Monday, February 01, 2010

Some New Year's Resolutions for DBAs

This is sort of a re-blogging (to coin a term). I first published this last month in the Data Management Today blog I wrote for NEON. Well, I no longer work for NEON and I'm not sure how long that blog will remain active, so I thought it might make sense to re-blog some of the pertinent entries here... so here goes with my New Year's Resolutions for DBAs blog entry...

At the beginning over every year many of us take the time to cobble together some resolutions for the coming year. We plan to lose weight, save money, stop smoking, and so on. Usually, it doesn’t take long before we’ve abandoned these resolutions. Perhaps we’d be wiser to make some business related resolutions. With that in mind, here are some thoughts on the New Year’s resolutions you might be wise to make as a DBA in 2010.

Are you insatiably curious? A good DBA must become a jack-of-all-trades. DBAs are expected to know everything about everything -- at least in terms of how it works with databases. From technical and business jargon to the latest management and technology fads, the DBA is expected to be "in the know." So perhaps “be more curious” would be a useful DBA resolution.

Most DBAs know that private time is a luxury we cannot afford. A DBA must be prepared for interruptions at any time to answer any type of question -- and not just about databases, either. With that in mind, how are your people skills? DBA are usually respected as a database guru, but also frequently criticized as a curmudgeon with limited people skills. Just about every database programmer has his or her favorite DBA story. You know, those anecdotes that begin with "I had a problem..." and end with "and then he told me to stop bothering him and read the manual." DBAs simply do not have a "warm and fuzzy" image. However, this perception probably has more to do with the nature and scope of the job than with anything else. The DBMS spans the enterprise, effectively placing the DBA on call for the applications of the entire organization. As such, you will interact with many different people and take on many different roles. To be successful, you will need an easy-going and somewhat amiable manner. So another good New Year’s resolution might be to “improve your people skills.” Take a Dale Carnegie course or start by reading Carnegie’s seminal book, How to Win Friends and Influence People.

How adaptable you are? A day in the life of a DBA is usually quite hectic. The DBA maintains production and test environments, monitors active application development projects, attends strategy and design meetings, selects and evaluates new products and connects legacy systems to the Web. And, of course: Joe in Accounting just resubmitted that query from hell that's bringing the system to a halt. Can you do something about that? All of this can occur within a single workday. You must be able to embrace the chaos to succeed as a DBA. So a third resolution might be to “roll with the punches” better – and without complaining!

Of course, you need to be organized and capable of succinct planning, too. Being able to plan for changes and implement new functionality is a key component of database administration. And although this may seem to clash with the need to be flexible and adaptable, it doesn't really. Not once you get used to it. You just need to prepare yourself to be adapatable and organize to incorporate change more rapidly than others. So my final suggestion for a 2010 New Year’s resolution is to adopt a planning methodology and stick to it. Buy a planner – either electronic or not – and use it this year. You might even consider taking a time management class.

If you keep all of these resolutions, just imagine how productive you will be in 2010. And then you can use 2011 to lose weight and save money and…

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