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Most important DBA Skill? Expand / Collapse
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Posted Tuesday, April 30, 2013 12:03 PM
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First of all, I love the discussion! And I agree with both sides.

If I need a miracle worker, someone who is a GOD at what he does to pull my hide out of the fire, then I don't care how nice he is (well, I do, but I over look it). As long as he can do what I need done, awesome. I will hide him in the back room away from the common folk, and let him work.

This is the exception, not the rule.

Part of the daily grind for a DBA, in my experience, is dealing with frustrated people. You have to have excellent technical skills to find and fix the issues and you have to deal with the users and clients having the issues. I have seen a client (who was paying us a lot of money to mind his data) almost pull the contract over the way a DBA treated one of his people. The client called the OnCall DBA at 2 am with a permission issue, he could not log in. Turns out he was trying to log into the wrong server, honest mistake but frustrating, but the DBA tore into him for 15 minutes on how his stupidity was unforgivable ending the call with a string of profanity.

That is why I think that people skills are very, very important. Each situation is different and there is a place for the Sheldon Coopers of the world, but it is not client facing.

Jim
Post #1448179
Posted Tuesday, April 30, 2013 12:05 PM
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That's an interesting point. How many times in your career have you dealt with truly challenging technical issues and how many times have you dealt with truly challenging people?
Post #1448180
Posted Tuesday, April 30, 2013 12:07 PM
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I think the communications skills versus technical skills and apples to oranges comparison. It's why I separated out the differences.
I've come across hundreds of 'DBA' whom I do not consider a 'DBA' and more like a 'SQL Developer' or a 'Jr. DBA' and that is a matter of technical knowledge, a lot of people know a lot of very specific things about writing T-SQL, etc. However, time and time again, they can not solve problems no matter how much of a people person they are, and no matter how much about SQL though know either. I think databases are unique in that unlike the Cisco guy who only needs to know enough about servers to setup networking configurations or the SAN guy who only needs to know about disk performance and protocol performance, or the developer who only needs to know how to code. The databases administrator needs to know Programming Frameworks and Programming Language Architecture, Basic Programming, SANs, Networks, Protocols, Servers, etc. Who's going to catch the environmental problem of connection string fragmentation? The DBA. Who's going to catch the web pages that 'accidently call for an image 3 times instead of just once?' that QA let slip by? The DBA. If you're running EMC SANs and not paying for all the additional software packages for monitoring, who's going to catch the disk contention? The DBA. Even when it is a database issue, let's say you have some queries timing out? Sometimes it's not the query or the indexes, sometimes it's the system configuration, ever check the sys.configurations? Do you know how to calculate throughput of your disks and your network? All those CX_Packet waits? Did the guy who setup the system leave hyper-threading? on because setting MAXDOP=1 isn't the best solution. This is on top of the database platform specific knowledge that you need to be a master of.

Now this is the minimum. The requirements, the skills required. The most important 'Skill' is a technical/gear head jack of all trades. You are not a DBA until you are in my book.

Then comes the soft skills. To be a great DBA to be able to do all this and explain it to management and end-users in a way that makes them happy. To be invited into the C level meetings as a representative of your CTO explaining how you have a 99.999% uptime, have not last a single second of data, and your thru-put per dollar is the best in the industry, and where your competitors were all compromised, your systems were not and if marketing wants to leverage that information have at it. Now, you went from being a DBA to a great DBA.
Post #1448182
Posted Tuesday, April 30, 2013 12:20 PM


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Jim Youmans-439383 (4/30/2013)
Part of the daily grind for a DBA, in my experience, is dealing with frustrated people. You have to have excellent technical skills to find and fix the issues and you have to deal with the users and clients having the issues. I have seen a client (who was paying us a lot of money to mind his data) almost pull the contract over the way a DBA treated one of his people. The client called the OnCall DBA at 2 am with a permission issue, he could not log in. Turns out he was trying to log into the wrong server, honest mistake but frustrating, but the DBA tore into him for 15 minutes on how his stupidity was unforgivable ending the call with a string of profanity.

That is why I think that people skills are very, very important. Each situation is different and there is a place for the Sheldon Coopers of the world, but it is not client facing.

Jim


I absolutely agree Jim, there is no excuse for being outright offensive and rude to others, in any context, However, as I and others have said before please don't confuse this example of rude and offensive behavior with a DBA not letting others do what they want whenever they want. It is our job to guard the gate to the enterprises precious data. We have to set up perimeters. So, don't get pissed off because we don't drop everything and do what you want everytime. People tend to confuse these two behaviors many times as the same thing (Sheldon Cooper Syndrome) and they are definitely not. One is just bad or arrogant behavior while the other is just doing our job.


"Technology is a weird thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ..."
Post #1448189
Posted Tuesday, April 30, 2013 2:58 PM


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TravisDBA (4/30/2013)
Jim Youmans-439383 (4/30/2013)
Part of the daily grind for a DBA, in my experience, is dealing with frustrated people. You have to have excellent technical skills to find and fix the issues and you have to deal with the users and clients having the issues. I have seen a client (who was paying us a lot of money to mind his data) almost pull the contract over the way a DBA treated one of his people. The client called the OnCall DBA at 2 am with a permission issue, he could not log in. Turns out he was trying to log into the wrong server, honest mistake but frustrating, but the DBA tore into him for 15 minutes on how his stupidity was unforgivable ending the call with a string of profanity.

That is why I think that people skills are very, very important. Each situation is different and there is a place for the Sheldon Coopers of the world, but it is not client facing.

