This editorial was originally published on May 11, 2011. It is being re-run as Steve is away at SQL in the City.
I recently had someone post this after I made a comment about someone taking responsibility for their database server.
"So Steve, what would you recommend then for those poor souls? As being one of them it drives me nuts to constantly be told I can't get more training as it's not my true job position yet I'm responsible for making the databases work. "
I've been in this spot a few times, in and out of IT. I've been tossed into cooking or bartending jobs without training and had to learn quickly how to do the job, and I've had the same thing happen in IT. In a few cases the companies knew it was a bad situation and they eventually got me training, in others they didn't. Here's the advice I have for you.
Ultimately you are responsible for the job. Tough love, but you're being paid for that job, so you are responsible. That means you have to learn how the technology in your environment works and how to solve the problems you have.
First, get your resume up to date. Make sure it is ready for submission, and you are prepared to get fired every week. Keep an eye on the job market and save some extra money, because to me, the financial security for my family comes first.
Second, learn to restore data and then make sure you have backups in place. This is secondary because if you have a failure quick, you want to be ready to get a new job. But ultimately no matter what breaks or doesn't work, getting data back first is crucial.
As you go through all of this, you might be fighting fires. So while you practice restores or document the environment, you might be trying to fix things and asking questions of others, but invest the time to get yourself into a solid position.
I'd also talk to my boss regularly. Every time I found a place I didn't know something, I'd make a note and let my boss know this is a hole. Maybe I can learn it, maybe I can't, but I could use help. That might be the best ROI for conferences. Go, make friends, get contacts that can fill your knowledge holes. Or find consultants you can call.