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Re-entering the DBA field - Looking for Advice/Suggestions Expand / Collapse
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Posted Sunday, July 29, 2012 2:35 PM
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Hello Everyone,

I'm a marketing professional looking to get back into the IT field that I left 10 years ago. I have a very wide background - before marketing, I was a Junior Oracle DBA (Access Front End), Access/VBA developer, Systems Analyst, Tech Writer, Help Desk analyst - basically I did a lot of things from the time I started in 1992 to when I left in 2003. Since 2003, I've stayed abreast of the technology, but I'm out of practice, I lack a formal education, and I recognize that I'm not an ideal candidate, even for entry level positions.

The reason for this switch is, A) I really loved being a DBA/Developer – I’m a logical problem solver by nature, and I was never bored doing the work; and B) job growth potential far outweighs the field that I’m currently in, and plain and simple, I want to make more money.

I’d love to get some input from hiring managers, recruiters, other professionals in the field, as well as just about anyone who was taken on a mid-life career change, as to what might be the best path and this seemed like a great place to start. I see the following options:

Option A: finish my degree in an information technology concentration. I’m about 20 credits from completing an associates, 80 from a bachelors. Does it matter where I get this degree, as long as it’s not from a diploma mill? From a hiring perspective, am I better off finishing things off in a traditional college setting, or is online ok? (I’m currently evaluating Thomas Edison State College and nationally accredited Columbia Southern University.)

Option B: Focus on getting Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Certifications – I believe that I could get my Data Platform or BI MCSE (or both) in about 6 months.

Option C: Both (or some reasonably facsimile thereof).

Cost isn’t nearly as much a factor as time is – I’d like to end up in a senior level position by the time I’m 50, which is 11 short years away. Is this something that is even feasible?

Thank you in advance for any and all help – I look forward to becoming an active member of this group!


----
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." - Lao Tzu.

"No matter where you go, there you are." - Buckaroo Banzai

Post #1337030
Posted Sunday, July 29, 2012 8:15 PM


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I don't know how many credits you need to get an associates degree, but it sounds like you're close. Finish that up. Having a little alphabet soup after your name seems to impress folks especially if you're making a career change.

So far as you saying your not an "ideal" candidate, I say rubbish! If more people in IT had the kind of experience you have, they be able to think out of the box more often.

If you can handle the commitment, do get certified in SQL Server 2012. Unlike a brand spankin' newbie, you already know what a database is. Just remember that Oracle and DB2 are quite different in syntax in some areas (both basic and advanced). I normally don't recommend certs for personal reasons but, again, hiring managers do like to see the alphabet soup.

You'll need to backup the letters in your name with experience. If you can "get in" to the DBA group at your current company, do some volunteer work for charities.

Now that all of that has been said, you already have Oracle experience. Why not simply return to that path? You could even legitimately claim prior experience on your resume with that.


--Jeff Moden
"RBAR is pronounced "ree-bar" and is a "Modenism" for "Row-By-Agonizing-Row".

First step towards the paradigm shift of writing Set Based code:
Stop thinking about what you want to do to a row... think, instead, of what you want to do to a column."

"Change is inevitable. Change for the better is not." -- 04 August 2013
(play on words) "Just because you CAN do something in T-SQL, doesn't mean you SHOULDN'T." --22 Aug 2013

Helpful Links:
How to post code problems
How to post performance problems
Post #1337049
Posted Monday, July 30, 2012 6:02 AM


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The hard part will be the break-in. You just need the right person to see your experience (Jeff, me, others who look for that above MCSEIO) and you should be in. Certs are helpful with HR departments, but are a frequent flag for people who do lots of interviewing, especially if you have the cert but no experience. Personally, you sound like an ideal entry level candidate because you have real experience, just not current knowledge. Experience only comes with time. Knowledge is pretty easily communicated (mostly).

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Post #1337198
Posted Monday, July 30, 2012 8:26 AM
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Thank you, Jeff and Grant for your suggestions! I always figured that experience would be the key. I guess my next step is to update my resume to highlight my relevant experience - it's slight, but I certainly used databases in all of my marketing endeavors. Hopefully, I will stumble across hiring managers like you guys sooner than later.

As far as building up experience (while I pursue my associates/certs) is there any value to pursuing work on a site like eLance or oDesk? I don't mind working on the cheap (which it seems like you have to since you're bidding against kids with iPads in Indonesia) and I figure if I can pick off some of the smaller jobs, I could build up a nice little portfolio... Have you guys (or anyone else reading this) gone that route?

Thanks again - it's comforting to know that, though it will clearly take hard work, there is a light at the end of the tunnel...


----
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." - Lao Tzu.

"No matter where you go, there you are." - Buckaroo Banzai

Post #1337261
Posted Tuesday, July 31, 2012 8:21 AM


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I've never tried something like "eLance" so I can't say for certain but it seems that any paid experience would help. My biggest problem with such things is that they seem to want the world and they want it almost yesterday. And, I don't know what the successful payment record is, either. Even if all that is good, you still have to win the job.

Doing some DB work for a charity would kill 2 birds with 1 stone. It would give you some documentable experience (likely no NDA involved) and you'd be showing a future employer that you care. Not sure how you'd find such chartities to work for, though.


