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.


9 Responses to “Secret to be a successful DBA”

  1. Tim Ford says:

    Yanni I love the look ofmthe new site! It screams “Yanni”!

  2. Sean says:

    Yanni thanks for the post. I’m going to add the “Top 3 things” idea to my arsenal.

    Also totally agree with your thoughts on training – if you won’t invest in yourself then don’t expect others to do it for you.

    Thanks again – look forward to future posts

  3. Mike Decuir says:

    Great post.

    I can attest to the Top 3 things email each week being extremely valuable.

    Every week, I refer back to this email many times to ensure that I am on track with my weekly goals and at the end of the year, it gives me a great summary of both the large and small accomplishments I had over the year for review time.

  4. Umesh says:

    I thoroughly enjoy this post. I am also a DBA and a blogger, I have also shared my thoughts about becoming a successful DBA.

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