Secret to be a successful DBA


When you just start your career as a DBA, there’s a few things that I think are very fundamental to have so you can be a successful one.   This goes for pretty much every profession actually, but I’m focusing this post for DBAs, because, well, that’s what I’ve been doing in the last ten plus years.   I’m not talking about mastering T-SQL or being a PowerShell Guru or even knowing about SQL and Index Internals here, no I’m talking about basic, fundamental skills that will make you become a successful DBA.   Don’t get me wrong, those other skills will make you very successful (and are critical to get you through an interview or two) but there are some skills that are overlooked and can put you ahead of the competition.

1.  Know how to ask the right question

I mentioned this on yesterday MemeMonday post.    How many times have you heard your customer say ‘the web site/program abc is slow‘ ? One of the fundamental troubleshooting skill is the elimination process.  You need to be able to ask the right question to eliminate the area that is not the problem so you isolate the real issue.  Done well, and you may find out the problem isn’t even the SQL box, but that is a different post.

2.  Know where to get help

You don’t know everything about SQL Server.  I don’t think anybody does.  SQL Server is a huuuuge product that has many components in it and there will be a moment that you will face a challenge.  To know where to get help is one of the most important skills to have.   Sure, there’s tons of books out there and internet full with information but knowing where to get the help that you need is important.    One of the most helpful ways is to leveraging twitter #sqlhelp hashtag.   Brent Ozar (Blog | Twitter) have a whole section about Twitter here to get you started and he blogged about how to use the hashtag here.

3.  Know how to communicate to your customer

It never gets old, but you hear it all the time about the DBA versus Developer battle.    My developer is driving me crazy.   My developer is giving me attitude.  I can go on and on.  Having worked the other side of the fence in my past, I know the Developers have the same versions of the conversation about the DBA.    Well, let me start by saying as a DBA – your developer IS your customer. Sometimes an extra effort on your part by ensuring the good relationship between DBA and your customer can take you an extra mile.

4.  Status Report.  Top 3 things

Weekly one-on-one’s with your manager are important.   You need to solicit feedback and get some help to prioritize your tasks.  On top of that, what I personally find is very useful is to have a short status report.  I called it my Top 3 Things.   It contains the top three things that I did for the week before, top three things that I didn’t get to do, and the top three things that I want to do for the next week. For me, it’s extremely useful to keep me on track on the things that I have on my plate and to keep my manager informed on what I am doing, and things that I didn’t get to do because other things took precedence.   And those things come so handy during review time!

5.  Free Training – Teach Yourself!

There’s so many resources available to you, free.  Now, you have to actually make the time to get those information and utilize those free resources.   For those who are lucky enough that your company has a budget to send you to cool training like SQL Cruise, SQL PASS or SQL Immersion – congratulations, but there are many of us that can only live vicariously through twitter during those events.   My suggestion to you, make the time to train yourself.   Block a time on your calendar to read blog post or watch some webcast daily. If you can’t block a whole hour, block a half hour.  However you can manage your time within your 8 hour day, but make the time.   If there’s SQL Saturday within your driving distance, pack your car for a road trip and make the time to attend.   Those are free resources for you to advance yourself.   It’s yours to grab, but you have to come and get it.

These “secrets” are a small sample of what is out there.  Invest in your career, and your career will reward you.


Week 0: Climb For Clean Air – Baselining

I wasn’t going to write anything from the previous week since I didn’t really have a plan.  Sorta.  Just spur of the moment and a commitment to do the climb but when I really thought about it, I actually did have (somewhat of a plan)

Monday:  Rest
Tuesday:  Cardio, 30 minutes
Wednesday:  Cardio, 30 minutes
Thursday:  Cardio, 30 minutes
Friday:  Rest
Saturday:  Rest
Sunday:   Short Hike

The actual:

Just a bit background here to get everybody in the same page.   I. am. out. of . shape.  There.  I said it.   I am starting fresh and not comparing myself to my old-self who summited Mt. Rainier 6 years ago.   I haven’t been in the gym for a very long time and the last time I was out hiking, well, let just say, it’s been way too long.


I was at the gym at 6am.   Hopped on elliptical machine for 30 minutes.  Resistance 6, Incline 6.  I stayed on 80% of Max HR (or tried to) but needed to slow down since I was panting a lot.  People, this is what happens when you are back in the gym for the first time in.. err.. years?


