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Most important DBA Skill? Expand / Collapse
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Posted Tuesday, April 30, 2013 9:28 AM


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TravisDBA (4/30/2013)
Eric M Russell (4/30/2013)
TravisDBA (4/30/2013)
Eric M Russell (4/30/2013)
[quote]mosborne (4/30/2013)
However, without people skills, that high-priced consulting career will remain tantelizingly beyond their reach.


I have only two words in response to this rather audacious statement above only because I have personally seen it and can personally attest to it, 'Not true".

A talented IT person with less than average people skills certainly can earn a good living leaping from one six-month contract to another. However, that's not the same thing as a "high-priced consultant".


So, then are you saying that "high priced consultants" always have people skills?

Granted, there are a lot of high name recognition (and I assume high-priced) consultants who can come across as arrogant in discussion forums. However, to be a successful consultant, they must have people skills on some level. For example, they have to be a self-promoter and know how to influence the right people. IT professionals, we're all a mixed bag.
Post #1448113
Posted Tuesday, April 30, 2013 9:41 AM


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A highly skilled techie (not just a DBA) with bad people skills will have to be excellent technically to keep their job despite their unsociability. As a result, they'll be able to deliver in an emergency. And that's what, generalising, will happen; they'll be turned to as a last resort.

Same applies from the opposite end with a poor techie with great people skills. They'll be easy to talk to, but will quickly gain a reputation for not being able to deliver. Net result, they'll be a last resort.

Now let's strip away the polarisation. A techie needs to be good enough technically to fulfil the requests made of them. However, there is no "good enough" with people skills; the better they are, the more people will respect and make use of them. Skills can be learned, but attitude cannot. You obviously need a base level on both sides, but once that's met I'd far rather there was a surfeit of people skills than of technical brilliance. After all, people have to come to you before you have some work to do.


Semper in excretia, sumus solum profundum variat
Post #1448120
Posted Tuesday, April 30, 2013 10:08 AM
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With respect to all those who seem to be agreeing with you, I want to put forth another way to look at this.

First, I do agree that there is a need for a certain amount of communication skills. that is in fact why I got into this business in the first place. I worked with someone who was very smart, but had little patience due to a bunch of end users that had an average IQ somehwere around 80. OK, maybe it just seemd that bad!

What about the other side of the coin? I once worked with someone who was an Oracle DBA with incredible social skills. This person was barely able to log in, didn't understand the difference between an OS account and an Oracle account, was unable to do any troubleshooting at all, and basically was limited to checking disk space. The company they worked for spent 10's of thousands of dollars training them. To this individual, talking and socializing was most important. Everybody liked them. Nobody respected them.

IMO, you need a balance. We have all been forced to work with people that are incapable of understanding technical issues. Having an ability to talk nicely is irrelevant if you aren't competent in your field. There is a reason we have project managers, project leaders, business analysts, et cetera. There is ALSO a reason we employ technically competent people. Asking all brilliant people who are extremely competent technically to also be extremely socialable just isn't realistic. These skills are at opposite ends of the spectrum. The more technical people tend towards less social skills. The more social people tend towards less technical skills. To me, that is a fact of nature. It does not mean an individual cannot have both skills, but I can count on one hand the number of brilliant, technically superior people who also were outstanding at working with non technical end users. One in particular was an absolute genius, yet could glad hand with the C-Suite as well as anyone.

So, what I think companies need to do is to look at their needs. If you are a development company, you probably want a team of technical people who are leaders in their field. You also want a team of business analysts that are able to communicate with the non technical end users and the technical team. If you are a company that consumes software, why are you trying to hire leading edge technical people and trying to shoe horn them into a role that requires them to work with end users? Hire people with a good balance - you don't NEED technical genius! Essentially, I think companies need to stop trying to buy two employees for the price of one. If you need both skills, you are going to have to pay for it. Either by paying for two employees, or by paying a premium for the somewhat rare individual that can do both. Otherwise, accept that you are probably not going to get the best technical person if you want people skills. You can get technical competence, just not "the best". See note below please before reacting to this statement.

Lastly, I am trying to word this well, but may have failed. So please, don't read this as a claim that nobody has both skills. I am talking in generalities. As I said, while there are some people who can do both, I view it as an exception, not the rule. There are people who are very social that are also technical, and vice versa. In my experience, it is just very uncommon for someone to excel at both roles. So, if you are one who is very technical, and also able to play the social game, kudos to ya, but please don't take offense. Rather, read this as a complement that in my view you are more skilled than most. Also, ask for and demand superior pay because you are worth it!


Dave
Post #1448125
Posted Tuesday, April 30, 2013 10:16 AM
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Eric M Russell (4/30/2013)
TravisDBA (4/30/2013)
Eric M Russell (4/30/2013)
[quote]mosborne (4/30/2013)
However, without people skills, that high-priced consulting career will remain tantelizingly beyond their reach.


I have only two words in response to this rather audacious statement above only because I have personally seen it and can personally attest to it, 'Not true".

A talented IT person with less than average people skills certainly can earn a good living leaping from one six-month contract to another. However, that's not the same thing as a "high-priced consultant".


I hope you do not mind me throwing in my two cents worth. Have fun with it!

A real gearhead with few if any personal skills can still be a very great asset and a huge success. However they are costly, unless you have a great project manager or staff who bid and assign staff to projects. A skilled manager will separate the gearhead from the customer by keeping them at a remote location and rarely if ever on site. Besides the anti-socialized staff would prefer to be left alone with the machine, his or her code, and let the rest of the world pass by. They are content in their world of bits and bytes.

