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What is a Database Administrator today?

By Jim Youmans,

Today we have a guest editorial as Steve is traveling.

What should the job duties of a Senior Database Administrator (DBA) be?  If you started a new job as a Sr. DBA what would you expect to be doing and what would you not?

Over the last two years I have worked contracts for five different companies.  At each company I held the same title, Sr. Database Administrator, but each company had me doing radically different things.  Sometimes I was asked to work with the application team and help them write stored procedures and views and optimize existing code.  Sometimes I was tasked with backup and restores and setting permissions.  At one position I was asked to migrate a client to a new environment.  I was responsible for migrating the database components, requesting and setting up the hardware, setting up data shares for incoming text files, and having the AS400 jobs, that delivered text files, updated with the new server information.  At another company, I worked for the business unit (BU) and not the IT department, so I was not granted SysAdmin rights to the servers even though my position was as a Database Administrator.  That was very frustrating and I found out later that this was an ongoing war between the BU and IT.

So, this got me to ponder, what is a database administrator?  It is someone who just keeps the SQL Servers running and installs new servers as needed?  Someone who makes sure that the backups get run and does restores as needed?  Or has it morphed into a Jack-of-all-trades position? 

It seems to me that companies are looking for people who can do everything and that are willing to do anything.  Is that reasonable and if true, should the position still be called Database Administrator or should it have a new name?

I like doing different things, it keeps me from getting bored and it keeps me learning.  Some of my colleagues hate it, they want to do the tradition duties and that’s it.  What about you?  Have you run into this and if so, how do you feel about it?  Is being a DBA more difficult now than it was 10 or 20 years ago?

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