Back at the gym at 6am.  I was at the elliptical machine again for another 30 minutes for same resistance and incline, which is still 6.  Still struggled with trying to be in the endurance zone.   Oh.  To be noted, I watched the entire video of Brent Ozar (blog | twitter) on Wait Stats on my iPad the entire time I was doing my exercise.  Not sure why I picked that one.  Maybe the topic.  Or the Richard Simmons.  Or the leg.  Either one, it worked.  30 minutes gone by just like that.


I was dilly-dally and didn’t get to the gym until 7am.   Decided on stair climbing machine for 30 minutes, resistance 4.  This one get my heart rate going like no tomorrow and I had a hard time keeping it in the zone.   I can’t even focus on any video or music since I was panting too much.   Definitely needed some performance tuning on this area


Hiking, Everyone?

It was a cold day and I was one nudge away from just keeping my behind at the couch but I wasn’t going to be the one that said it first.   So after I scrambled around and tried to dig out the hiking gear from the bin, we drove to Rattlesnake Ledge Trail.

It was cold, so I had 4 layers on me.  I had my sleeveless underneath my long-sleeve hiking shirt, soft jacket plus a hard shell.  Yes.  I went all out.   Result.  Overheated Yanni.   Not good.

I paced myself really well for the first 30 minutes which exactly at the end of the second switchback of the trail, then I started to feel my heartbeat was beating a wee bit faster than I want it to be.   I slowed down a bit, tried to get my breathing under control and kept on walking.   We got to the top of the ledge within 57 minutes.

Things to noted:

1.  I didn’t strap my backpack correctly.  I’m paying for it now since my shoulder is kinda achy
2.  My right boot lace wasn’t tie properly.  Yes, that’s right.  My ankle is paying for it now
3.  I wasn’t stopping at all to take a sip of water, even when I knew I needed one.
4.  My pace was too fast for the first 30 minutes which cause me to have to slow down in the second 30 minutes.


I gathered some baselining (borrowing this term from Erin Stellato (blog | twitter) post about baselining and performance tuning for my training to find out that I have a lot of tuning to do.  My statistics are out of date, my index need some serious tuning, and my query need some serious rewrite.   Good grief, this is going to be a lot of work!  Maybe I should hire a consultant to climb the mountain for me?

I have exciting week ahead me.   Stay tuned for the next update.


MemeMonday: 11 words…

Thomas LaRock (blog | twitter), has challenged us to write eleven word blog post, called Meme Monday and since Mike Reigler (blog | twitter), Dev Nambi (blog | twitter) and Kendra Little (blog |twitter) tagged me this morning, here’s mine:

Asking the right question is a secret of a successful DBA

I will have separate blog post this week talking about this very subject, but for today — 11 words will just have to be it.

With this, I’m tagging three people:

1.  Dianne McNurlan (Blog | Twitter)

2.  Crys Manson (Blog | Twitter)

3.  John Robel (Blog | Twitter)

This is fun!


Journey to 14,411 feet start today

Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier

Jes Borland (Blog|Twitter) inspired me with her public commitment with her training for her first half marathon on her blog here.  She posted her plan and how it actually went down every week, good or bad.   I was initially just look at her running posts for some play list idea for my run/walk/hike, I ended up reading her entire series and admire her even more.     I found myself cheering for her even louder, before she even start her race and I realize that this is exactly what I need to do.

So Jes – thank you for inspiring me.  No, no – I’m not going to run any half-marathon or even 5k anytime soon, but I will be joining another 71 climber to trek Mount Rainier National Park and attempt to reach its summit during 2 days journey.   This effort organized by American Lung Association under Climb for Clean Air event, a great fund-raising event to raise awareness for clean air and variety of lung disease that affect so many lives, including mine.

You can find my fund-raising page here.

In the next few months, I will be posting my progress weekly.   My training plan and how the week goes.    I was hoping that I can look back and see my own progress as the time goes and have as many as supporters along the way since this is definitely not just your usual walk in the park.

So there.  The journey start today.   I’ll be posting my progress every Sunday.

Wish me luck.


I’ve moved!

I've moved!

I've moved!

After attending Brent Ozar (Blog|Twitter) Free-Conference session’s at Chicago about branding, blogging and presenting, I decided to change the look of my blog and move my domain to   Some of you probably already thought that’s what my blog URL was, but it wasn’t,  It used to be which will be up for a while for all the archive that were link to it but no new content will be added there.

I’ve made a commitment to write more, to *gulp* submit abstract this year to present and to give back more to this wonderful community that like an extension to a family to me.  I met wonderful, intelligent people that some of them are become a really good friend for life through this community.

So if you are one of the odd one out there who I am lucky enough to get the feed out of my blog via RSS or actually bookmark the link of my blog, please do change it to my new URL.

Here’s to a new beginning!