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Advice Please - To Specialize or not to Specialize That is the Question Expand / Collapse
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Posted Thursday, January 9, 2014 8:05 AM
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Hi All,

I'm hoping for a little advice from people who are more experienced than myself (plenty on here ).

I have about 3 years of SQL Server experience, in SSRS, SSIS, administration, and T-SQL coding. I'm currently still learning in my current 'jack of all trades' position, but I feel like my knowledge of these various areas is slightly superficial, and if I were to work for a different orgaization in a different role I may truly discover that my knowledge is too limited.

Have any of you found that you have decided or been forced to specialize in order to make sure that you can get in depth knowledge of a particular SQL Server discipline?

I enjoy the database administration aspect the most at present, but the scope for this work in my role is some what limited.

Many thanks,

Dave.


Dave Morris

"Measure twice, saw once"
Post #1529355
Posted Wednesday, February 5, 2014 8:02 AM
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I was involved with SQL Server in a pretty general type of way for many years working at first in support, then development. Once I had made up my mind what I wanted to specialise in it made a huge difference to my career.

I managed to talk my then manager into having me start out as a Junior DBA and worked on my own at nightschool to get a BSC in computing science and an MCITP in SQL 2008.

Although now there are different types of DBA, you have production \ development \ BI \ Warehouse DBA's so it can be even more specialised again.

These days I am more of a production \ development DBA but also supporting our Warehouse and BI systems so getting back to being a bit more general in DBA terms but with a strong understanding of the perfromance, HA and DR side of things.

If you want to specialise you have to be willing to put in alot of personal time studying and trying out solutions. But the rewards are being happier in your job, being more confident in what you do and in most cases better paid.


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Post #1538197
Posted Wednesday, February 5, 2014 9:33 AM
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Hi,

Thanks for the reply. It's useful advice. I got the impresssion that I would benefit from the extra confidence in my abilities that you mention, if I specialized. I like the idea of knowing a subject in depth and SQL Server is such a 'broad church' I can really see the advantage of this.

'Better pay' and 'happier in your work' also seem like massive benefits. I'm willing to put the effort and study in. One hurdle I might have is the work available in my environment, unless I specialize in what is mainly needed here. Which is SSRS and development work and data warehousing skills (ETL, design, etc.)

Do you think it's possible/desirable to be a specialist in 'a few' fields i.e. data warehousing/SSRS/SSIS? I suppose it's a yes as long as you put the time and effort in?

Dave


Dave Morris

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Post #1538247
Posted Wednesday, February 5, 2014 9:58 AM
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seatedElephant (2/5/2014)
Do you think it's possible/desirable to be a specialist in 'a few' fields i.e. data warehousing/SSRS/SSIS? I suppose it's a yes as long as you put the time and effort in?

Dave


Its entirely possible, where I work we used to have a seperate division between warehouse and OLTP DBA's until about 12 months ago.

I had warehouse experience prior to my current employer but for others it was quite a steep learning curve as they had to learn the ETL processes and in particular SSIS as they had limited experience. The same went for the warehouse DBA's who had less experience on the HA \ DR and performance tunning side of things. Most of our OLTP systems are customer facing and drive the company website, any outage and our primary revenue source would be affected so knowing the HA \ DR side of things is essential.


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Post #1538258
Posted Wednesday, February 5, 2014 10:06 AM


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There are plenty of top notch people that have specialized in various things with SQL server. Even with that, there is a lot to learn and plenty of effort needed to keep abreast of the changes and new stuff in it.

If you can keep a pulse on the other facets of SQL Server while specializing in a few, I think that would be best.




Jason AKA CirqueDeSQLeil
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Post #1538261
Posted Thursday, February 6, 2014 9:48 AM
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Thanks for the reply Jason. I'm kind of following that advice already so it's good to here I'm on the right track. I'm making sure I try to keep an idea of what is happening and what is possible in as many aspects of SQL Server as possible through PASS, etc. but more about a few elements mainly data warehouse related, as this is my role mainly. I think going as deep as possible into SSIS and SSRS may be the way to go for me as I will be able to get practical experience of these as well.

The funny thing (if that's the right word for it) is as we are such a small department I'm also tasked with backup and recovery of the warehouse, so I do definitely need a more rounded knowledge.

Cheers,

Dave


Dave Morris

"Measure twice, saw once"
Post #1538739
Posted Thursday, February 6, 2014 9:56 AM
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Interesting that the division at your place was between warehouse and OLTP DBAs for some time. I'm definitely in the first camp here. So the specialist areas almost pick themselves really, but I can also see from your reply and Jason's that keeping an overall view of all aspects of SQL Server is valuable and also makes you more flexible in the event of organizational changes to roles and responsibilities, such as you mention.

Thanks for the insight.

Dave


Dave Morris

"Measure twice, saw once"
Post #1538743
Posted Friday, February 7, 2014 11:26 AM
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I consider the ideal to be a broad general base with one or more deeper specializations; akin to an ocean floor with some (Marianas) trenches.

Some problems need that deep, specialized knowledge to get a good solution.

Some problems need broad, cross-specialty and/or multi-disciplinary knowledge to get a good solution.

Some problems need both, particularly when you have problems that need a team to solve - the broad knowledge lets you communicate well with specialists in areas you have some shallower knowledge in. Perhaps more importantly, having broad, shallow knowledge lets your recognize when you need to reach out to a specialist, and which type you need.
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