old. I continued the path and studied Computer Science in both Undergraduate and Graduate school. To date, I’ve spent the first 1/3 of my career writing software, another 1/3 in building and leading engineering teams, and the recent 1/3 focusing on developing the next generation of great technology leaders.


UCLAx: Is there anything you are currently working on that you would like to share with us?

Erik: For the past 6 years, I’ve been building a consulting practice focused on helping companies scale their teams and organizations through the lens of technology leadership. I generally serve as a consulting CTO, a business coach, mentor and target team and leadership development.


UCLAx: Could you tell us about your course “Introduction to SQL” and what students can expect to take away from it?

Erik: This is a fairly new experience for me, especially as an online-course instructor. When designing the content, I honestly struggled on how to effectively measure a student’s grasp of the curriculum (e.g. quizzes and tests) with an online format. After speaking with number of colleagues, I landed on an approach that is heavily weighted on solving real-world, practical problems, as opposed to measuring their accuracy of technical structures and syntax (Google and Stackoverflow are great for that). In other words, examples and problems would be framed as “You have been asked by the Human Resources team to develop an employee report that shows […]; write a solution to accomplish this.“  I think of these problems as mazes which have many successful paths to the exit.


UCLAX: What advice can you give to our students trying to break into the Database Management field?


  • Get practical experience as soon as possible. Build a database backend for a friend’s website. Volunteer to help out your IT team in building an asset-tracking system. The more you keep close to the domain, the quicker you’ll gain momentum in your learning.
  • Don’t specialize early on. Learn about the tools and technologies available and used by the industry. Familiarize yourself with the database technology landscape, from MongoDB, to MySQL, to Oracle, to Neo4j. When working with my clients on hiring, I almost always recommend they hire generalists with a high capacity to learn and adapt.
  • Find someone who can be a mentor. Pair with someone who has the skills or experiences you want to develop — this applies to most things in life.