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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.

Being an Effective DBA Remotely

Do not let the phrase “out of sight, out of mind” apply to you.

As Data Professionals a lot of us either have or will have the opportunity to work remotely. It’s a trend that I am convinced is set to increase as technology continues to integrate our working world, making us more accessible and bringing us closer to one another (See: Your DBA Role is Changing, Are you Ready?). When you consider remote working/telecommuting it’s important not to get caught up in all the hype and to fool yourself into thinking that it’s an easier ride than being in the office. Far from it, in fact it’s a whole lot tougher, as the experienced remote workers will attest to.

Remote Working Rules

The rules of engagement are different when it comes to working away from the office and you need to adapt how you work in order to ensure your effectiveness.

The value that you are delivering for your customers should be clear for all to see. When you are not physically in the office this becomes even more important. I’m sure you are doing an outstanding job (you read this blog right ;-) )but if no one else knows it, then what is actually separating you from that guy in the company who we all know is actually not doing very much? Unfortunately nothing because to the management folks you both look identical.

The harsh and albeit unjust truth of it, is that those of us that work remotely are likely to be under more scrutiny (dare I even say suspicion) than our office based colleagues. So what’s a DBA to do then in order to dispel with such nonsense? Simple, you need to ensure that you are being effective remotely.

One Skill to Rule Them All

The key to your success or failure as a remote Data Professional, irrespective of your technical prowess, rests with one core skill and that is communication.

Sure this may sound simple at first but once you take a closer look you can quickly see that communication is vital to a great many areas. You want to be proficient in as many of these as you can in order to be effective remotely. Here are some of the areas you should focus on:

  • Customer Communication – Keeping the boss as well as the end customer informed at all times.
  • Communication Channels – What are your defined communication protocols when working remotely? Email/IM/Ticketing System/Phone/Mobile and in what priority?
  • Expectation Management – Is the service that you are providing clearly defined and understood by all?
  • Responsive Communication – Whatever channel you choose, you need to be on top of it and responsive. If you’re not in a position to get to a customer request for some time, then tell them that!
  • Sharpen Your Email Skills – Email will be one of your primary means of communication. You need to be in control of your Inbox. Be clear and concise to limit unnecessary back and forth.
  • Being “Present” – You don’t have to be in the office in order to be present. You can be available to chat as you work via Instant Messenger/Skype.
  • Visible Results – Delivering value for the business is only good for your career if people know you’re responsible for it. Kendra Little’s excellent post touched on this recently albeit for different reasons, the method remains.
  • Leverage Collaboration Tools – There’s a wealth of technology out there that can raise the quality your customer interactions. Use it!

Time to get Super Effective

In a changing professional landscape where opportunities to work remotely are becoming more commonplace you have to be more than just effective, you must be visibly effective. By following the suggestions in this post I hope that you will be able to take steps towards ensuring this for yourself.

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Comments

Posted by Jason Brimhall on 1 November 2011

I think the suspicion is an understatement.  Communicating is extremely vital to dispel it.

Posted by Robert Pearl on 1 November 2011

Good post.  Yep, communication is the key!  (Took it right out of my slidedeck ;-)  

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