Jim


I absolutely agree Jim, there is no excuse for being outright offensive and rude to others, in any context, However, as I and others have said before please don't confuse this example of rude and offensive behavior with a DBA not letting others do what they want whenever they want. It is our job to guard the gate to the enterprises precious data. We have to set up perimeters. So, don't get pissed off because we don't drop everything and do what you want everytime. People tend to confuse these two behaviors many times as the same thing (Sheldon Cooper Syndrome) and they are definitely not. One is just bad or arrogant behavior while the other is just doing our job.


+1,000,000!!!


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"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."

(play on words) "Just because you CAN do something in T-SQL, doesn't mean you SHOULDN'T." --22 Aug 2013

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Post #1448247
Posted Tuesday, April 30, 2013 5:34 PM


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During my interview, I told them I do not ever want to manage people. I can do team management for short term projects or play mentor, but don't expect me to write reviews and do all the personnel stuff. That isn't my skill set or aim. I am working on a support desk. I'm the level III guy. They realized quickly that I don't do well with stupid people. I can handle some ignorance if the end-user is trying to learn, but so many of our end-users I want to tell "You're too stupid to use a computer." So my boss set it up that I talk to our support people or the IT guys at the customers. They then contact to the end-users.

My management realizes that I do the best job by not having to pussy-foot with the customer.

I'm not the Sheldon level anti-social, but more of the Leonard level geek, with a little less tolerance.

But if I came into interview for a position that they were throwing psych tests at me -- I question whether I would even really want the job. I'm coming to the company because I want to work, not socialize.




----------------
Jim P.

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Post #1448276
Posted Tuesday, April 30, 2013 11:58 PM
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Let me take the contrary view here.

Hypothetical Question: You are about to have a brain aneurysm operated on. Who would you pick?
1) A brain surgeon with little less technical skills but who you can get along with nicely.
2) The brain surgeon who is a genius who has a 100% success rate and is the most arrogant prick you have ever met.
Post #1448313
Posted Wednesday, May 1, 2013 2:40 AM


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Jeff Moden (4/30/2013)
TravisDBA (4/30/2013)
Jim Youmans-439383 (4/30/2013)
Part of the daily grind for a DBA, in my experience, is dealing with frustrated people. You have to have excellent technical skills to find and fix the issues and you have to deal with the users and clients having the issues. I have seen a client (who was paying us a lot of money to mind his data) almost pull the contract over the way a DBA treated one of his people. The client called the OnCall DBA at 2 am with a permission issue, he could not log in. Turns out he was trying to log into the wrong server, honest mistake but frustrating, but the DBA tore into him for 15 minutes on how his stupidity was unforgivable ending the call with a string of profanity.

That is why I think that people skills are very, very important. Each situation is different and there is a place for the Sheldon Coopers of the world, but it is not client facing.

Jim


I absolutely agree Jim, there is no excuse for being outright offensive and rude to others, in any context, However, as I and others have said before please don't confuse this example of rude and offensive behavior with a DBA not letting others do what they want whenever they want. It is our job to guard the gate to the enterprises precious data. We have to set up perimeters. So, don't get pissed off because we don't drop everything and do what you want everytime. People tend to confuse these two behaviors many times as the same thing (Sheldon Cooper Syndrome) and they are definitely not. One is just bad or arrogant behavior while the other is just doing our job.


+1,000,000!!!


Me too.


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Post #1448342
Posted Wednesday, May 1, 2013 2:43 AM


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umailedit (4/30/2013)
Let me take the contrary view here.

Hypothetical Question: You are about to have a brain aneurysm operated on. Who would you pick?
1) A brain surgeon with little less technical skills but who you can get along with nicely.
2) The brain surgeon who is a genius who has a 100% success rate and is the most arrogant prick you have ever met.

If the surgeon in point 2 was regularly pissing off the rest of the team, especially to the extent they weren't concentrating properly on their jobs, I'll take number one, please. As with most things, surgery involves teamwork, and teamwork involves people getting on together. Very few jobs exist that aren't a compromise of technical skill and people skills.


Semper in excretia, sumus solum profundum variat
Post #1448344
Posted Wednesday, May 1, 2013 8:51 AM


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majorbloodnock (5/1/2013)
umailedit (4/30/2013)
Let me take the contrary view here.

Hypothetical Question: You are about to have a brain aneurysm operated on. Who would you pick?
1) A brain surgeon with little less technical skills but who you can get along with nicely.
2) The brain surgeon who is a genius who has a 100% success rate and is the most arrogant prick you have ever met.

If the surgeon in point 2 was regularly pissing off the rest of the team, especially to the extent they weren't concentrating properly on their jobs, I'll take number one, please. As with most things, surgery involves teamwork, and teamwork involves people getting on together. Very few jobs exist that aren't a compromise of technical skill and people skills.


I have a sister that was a RN nurse so I can speak from her experience here. If they were operating on my shoulder I might (enphasizing the word MIGHT) agree with you, but one of the most important organs in my body!!!! I'm sorry, but I will take expertise (Point#2) here everytime. I don't want a real nice guy in that operating room bringing his B or C game. I don't care how nice he is. I want the guy that knows his stuff and what he is doing and bringing his A+ game with all his knowledge, period. Most operating room staff leave that personality crap at the operating room door anyway. Particularly, when it involves someone's life. The hospital and them can be held liable if they let stuff like that affect an patient outcome. My sister used to tell me all the time when I was younger when she would come home from work complaining about a certain doctor on her floor "But you know, although that doctor is a 14-carat gold prick, if I was in this hospital I would want him taking care of me.". That pretty much says it all...


"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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