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7 Essential Habits of Successful DBAs

There are many different paths you can travel on the journey to success. There is no precise route that everyone can or should follow.

The environments we manage are different, our customers are different, we are each different. There are many different ways of performing our art. It’s one of the most enjoyable and rewarding aspects of a career as a Data Professional.

Good habits are an essential part of being successful as a Database Administrator (DBA). Good habits have proven to be successful for DBAs and Data Professionals who value their art and believe in delivering results for their customers.

Here are some of those habits:

1.Regularly Evaluate Your Priorities

The successful DBA understands that in order to maximise their effectiveness they must deliver results aligned with the priority of the business.

Get into the habit of reviewing the priority of the tasks in your schedule at least daily. You want to ensure that what you are working on right now is the most important task. Regularly evaluating your priorities ensures that you are investing your time where it’s needed most and can deliver the greatest value.

2.Build and Nurture Relationships

Customer service is important for a Database Administrator, fact! If you think that managing and building relationships, both internally and externally to your organisation, is something that you need not be concerned with then think again. An awareness of the general goings on in your organisation can provide you with tremendous insight into the demands that will be placed on the infrastructure you administrate.

  • What big projects are coming up and how do they effect the database platform you manage?
  • When is the next application release to production scheduled?
  • Are your customers satisfied with the service you are providing?
  • What marketing campaigns and promotional activity is planned?
  • Are the Development team designing a new solution that could benefit from your expertise?

You just won’t know if you don’t have a relationship with your customers.

Want to learn more about what good customer services is all about for the Data Professional? Check out my article series 5 Days To Outstanding DBA Customer Service.

3.Practise Your Restore Process

Notice that I did not say backup here. You should already know that your database backups are working as expected. It’s one of your primary responsibilities as a DBA after all. This good habit is about regularly drilling your actual restoration process. Knowing well the key steps that are involved and how long they take to perform. You do not want to be rummaging around for documentation or working out what needs to be done in the midst of a crisis.

4.Automate Everything

A good DBAs services will always be in demand and the successful ones understand that time is their most valuable asset. If you encounter a task that you may even remotely consider you will need to do again then just go ahead and automate it anyway. I cannot over emphasise this point enough and you will find that The Best DBAs Automate Everything without exception.

5.Get Your Documentation Done

The power of good documentation is something that all successful DBAs are aware of. They know the advantages of ensuring documentation gets done and make a habit of doing so. Not convinced? Lean why Your Lack of Documentation Is Costing You More Thank You Think.

6.Blog About SQL Server

A common habit amongst successful Data Professionals is that they love to write about SQL Server. I’ve talked about this before in Blog Your Way To Becoming a Better DBA and so won’t go into details here. Suffice to say that blogging is one of the most rewarding activities that you can undertake for your professional development, outside of your day job. Unless your day job is to Blog about SQL Server of course Smile.

7.Proactively Performance Tune

Unexpected problems will happen and dealing with them is part of what being a DBA is all about but what if I told you that you could catch most items before they turn into a problem for you. You can find out exactly how by reading How To Get a Head Start on Performance Tuning where I guide you through developing this good habit.

Doing Something Worthwhile Takes Time

In order for something to be considered a habit you have to perform it often enough.

Practising, learning something new or trying a new approach takes time. Once you have identified a good habit that you would like to adopt, focus on it solely in isolation initially. Trying to take on too much in one go or drastically modifying the way you work is unlikely to be sustainable. Concentrate your efforts on establishing a few good habits at a time, so that they become second nature and eventually form a regular part of how you operate in your role.

Identify What Success Is For You

Forming good habits is an essential part of being successful. Look around you at the habits that contribute to the success of others and consider how perhaps you too could use them in your role as a Data Professional.

What good habits do you follow or have you seen in successful DBAs?

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John Sansom - SQL Server DBA in the UK

John Sansom (Blog | Twitter) is a Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) of SQL Server and publisher of the free SQL community ebook DBA JumpStart, an inspiring collection of advice for Data Professionals, written by 20 SQL Server experts. Awarded the Microsoft Community Contributor(MCC) award, John is a prolific blogger and can be found regularly writing about SQL Server and Professional Development over at www.johnsansom.com.


Posted by Roy Ernest on 19 April 2011

Pretty good list of habits. Build and Nurture relationships is where almost every DBA fails. They just stay in their cocoon, usually make developers their enemies.

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