Most true gearheads I have known are sick and tired of dealing with people and prefer to work only with the machine. They do not tolerate "the imperfections of mindless pinhead users who do not have a clue". But they will do excellent work if they are allowed to do it as an insolated asset. It is a management issue, and a good manager can make many successful if they will manage the skills into the appropriate positions and not assign people to positions where the probability of failure is so high that the project and careers are at risk.

Using skilled people to do what they do best is to use the "people skills" person to relate to people and to use the real gearheads to do the mind-melding magic that only they can do. It would be nice to have everyone balanced, but we do not come that way.

Use people where they are strong and do not use them to do what they are incapable of succeeding at. And for all that is holy do not think you can take a real gearhead and into a meeting with a group of people persons and think it will all work out well. The people skill folks will not relate to the "closed minded albatross who could not succeed no matter what", and the gearhead will not come close to getting along with technological lightweights who can not "PC" if it was written on their hand.

Have a great day!

M.








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Post #1448129
Posted Tuesday, April 30, 2013 10:26 AM
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Eric M Russell (4/30/2013)
TravisDBA (4/30/2013)
Eric M Russell (4/30/2013)
[quote]mosborne (4/30/2013)
However, without people skills, that high-priced consulting career will remain tantelizingly beyond their reach.


I have only two words in response to this rather audacious statement above only because I have personally seen it and can personally attest to it, 'Not true".

A talented IT person with less than average people skills certainly can earn a good living leaping from one six-month contract to another. However, that's not the same thing as a "high-priced consultant".

I can't ever remember having an issue getting along with a highly technical person on a project. Those people respect me, knowing my limitations, because they know they can make me understand what I need to in order to work with them. Their skill set being superior to mine in some area is why they were hired. Those people tend to rely on me to work with the end users because I have that ability as well as technical skills. I lean toward technical, but am by no means the best - I can always find someone who knows more than me.

I can't count how many times I have had issues with social people. I am not here to socialize, I am here to work. I frequently am disappointed with consultants and others that know less than me but were presented as an expert, simply because they could talk nice to the contract people. Frequently, those contract people end up finding they made a mistake in hiring someone who was well spoken but could not do the job.

I am with Travis on this one, with the possible exception that I do believe there are those who can do both, but that they are rare.


Dave
Post #1448134
Posted Tuesday, April 30, 2013 10:29 AM


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Most important DBA skill?

A sense of humor.
Post #1448135
Posted Tuesday, April 30, 2013 10:49 AM


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A past boss of mine once told me once when I asked him what he expected from me as his main DBA and he told me something I have never forgotten since, and it was this. 'Travis, I expect you to take care of our multi-million dollar databases and protect them from getting trashed or compromised by anyone or anything, period. Because if we have not got our data we don't have S**t. I am not paying you the kind of money you are getting here to win a personality contest. You take care of business and those databases, that's your job, and if you ever need backup from anyone giving you static over that, then I am here for you."" He was a man of his word too, and I have never forgotten those words he told me either down through the years.

"Technology is a weird thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ..."
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Posted Tuesday, April 30, 2013 10:56 AM
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TravisDBA (4/30/2013)
A past boss of mine once told me once when I asked him what he expected from me as his main DBA and he told me something I have never forgotten since, and it was this. 'Travis, I expect you to take care of our multi-million dollar databases and protect them from getting trashed or compromised by anyone or anything, period. Because if we have not got our data we don't have S**t. I am not paying you the kind of money you are getting here to win a personality contest. You take care of business and those databases, that's your job, and if you ever need backup from anyone giving you static over that, then I am here for you."" He was a man of his word too, and I have never forgotten those words he told me either down through the years.


So the boss hired a person with personality and skills matching what the job required and backed him up. We need more bosses like this!



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Post #1448145
Posted Tuesday, April 30, 2013 11:04 AM


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Miles Neale (4/30/2013)
TravisDBA (4/30/2013)
A past boss of mine once told me once when I asked him what he expected from me as his main DBA and he told me something I have never forgotten since, and it was this. 'Travis, I expect you to take care of our multi-million dollar databases and protect them from getting trashed or compromised by anyone or anything, period. Because if we have not got our data we don't have S**t. I am not paying you the kind of money you are getting here to win a personality contest. You take care of business and those databases, that's your job, and if you ever need backup from anyone giving you static over that, then I am here for you."" He was a man of his word too, and I have never forgotten those words he told me either down through the years.


So the boss hired a person with personality and skills matching what the job required and backed him up. We need more bosses like this!



Miles,

He was a great boss too because he never once threw me under the bus. If someone complained to him about me being a bottleneck or not cooperative, he would say many times to other people: "Travis is my gatekeeper. His job is to protect our business data, period. That is what I pay him to do. He is not here to be your friend. If he told you NO, then he had a reason for it..."


"Technology is a weird thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ..."
Post #1448149
Posted Tuesday, April 30, 2013 11:42 AM


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phonetictalk (4/30/2013)
I would argue there's a difference between lacking people skills and being rude/arrogant/short-tempered too. While people without people skills can come across as rude or arrogant, it's a question of intent. Are they being arrogant because they are an a**, or because they know what they're talking about? If the former, then yeah, that shines through. If the latter, anyone who works with them will quickly gain respect for what they have to say, regardless of initial impressions.


Good point, I always tell people "Please don't confuse not getting your way with me being rude, arrogant, or uncoopoerative. There are reasons we don't just slap stuff into production. Your lack of planning or foresight is not my emergency."


"Technology is a weird thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ..."
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