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From One of the Pack to ‘Top Dog’ – Honeymoon Period Over!

By Justin H-Davies,

Back in July, I opened up a debate on the trials and tribulations of becoming a manager and making the transition from a coal-face DBA to the overall team leader/manager. I received a lot of good comments, with phrases such as ‘added complications’, ‘eye-opener’, ‘constant balancing act’ etc and others warning against such a transition.

I’ve had time to settle into my new role now and the honeymoon period is well and truly over. So how am I finding my new elevated position? Is it as rosy as I had hoped for?

One of my reservations initially was whether I would be able to remain ‘current’ with DB technologies. Not being hands-on and carrying out all the techie work has meant I’ve taken a back seat somewhat. However being the character I am, I have chosen to remain ‘in touch’ with the new developments by attending certain seminars, reading various literature etc and continuing to study for MS certification.  Although I’m trying to remain ‘technical’ as an individual, it has become extremely difficult – because now I don’t get to do the work, I don’t get to build/rebuild/maintain/administer my database environments anymore. I get to supervise other people doing it instead! Instead of configuring DB security best practices, I’m attending meetings, and instead of creating stored procedures, I’m authorising annual leave requests!

You’ve probably derived from the first couple of paragraphs here that I’m not satisfied with my current role – that’s not really true. Now I am the boss, I get to have input at a strategic level. I can influence management by recommending DB configurations and I can opt for the desired environments. I also get to see firsthand the impact that a successfully maintained database has on the overall organisation. I’m never going to be the manager that simply lets the team research/evaluate and recommend solutions, but is this a workable approach? Will the management aspects of my role falter if I continue to pursue my own personal objectives?

The jury is still out on whether me ‘being one of the boys’ has become a hindrance to my managerial progression. The first hurdle was always going to be establishing some effective authority (especially over my former supervisors).  However, I now need to distance myself from the niceties and try to enforce some governance over the team. The boundaries have changed because of my extra responsibilities. As long as I ensure they are confident in what I can deliver as their leader, I’m sure the team will function successfully. There have been times where these former relationships have helped smoothed over certain issues.

I have learned – you cannot have ‘mates’ as part of the work make-up of the team, you need to treat all team members fair with no discrimination. I worked with them for years now and a few of them used to be my supervisors. Striking a balance between being friendly and being a leader has been challenging.

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