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Slipping out of the DBA trenches Expand / Collapse
Posted Tuesday, January 5, 2010 12:32 PM



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I agree with most of what has been said. Managers manage, know some technical, have the backs of their employees and trust the employees to do the jobs. If Managers try to be the DBA doing the work, then they must be absolutely cautious not to step on DBA toes.

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Post #842325
Posted Tuesday, January 5, 2010 12:41 PM



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Had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine a while back. He is a systems engineer type who is now a Deputy Program Manager. When he moved up to a management postion he expressed a simaliar view. Where he would have just stepped in, he found himself making "suggestions" and asking "questions" instead. He has proven to be a very wise person in my life so far as I contemplate various possibilities in my career.

Lynn Pettis

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Post #842335
Posted Tuesday, January 5, 2010 1:07 PM
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Great Post!! I started from the trenches too - got opportunities to be a manager, tried one job at that and went back to my 'trenches' - it is not for me, as Andy said i can't let go of technology totally, i hate micro managing people, and above all - i loathe the corporate dishonesty/selfishness and politics that a manager has to deal with. In the asian culture i was raised corporations had their politics but had some principles to abide by in addition to that - people were not fired unless they were completely unsuited to their jobs, and profits were shared equally among employees. With those values missing in corporate america i dont believe the ladder is worth climbing. I also believe it is somewhat of a misconception that the only route a DBA gets to take is be a manager or stay where you are - there are technically senior positions, a great example is Brent Ozar's title 'SQL Server Expert'. I'd like to be one and leave the politics to those who can do it well.
Post #842359
Posted Tuesday, January 5, 2010 8:37 PM
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The key to being successful in management is to make the job your own...just the right mix of technology, people and politics to keep you happy. Of course, this is easier said than done. There are a lot of egos above you and below, and the company and culture can control you instead of you taking control. In my career, any job of importance that I have held, management or not, has involved a lot of dirty work involving politics, persuasion, and negotiation. I always thought that it was better to do the dirty work from a position of power with a better title, and being in management made a difference to my increased job satisfaction.

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Post #842527
Posted Wednesday, January 6, 2010 11:56 AM



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Just a note that I used to manage a team of 10 DBAs. I was the next to lowest paid person in the group. This was at a large 10,000+ employee company. Being a manager doesn't mean you make more.

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Post #843096
Posted Tuesday, February 9, 2010 1:18 PM

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I agree with most of what's been said alreay, but I also believe that it's possible (although quite difficult) to be a good manager and a good technician at the same time. It's been my good fortune during a lot of my life to work in environments where people are expected to switch between technical roles and management roles quite often, because the top managers believed (correctly, I think) that the most productive workers tended to be those that understood both management and technology through both training and real experience in both, so when some of the earlier comments have suggested that goiong back from management to being technical is unusual my reaction has been that it's something most good managers and most good technicians have done and should be thought of as the norm, not as something unusual.

There was one thing in the editorial that worried me: the apparent belief that being an English major was some sort of negative for being a DBA, or perhaps for being any sort of technician. This isn't a view held by anyone I know in the computing business, and R&D teams I have managed have included people whose degrees (some PhDs, some Masters, mostly Bachelors) were in Music, History, Theology, and all sorts of other things (including more than one person with a degree in English) as well as people with no degrees at all. Perhaps the best software engineering manager I ever worked for had a master mariner's certificate rather than a university qualification. I think it must be a phenomenon of comparatively recent times - after all, undergraduate courses in CS are a pretty recent phenomenon, and those in IT are even more recent, so in the old days we didn't expect our people to have a computing or IT degree.

As for still being technical while being a manager - well, I have done it myself, and that's one of the reasons I believe it's possible. So have a lot of other people. For example I started to learn queuing theory in my lateish 20s (well over 35 years ago) when I was running a couple of smallish project teams (about 20 people in all) because no-one on the teams had the mathematical background to handle this and I had chosen, as an undergraduate and as a research student, to neglect this part of mathematics as "uninteresting", little knowing that it would be critical to system design. For something over 20 years after that I was that company's (20,000+ employees world wiide) technical expert on queuing theory and on related performance modelling and simulation activities - whether I was currently managing a team or a programme or currently acting as a technical leader (which, in that company, meant being completely on top of the technical details in the special area) in some area to which queuing theory was completely irrelevant, or buried up to my neck in the politics of inter-dividional dispute resolution (for a while I was the company-wide authority on resolution of interworking problems, whether caused by different divisions interpreting common specifications differently, or by the need to continue to support legacy systems, or by one division's inability to do precisely what it had committed to - that's the sort of role where it really comes home to you that technical correctness and commercial correctness are not the same thing, and if you let Technical win out over Commercial the company goes bust). I wasn't trying to tell people how to do the calculations, or what assumptions they should make, or how to design simulations that would provide useful performance data, or o micromanage anyone - but engineers. technicians, and managers just kept coming to me for advice on these topics. So I reckon I can claim to having been the leading technical light on a specific area of technology in a large international company at the same time as having been a senior manager or a very senior political animal, and the two things didn't interfere with each-other at all (of course I could never have handled the political role while being a project or programme or department manager - that would have been asking for trouble, since everyone would assume my decisions were biased). Maybe the trick is to ensure that the technical area in which you remain the acknowledged top expert is not the one which the people you manage work in? Or to have so much going on that the senior developers welcome another pair of hands (I've been there too)?

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