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DBAs and the Art of Diplomacy

By Tony Davis,

It's voting-time for the SQLServerCentral Exceptional DBA awards. There were over 200 nominations this year, whittled down to five worthy candidates by the four judges (Steve Jones, Brad McGehee, Rodney Landrum and Gail "GilaMonster" Shaw).

It's clear from the nominations that integrity and honesty are the traits that are valued and respected in any DBA. I agree wholeheartedly. It is absolutely essential. One has to add that The DBA who aims to be entirely honest hits a dilemma at every turn when faced by the reality of life in an IT department. Honesty must never cause unnecessary offense

A friend of mine confided to me that his team squared the circle between the need for integrity in their dealings, and the requirements for harmonious team work, by developing a set of special code words, known only among the DBA team, which they could use to maintain departmental harmony whilst making their true feelings known to their team. I can never again judge praise such as "magnificent", "stimulating" "time to reflect" or "sound management decision" in the same light.

Manager: 'I've read this wonderful White Paper that says we should virtualize all our Database Servers, and thereby make huge savings. I think we should do it at once. What do you think?'

DBA: (Thinks: Thanks for the suggestion but I think you can leave the DBA decisions to me. Do I suggest to you how to use your floor-mop?)

'How kind of you to bring the stimulating document to my attention.'

Manager: 'What do you think of my latest management paper on restructuring IT?'

DBA: (Thinks : If your intent to bring the entire department to its knees, it is a work of genius. It makes Napoleon's intentions towards Austria seem entirely benign. I was impressed by the sheer quantity of hot air you managed to generate in a single document which would, if harnessed, render the building carbon-neutral next winter....)

'I would agree up to a point. It would lead to some sound management decisions, I'll admit, but I suspect we will need time to reflect.'

Manager: Don't you think the developers have done some great work on that new object-relational mapping ....

DBA: (Thinks : NOOoooo.....!!! )

'Magnificent, up to a point'

Alongside the technical know-how, and the human virtues of persistence, patience and tolerance that a DBA surely needs to deal with dubious architectures, impatient managers, the dreaded buzz of the blackberry at 2AM, and progress slowed by endless regulation and red tape, they need a generous dose of...diplomacy and tact.

What is the most common "white lie" that a good DBA has to tell in order to maintain harmony within the department? Are there other ways of squaring the circle? We'd love to hear from you, and please do take a few minutes to assess the candidates for our Exceptional DBA awards, and cast your votes.

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