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DBA and Doctor

I always feel it is harder to be a DBA than to be a doctor while we are doing almost the same thing, i.e. curing the illness of a patient. Of course, to DBA, the patient is a database system, while to a doctor, a live human being (note: I am not talking about doctors for pets here). 

I say "harder" because of two reasons:

1. As a doctor, there are thousands of medicines that can be presribed to treat various illness depending on illness symptoms. On the other hand, as a DBA, there is no such thing called "medicine" in curing a database system illness because we do not have a manufacturer that produces medicine to treat high CPU pressure or slow I/O response or security issue etc. Instead we only have vendors that produce various diagnosing and monitoring tools. 

 2. As a doctor, if the prescribed treatment cannot cure the patient, the doctor can refer the patient to a specialist (or a network of specialists) for further treatment, and the doctor then has his / her hands off the case with the patient. But on the other hand, as a DBA, if some issue cannot be  resolved, the final resort is to open a case with MS support, and this requires lots of energy / resource on the DBA side, starting from opening the case with MS support and doing various tasks required by MS support and email / phone conversations back and forth etc. In a word, the DBA is not off the hook until the "patien" (database system) is fully recovered. 

From a medicine perspective, I'd say the current anti-virus applications can be considered as a medicine / vaccine to protect the health of OS environment, and these anti-virus applications are upgraded by the vendor as soon as a new virus is detected / reported. However as DBAs, we are not lucky enough to have such "medicine" to address our daily concerns, such as ensuring our db system not be "hijacked" by malious injected code, the health of the db system is in the best mode that the underlying hardware can afford. Most of times, we DBAs invent our own "medicines" for our managed systems and the quality of such medicines is not guaranteed and may have serious side effects when external environment changes ( eg. new SP/hotfix applied, user workload increased?)

I always dream that someday there will be on market various medicine (with industry standard) that can be prescribed by a DBA to cure various database system "illness" and there also should be "vaccine" that DBAs can inject to a database system to prevent some common illness.

When that day comes, DBAs will have better quality working life and may contribute to more value-added tasks by involved in more business side work, such as re-tuning the existing data model, optimizing the data access layer, or even data mining the unknown business opportunites.


Posted by Phil Factor on 3 November 2008

Actually, having done both DBA and medicine, I'd say from my own experience it was harder to be a doctor! It is true that one can cover up ones mistakes rather more easily with a patient, but people can be a lot more stressful and litigious to deal with than databases.

If ever you feel sorry for yourselves as DBA, you'll soon cure any of that by working in a voluntary capacity at an NHS or public hospital.

Posted by Jeffrey Yao on 3 November 2008

Thanks for the comment, Phil.

To speak from the stress perspective, I always consider it this way, more gain with more stress as a doctor is usually way more highly paid than a DBA. (Of course, the investment and the bar to become a doctor is also far more expensive / higher)

However, other than stress, I still believe doctors are better equipped with various medicines, facilities to treat patients than DBAs.

BTW, Phil. I am amazed that you switched from medicine practice to DBA. Is that a hard decision? :)

Posted by John Esraelo on 3 November 2008

Phil, is that true? Were you a doctor? And, if so, then what happened? Did you wish there were some REAL service packs for human being? Well, I wouldn't trust the service packs anyway.. :)

Welcome to the dark-side XDoc!!


Posted by Phil Factor on 4 November 2008

I studied Medicine, but practiced as a child psychologist in a hospital, and at a psychiatric institute. I prefer IT, because work in the NHS has become increasingly Admin-bound. I'd certainly have been better off staying put, but I just love working in IT.

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