This editorial was originally published on May 13, 2011. It is being re-run as Steve is out of town.
I have been working for SQLServerCentral for nearly a decade. I started in 2002 and in that time I have had to define my own job most of the time. Early on Andy and Brian had a list of things they thought I should be doing, and there were certain things to get done each week, but it was a general list.
This Friday I thought this was a topic for a good poll. Answer this question:
What percentage of your time is self-directed?
By self-directed I mean the tasks that you choose to do because you think they need to be done for some reason. This is opposed to the specific tasks that someone assigns you and gives you some deadline for finishing. If someone asks you to "tune the server", I don't consider that a specific task, and you would have to pick items to work on, and determine how much time you spend on them, that's a self-directed task.
Do you have a good amount of self-directed time? When I used to manage a series of production servers, I usually had at least half my time as self-directed time. I could look at poor running queries, contact groups with proactive ideas for improving performance or preventing problems. I even had time to schedule DR testing. That took a lot of investment over time. I had to understand each system, set up monitoring and standards, build in data capture and analysis routines, and of course, plenty of alerting mechanisms.
I think that a great production DBA will have a lot of self-directed time after 6-12 months on the job. A development DBA, however, will likely be constantly responding to code requests and enhancements, which is one reason I prefer the former job.