What I Wish I Had Known Sooner…as a DBA

Mike Walsh posted 4 Attitudes I Wish I Had Earlier as a DBA, and tagged a few people to respond. Here goes…

  1. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. Interacting with colleagues who have had different experiences and know more about certain topics is the fastest way to grow, both personally and professionally. While it’s nice to be known as a person who can answer almost every question, where’s the challenge (and fun) in that?
  2. Take vacations, and don’t take your laptop with you. I have taken my laptop on way too many family trips. This doesn’t serve anyone. I’m not fully engaged in my time with my family, I don’t give my full attention to my customers because I’m stressing out about not spending time with my family, and my co-workers are just thinking, “What the heck?” If Jon or Glenn go on vacation, I am more than happy to fill in and do whatever is needed because they need that break. We all do. So stop worrying. You have earned this time. Leave the laptop at home.   Turn off your phone. Stop checking Facebook and Twitter. The world will still be there when you return.
  3. Take the time to mentor others. You didn’t get to this spot on your own, and that new DBA is never going to be able fill in for you when you’re on vacation and want to be completely disconnected (see above). You don’t just have to mentor one person, you can mentor many, in different ways and it doesn’t have to take a significant amount of time.  At my previous job, when I worked with anyone in Technical Support I would explain what we were doing, why, and talk them through the process.  This took maybe an extra 10 to 15 minutes.  If they asked questions, I knew immediately they wanted to learn more and I repeated that process every time I helped them going forward.  Eventually, they could troubleshoot basic database issues without me, freeing up my time.  At a leadership course I attended the facilitator said, “You should always be trying to work yourself out of your current position.” That means you’re teaching someone how to take over yours.
  4. Save every script you write. I love writing T-SQL. Sometimes I think I should have been a developer. In the beginning, I didn’t save many scripts, so when a similar problem came up I had to start over. At first I didn’t mind, because I got to write some code and I’d try to remember how I did it last time and how to make it better. Then I didn’t have enough time, and writing that code became a bottleneck. Also: organize your scripts. Everyone has different methods, one of mine is to use the same first word to name scripts with a common task. For example, Check_Baselines.sql, Check_Backups.sql, Create_DB.sql, Create_RG.sql. Find a system, stick with it, start saving.

I’m not tagging anyone in this post by name, but if you’re thinking “I wish she had tagged me” then you’ve just been tagged.

11 thoughts on “What I Wish I Had Known Sooner…as a DBA

  1. I wish I’d become a voracious consumer of all things SQL much earlier. I underestimated the size and scope of the product. The sheer volume of technical minutia is overwhelming. I often find myself thinking… ok… what should I focus on now? My weakness in transact but if I set aside time to focus on it I might lose out on strengthening my core skill set which is performance tuning. Once you been around the block you almost have to decide… will I be a generalist or will I become more specialized. The performance tuners are surely the neurosurgeons. 🙂

  2. On that last point, don’t just save your scripts – keep them in version control! git, mercurial & Subversion are all free and you can get free private Mercurial hosting from Bitbucket (Github costs to go private). Not only can you bail yourself out from a botched script change, you can look back at your history and see how you’ve grown & learned by looking at the changes to your scripts over time.

  3. Erin, while reading your post, the part about surrounding yourself with smart people hit home. As of yesterday, one more of my friends became a MVP. I feel like I am being surrounded. I have learned so much in the past 3 years just from spending time around such people.

  4. I loved reading this post, the 2nd is me ( I believe there are lots of people like me), but this time I am really going to try this when I will go on vacation next month. Point 1 is true, I have learned a lot by people around me and still learning.

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