--Jeff Moden
"RBAR is pronounced "ree-bar" and is a "Modenism" for "Row-By-Agonizing-Row".

First step towards the paradigm shift of writing Set Based code:
Stop thinking about what you want to do to a row... think, instead, of what you want to do to a column."

"Change is inevitable. Change for the better is not." -- 04 August 2013
(play on words) "Just because you CAN do something in T-SQL, doesn't mean you SHOULDN'T." --22 Aug 2013

Helpful Links:
How to post code problems
How to post performance problems
Post #1337927
Posted Tuesday, July 31, 2012 9:24 AM
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I've been bidding on a few eLance projects - small ones that require maybe an hour's worth of setup - I figure even if I don't win the job, it gives me ideas for sample projects that I can use towards a portfolio. I can't imagine having a catalog of various databases (with front ends) can't hurt.

Regarding the charities - luckily, I live in a somewhat economically depressed area, and my marketing experience has put me in contact with relatively high profile community officials - i.e., chambers of commerce, etc. Based on your suggestion, I've put feelers out, letting them know that I'm ready and willing to assist - I'm hoping this will yield some results.


----
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." - Lao Tzu.

"No matter where you go, there you are." - Buckaroo Banzai

Post #1337981
Posted Tuesday, July 31, 2012 10:07 AM


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Here's what recently worked for me...

I also held various IT jobs and most recently was a software developer/administrator for a very specialized software application that only a handful of companies in my area use, which made it hard to find anything that I didn't need to relocate for. I do not have a degree and the only certification I held (other than with the specialized software) was an MCP cert from waaaay back. BUT: After I was blind-sided with being outsourced, I was determined to find a new mid-life career path that would allow me to "take my skills anywhere" if need be. I had very limited experience with SQL...only when I needed to troubleshoot the SQL back-end of the application did I get in and mess with it (but I *enjoyed* it).

I contacted a local recruiting agency and was very honest with the limited amount of skills I posessed, but asked them to submit my resume for any local Jr. DBA opportunities they came across. In the mean time, I installed SQL on my laptop and began reading and digging into it as much as I could so that I could at least know the basics and some of the lingo. I got the first SQL job I interviewed for!

My new boss said that the reason he chose me, is that he liked the fact that in every position I had ever held before - I was basically self-taught!

I'm assuming (although he did not say) that my most valuable assets were also:

- that I had held various IT jobs (service desk, web development, local support, software dev/admin) which resulted in a wide range of experience in IT
- my enthusiasum!
- that I had been working on my own at home prior to the interview, which brought me from 0 to at lease base knowledge
- that I made it clear I did not want to remain a Jr. DBA, that I wanted to work toward my certification(s) and wanted to kick SQL-@ss in general!

I find that in IT, typically years of experience in IT goes much farther than a degree. You might consider trying to getting your foot in the door as a Jr. DBA and then ask your employer what path they would like for you to take (I would bet certification...but some companies do try to get a "quota" of degrees).

I've been here almost 4 months and so far, I don't think my boss regrets his decision. I've since signed up with PASS and I'm looking forward to my first SQL Saturday! Now that I've got my foot in the door, I will be working hard towards my first certification and "networking" at every opportunity with local SQL DBAs!

Post #1338023
Posted Tuesday, July 31, 2012 10:58 AM
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Thanks for the help, Lisa - the funny thing is that, the whole time I've been in marketing, I've ended up being the IT guy at the same time - software/hardware installs and upgrades, wired and wireless networking, application troubleshooting - there wasn't much development, but I did make several convoluted spreadsheets (with VBA macros) as well as several Access DBs.

The more I read these replies, and the more I look at the landscape, the more I realize I need to spend some quality time honing my resume to, as best as I can, highlight the IT elements - at least it wouldn't look like I've been out of the game for as long as I have.

I keep sending resumes to recruiters, but the few that do reply all say the same thing - that it will be hard to place me without more recent experience, so it's off to the charities I go!

(I don't suppose the recruiter that helped you out is local to the Philly area...?)



----
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." - Lao Tzu.

"No matter where you go, there you are." - Buckaroo Banzai

Post #1338051
Posted Tuesday, July 31, 2012 11:20 AM


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Hmmm...I'm suprised at the recruiter's responses! I would assume that they would present your resume along with a few others and discuss them all with the prospective employer...and have an opportunity to go to bat for you and say, "what he may lack in DBA-specific experience, he makes up for with....etc..."

I'm in the Cleveland area and I worked with TEKSystems -- they were great! I just looked at their website and they have a South Philly location. If you're interested in contacting them, I could certainly give my recruiter a heads-up so they could contact the Philly office to keep an eye out for you.

http://www.teksystems.com/Locations/United-States/Pennsylvania/Philadelphia-South.aspx

Are you looking towards SQL Development or Database Administration or Data Warehouseing/BI?...?
Post #1338060
Posted Wednesday, August 01, 2012 5:41 AM
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I would urge you not to be discouraged by the "canned" responses you are receiving from recruiters. In spite of what they may tell you, there are no hard and fast rules here as employers requirements can come in any number of forms. By all means, pursue the charity route but don't give up on finding yourself a paid position in the short term in the altogether.
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