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John Sansom - SQL Server DBA in the UK

John Sansom (@SQLBrit) is a Technology Lead with the database team at Expedia, Inc. providing consulting services and support for one of the worlds largest SQL Server environments. Awarded the Microsoft Community Contributor Award (MCC) John can be found regularly blogging about Being a DBA and Professional Development over at www.johnsansom.com.

Why Every DBA Needs a Buddy

If you truly desire to be an effective SQL Server Database Administrator then you absolutely must have a buddy.

SQL Server is a huge product that is packed full of features to the extent that no one individual can be an expert in all areas. You’re going to need help!

The Incredible Value of Peer Knowledge

The fact that no one individual can master all there is to know about SQL Server to expert level means that the knowledge of “other” experts is of exceptionally high value to you, so much so in fact that you may find yourself unable to proceed with your task without it. We’re always hearing about how important and valuable experience is, particularly from the job market, and the more of it that you have and have access to, the better.

Your Data is Your Most Valuable Asset

Don’t believe me, read The Database Administrators Primary Responsibility. It should be clear to every DBA that proceeding ahead on any task without complete and absolute certainty of what’s involved and what the expected outcome is, would be putting your data at unnecessary risk. Put simply, this is something that you just do not want to be doing.

keep your data safe

"Keep your data safe"

The Power of Your Buddy

With your very own SQL Buddy or even better Buddies, each with their own areas of expertise,  you gain the potential to tap into an incredibly valuable expert knowledge resource and in turn the opportunity to take further steps towards avoiding putting your data at unnecessary risk.

Some of the powerful ways that your Buddies can work with you include:

  • As a sounding board for your ideas
  • To provide you with a valuable second opinion
  • To act as a safety net and perform peer reviews
  • Access to experience and expertise in other areas of the product

You’ve designed your latest index optimization process and tested it thoroughly in your development environment. Does that guarantee that it will work just fine in Production? Absolutely not, there are no guarantees of success short of when it actually works in Production, which is why a second pair of eyes to review your work can be an incredibly valuable asset to you. It’s inevitable that you will make mistakes and having a Buddy can be the difference between it actually costing you or being caught as a simple matter of process.

How to Get Your Own Buddy

Your choice of buddy is often determined by the colleagues and professionals you have close proximity to. Here are some of the places that you may wish to look when seeking to find your very own buddy.

Every DBA Needs a Buddy

SQL Buddy anyone?

  • Partner up with existing team members
    • This can be one of the best sources available to you. These guys already know how your business works and will already have a good understanding of what it is you need from a buddy, for example when providing peer reviews, additional testing and quality control.
  • Find a Buddy in an alternative data focused department within your organisation
    • If finding a Buddy in your existing team is not an option to you, larger organisations will often have departments and teams that provide a similar service and work with technology similar to your own. For example DBA’s that work in the Database Operations Team could partner up with their colleagues in the Datawarehousing /Reporting / Analysis or Database Development Teams.
  • Consider the possibility of a Buddy in a similar department, such as IT Operations for example. These Buddies can be brilliant for growing your knowledge and experience into similar IT disciplines, not to mention developing a greater understanding of your business operations. The types of professionals that you might want to consider could include:
    • Senior Server Administrators
    • DB Developers
    • Senior Software Developers
    • System Architects
  • The SQL Server Community is an awesome resource in itself
    • It may not be a suitable place to discuss the intricate details of your business specific case details but it can certainly be used for abstract discussion and support. There are a wealth of resources available to you including:
      • Community websites such as SQL Server Central
      • Any number of the great SQL Server Forums out there. Check out My Top 5 SQL Server Forums
      • Leverage #SQLHELP on Twitter
      • You can even ask me, seriously! I would much rather you ran an idea or a query you have past me at any time, than for you to potentially put your environment and data at unnecessary risk.

Obviously your buddy will not be able to assist you in all areas of SQL Server for the very same reasons that you are seeking a buddy in the first place. For this reason it’s important to know when to work with a particular buddy. A Senior Server Admin is probably not going to be able to assist you with performance tuning T-SQL code but could provide you with a valuable peer review/second opinion when planning for new server build for your environment.

So What Are You Waiting For?

It’s important to remember that finding a buddy and forging a good relationship is a two way street. To ensure that you get the most out of the relationship you must reciprocate the support and knowledge sharing effort. The more you put in the more you will get out. Through collaboration you can consistently produce higher quality deliverables and improve the safety of your data assets.

By now it should be clear to you that every DBA can benefit from having a buddy, so what are you waiting for? Get out there, make new connections and start investing in the protection of your data assets.

Comments

Posted by Anonymous on 18 January 2011

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Posted by Steve Jones on 18 January 2011

Very nice, and a great suggestion. I would agree that it is important to have someone else that can provide a sounding board.

Posted by John Sansom on 18 January 2011

Thanks Steve!

Posted by Nakul Vachhrajani on 19 January 2011

Very, very true. A buddy is a must, and over time the buddy not only helps you technically, but also ethically. We are a closely knit group of about 3-4 buddies, and find ourselves contributing to important decisions of each other's career. A buddy is a must!

Very nice, and great suggesion. Thank-you, John!

Posted by Kevin Chant on 19 January 2011

It's also very useful when putting proposals forward, or making statements, to have at least one other person in total agreement with you...

Posted by John Sansom on 19 January 2011

Nakul/Kevin, great suggestions for more benefits to working with a buddy.

Thank you both for your comments!

Posted by Dave Schutz on 19 January 2011

It's tough to do this when your the only DBA (also network engineer, etc) but I do have the SQL community and a local user group.

Posted by Al Cook on 20 January 2011

I hear you Dave.  I've only had 1 job where I had a SQL DBA buddy within the company and 3 jobs as the only DBA, while others had no clue.  The SQL community comes in very handy as a support group.

Posted by Anonymous on 20 January 2011

Pingback from  Training for the Master from the Masters « Shawn Melton (Husband, Father, and DBA)

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