This editorial was originally published on Mar 10, 2008. It is being re-run as Steve is on holiday.
If you work in an operational area, especially if you're a DBA, you typically have a fairly tedious routine. You definitely have work, but it's often the same types of things over and over. You are checking logs, ensuring backups work, testing restores, tuning servers, and more.
Now this type of work can be fairly boring and many people don't really like it. They don't handle the operational routine that well over time. Most often I've found that database people would rather be on the development side, solving problems, working on new things, and exercising their brains a little more.
However I really like the operational area and I've been much better at it in my career than the development area. I like the routine, much like the daily routines that I have around the ranch when my wife is out of town (check out the podcast for a look at some of what I do). I have to feed horses, muck out stalls, clean up the barn a little and more.
When I was a production DBA, I had to handle daily things on a regular basis, and it becomes somewhat tedious. However it's not always boring, just like it's not boring around the ranch.
Last year we had a horse get kicked and hurt by another horse. I wasn't really sure what to do other than call the vet, which is something my wife has decided I'm qualified to do. When he came over, he wasn't sure what was wrong, but he had an idea and the first stage was to lock up the horse, give him a few days to rest and re-evaluate. However along with that rest (and feeding/cleaning/etc. in the stall), I had to give the horse aspirin.
Now it's actually less fun than it sounds. Just like you probably wouldn't want to eat (as in chew) any aspirin from the bottle, horses don't like the pasty stuff we give them. So you have to force it.
And it's not like forcing your dog to take a pill. I have a 130lb dog and I don't think twice about forcing her to take medicine, but the thought of forcing a 1200 lb animal is something else. Especially when they're taller than you!
The vet laughed at me a little (and my wife a lot over the phone), but shower me how to bridle the horse, hold it's mouth and then stick in the tube and squirt some aspirin in the horse' mouth. Not much fun the first time, but it got easier.
Managing a crisis and learning new skills is definitely part of the DBA routine. If you can remember the first time you've had a production database fail and you had to restore it, you know what I mean. Hopefully not a daily part, but it can, should, and likely will, happen to you.
A daily routine however easy, does require a balance. You have to remember that there is life outside of work and that you have to get away and recharge. You have to break things up and remember what else you like in your life besides your career. You also sometimes have to let some tasks go for awhile to get that break.
Because if there's one thing I've learned in a couple decades of working, it's that the work never ends.
The Voice of the DBA Podcasts
The podcast feeds are now available at sqlservercentral.podshow.com to get better bandwidth and maybe a little more exposure :). Comments are definitely appreciated and wanted, and you can get feeds from there.
Overall RSS Feed: or now on iTunes!
Today's podcast features music by Everyday Jones. No relation, but I stumbled on to them and really like the music. Support this great duo at www.everydayjones.com.
I really appreciate and value feedback on the podcasts. Let us know what you like, don't like, or even send in ideas for the show. If you'd like to comment, post something here. The boss will be sure to read it.