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What Counts for a DBA: Being Replaceable Expand / Collapse
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Posted Monday, December 10, 2012 11:40 AM


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Mike Dougherty-384281 (12/8/2012)
Another good reason to be replaceable is that you should be able to "hand off" to a coworker so you can advance within the organization. If you've built yourself into a role so completely that it would be painful to your employer to move you up, then you'll be stuck there until you retire.


Good point. I also like the viewpoint that being replaceable means you can take a vacation once in a while.




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Post #1394723
Posted Monday, December 10, 2012 12:31 PM


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Mike Dougherty-384281 (12/8/2012)
Another good reason to be replaceable is that you should be able to "hand off" to a coworker so you can advance within the organization. If you've built yourself into a role so completely that it would be painful to your employer to move you up, then you'll be stuck there until you retire.


True Mike, but on the other hand, I have also seen people use this advantage as leverage (hostage) to get what they want or else (raises, bonuses, promotions, job security, etc.). They threaten to leave suddenly leaving the company in the lurch, so management ultimately caves into them alot of times. Mind you, I am not condoning this behavior by any means, I am just saying that I have seen this many times in this industry over the years. Like I said above, its management's ultimate responsibility to ensure that no one corners a monopoly on knowledge or responsibility in their respective departments. You can't always count on employees to do this across the board for you. It's human nature for many to protect their job security, particularly in today's economy.. This is how some people do this.


"Technology is a weird thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ..."
Post #1394754
Posted Monday, December 10, 2012 2:01 PM
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Once a particular task is repeatable, documentable, and doesn't involve much decision making, it can and should be moved lower down on the food chain. Because if it isn't, management will one day figure out that they aren't getting good value for the senior person's salary.

The exception might be a very complex mission critical system, such as a high volume trading application. But it's important to note that a company wouldn't likely be betting it's entire business on one individual (which would make him/her a single point of failure, not that it has NEVER happened), so we are still back to 'replaceable' status.

Back in the early days of my career, an instructor tried to impress us with the need to write concise code and include plenty of comments. He then said that in his company, many people thought that not doing so would give them job security, but it actually gave HIM job security fixing things long after they were gone.
Post #1394779
Posted Monday, December 10, 2012 2:10 PM
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TravisDBA (12/10/2012)

True Mike, but on the other hand, I have also seen people use this advantage as leverage (hostage) to get what they want or else (raises, bonuses, promotions, job security, etc.). They threaten to leave suddenly leaving the company in the lurch, so management ultimately caves into them alot of times. ...


We have the opposite of this. There's a guy here who's been "the guy" for 20+ years. Nobody really wants to do the stuff he does; everybody was fine with that - including the IT Director. This guy goes through months of ill health and was in the hospital twice. That's when the IT Director realized that "disaster planning" should include these critical people... since their failure will take mission-critical Intellectual Property out of the organization.

Since then we've been on a quest to capture & document his day-to-day operations. :)
Post #1394781
Posted Tuesday, December 11, 2012 9:28 AM


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This is true for not just DBAs, but everyone who does anything that is not plain "a trained monkey could do it" work. Make yourself irreplaceable in other ways, but not with your everyday processes.

Our lead programmer at my first job always told us, "Document everything. If you get hit by a beer truck on the way home from work tonight, someone needs to be able to pick up where you left off." Especially if you're leaving for one of the less morbid reasons, you don't want to burn your bridges with your co-workers when you might want to use them as references down the line.

The "replaceable = able to take vacations" is right on the mark too. My entire team has been struggling to get our (constantly multiplying) "special case" processes documented and get others cross-trained so we don't have to be tied to our cellphones (or, worse, our computers and an acceptably secure net connection) when we take vacations. It doesn't always work, but it's gotten to the point where most of us only get one or two calls from our backups over a week's vacation as opposed to several-times-daily ones. Makes for a much happier team, and our users/clients are happier as well since they don't have to wait as long for resolution/completion when the primary is out.


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Post #1395197
Posted Tuesday, December 18, 2012 6:43 AM
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I come from the developer rather than the DBA perspective and the article is still definitely applicable. I'd go one step further though. I don't just aim to be replacable, I aim not to need to be replaced. If I can leave a client with a product that no longer requires a programmer then, and only then, is my work truly done.

The greatest compliment I can be paid is to be made redundant by a satisfied client.
Post #1397763
Posted Monday, February 18, 2013 8:03 PM
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I agree with a lot f what has been said. I would add that spreading the knowledge, particularly to developers helps them be better developers and me a better DBA. When everyone in a development team starts to get it together, and I inlcude the DBA here, creating and maintaining software becomes a pure joy. I liken it to playing in a band when everyone is hitting the beat and the groove comes alive. Or playing basket ball in a well drilled team, you can pass the ball almost without looking because you know your team mate is going to be in the right spot.

I have always sought to make myself redundant but have never succeeded! One day...

But for now, to all the DBA's out there who think otherwise, keep on keeping it dark and mysterious for others. Create poorly documented processes, create overly complex flaky systems that need your special touch to keep them going. Because one day I will take your job (and your mate's too, the one guy who knows your secrets and covers for you) and be paid very weel for it. And I love to reverse engineer your processes and look like a hero when I take a tasks that runs for 5 hours with some manual intervention and no one else knows exactly what it does, but the business has to trust it anyway, and get it down to under 1 minute, no intervention and document it so I can replace it all together and get it out of the OLTP database, and make the process visible to the stakeholders.... Always look great during the annual review.

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