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When Can You Be Considered As A Senior DBA


As a DBA, when can you consider yourself as a senior DBA?

If you read online posts, you will find most of the time, a senior DBA is judged by “Do you know this and do you know that?” approach, which to me is subjective and may cause more wrongs than fairness. The reason is simple, “knowledge”, esp. the book knowledge which is documented in the BOL,  is not capability and usually younger you are, easier it is for you to memorize more book knowledge. 

There is another approach, which I call quality-oriented approach. This approach will outline some good habits /skills a typical senior DBA usually has. Actually, I wrote something similar long ago at SSC (How to be a Good DBA – Strategy and Tactics), which is mainly quality-oriented. But to me, this approach is still subjective due to its quality-oriented nature because “quality” in and of itself is subjective. One may think something of high quality while another may think it as pretty normal.

So based on my own experience, I’d like to put forward a new “solution”, a quantitative-criteria-oriented approach which is more objective and verifiable, and it is more for us to judge ourselves instead of for us to judge others.

I call this a “Ten-to-One” approach:

To be a senior DBA, one needs to achieve the following:

10. Have composed and reviewed at least 10 thousand lines of codes each for sql server administration projects.

Do you ever run sp_helptext sp_spaceused ? You may be surprised to see lots of useful information in the source code

9. Have read 9 thousand pages of SQL Server technical books / magazine articles / MS whitepapers.

Assume 500 pages/book, and 40 pages/white paper or 40 pages/magazine, it is equivalent to 10 books plus 50 white papers and 50 issues of magazines.

8. Have administered 80 (8 ten) SQL Server instances simultaneously.

If you never work in a big / complex environments, it is hard for you to know / appreciate the complexity (and beauty) of sql server administration.

7. Have read 7 SQL Server related blogs and read 7 Q& A threads in SQL Server forums every week.

Knowing others’ issues (an proposed solutions) may trigger your innovative ideas to prevent / solve your own issues.

6. Have participated 6 sql server technical events (such as local PASS chapter meeting, online web seminars, SQL Saturday etc) every year

5. Have published 5 paid articles on magazines / websites

4. Have interviewed 4 SQL Server DBAs who apply to your company’s openings

If you do not know what to ask a candidate to evaluate his/her capability, you probably are not “mature” enough.

3. Have found 3 bugs in sql server products. 

If you never find a bug, it must be either you did not dig deep enough or your db environment is not challenging enough.

2.1 Have worked with 2 dozen DBAs and you are able to distinguish their technical strength vs your owns and have learnt from their strengths. 

To me, it is a “loss and unfortunate” for anyone who  never has worked with some excellent (or better) peers because “imitating and learning from” others is always a short-cut for one’s self-growth because you have a live model to follow. 

2.2 Have worked with at least two versions of SQL Server from beginning to the end.

I always believe time is an important factor in cultivating a real senior DBA. I remember when I had 6 years of DBA experience, I considered myself as a senior DBA (which was my title in the company as well), now after having worked as a DBA for another 9 years since then, I feel my original idea as being a senior DBA 9 years ago is laughable. These days, I always hesitate to say I am a senior DBA (except when I have to “boast” myself to the recruiters, otherwise, my resume will be filtered out automatically)  because I believe after another 9 years when I look back, I will laugh at how little I know about sql server at this time.

1. Have one project idea in your mind that you want to do to improve your production administration, yet you do not have time to do.

If you always have ideas to improve your current work efficiency / quality, it at least means your knowledge / skill base is still expanding and as such you know where and what you can improve your work using your new knowledge / skills.

Of course, all these numbers are not static, the more, the better, and I welcome to hear your comments.


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