I am delighted to welcome to the blog someone who is without a doubt one of the biggest names in our SQL community. A name that I am sure many, if not all of you will recognise, they’re one of the very first bloggers that I myself began to follow.
A SQL community champion, this gentleman is an internationally renowned speaker, trainer and a prolific blogger, regularly sharing their SQL knowledge with us through posts going way back to 2006! To have them here guest posting today for the What’s It Like To Be a DBA series, sharing their own personal and unique story with us, is a wonderful treat.
Ladies and gentlemen please welcome Mr Pinal Dave (Blog|Twitter).
My story has an interesting start. After I got my Master’s degree from the University of California, I moved to Los Angeles to be a computer network engineer and developer, working with the programming language ColdFusion. This was a very small company, 10 developers only, and the DBA here was a very smart man.
He was very nice and very cool, but he was also very strict. He wanted to enforce all the rules and have everything done in a specific way. He was, I thought, especially hard on me as a developer. I couldn’t say anything because I was a junior member of the team and so I decided that the only way I could “fight back” was to learn a lot about the database – to try to become his equal in education, qualifications, and experience. I wanted to prove him wrong in an intelligent manner. I didn’t want to go into this as a confrontation. However, as I progressed in my education, I learned he was right most of the time!
My hostility went away. At first I didn’t want to listen to him because of my ego, but I learned this was not the right way to do business or how to become a good developer. That’s how I learned about databases, and what drove me to get my MCDBA certification. I have managed many databases since then, and have continued my own educational journey, but this eight year old story is the true story of my beginnings as a DBA.
The story of the beginning of my blog is related, though. I was a new developer and didn’t know a lot about databases. I have a short memory, and I was concerned about how to remember what I learned. I wanted to build a resume almost, of what I knew and learned.
We were using Microsoft Excel as a report repository, which was not as robust as applications now available online. Excel does not format code properly. I wanted to bookmark sites and to record everything that I learned. I created a portal to store all of this information and so my blog was born.
I tried to learn one new thing every day, and I recorded it on the portal. If you look at the beginning of this portal, all the things are very fundamental. But I have continued recording at least one thing every day, and now there are 2,200 (as of September 2012) articles – that’s a lot of learning. My intention was to teach myself, to help remember things I had learned. If the blog is now helping others, that is just a plus in my book.
My career has evolved through many different roles. So my days can be very different. I am a Technology Evangelist for Pluralsight right now, so I spend almost all of my day helping people – customers, potential clients, my bosses, or people in general. I try to help everyone.
To compartmentalize my day: I wake up before 7 am every day, because I want to have a blog post up by 7 am sharp. I usually will come up with an idea the night before and jot it down, and then in the morning I will write it up and post it to my blog. Once this task is out of the way, I can really begin my morning routine. I will check my work e-mail to see what customers need help. Some can be helped through e-mails, but others will require a phone call. Some with more in-depth problems will need remote help, like through WebEx or GoToMeeting. This takes up most of my afternoons. I also spend time checking the comments on my blog and visiting database forums, or wherever SQL folks hang out to try to learn and help. This is how I spend my evenings. The most stressful part of my day, though, is preparing to be an educator.
I like going to meetings, and attend as many user group meetings as I can. I like to present and go on stage – my goal is to make complicated concepts more simple and attractive so that people will enjoy learning. However, this sort of things takes time to prep, so I usually do this from 4 pm to about 10 pm. This sort of creative work takes time and solitude, so you can sit and think about complicated subjects. I am pretty tired by the time I am done!
You might be thinking at this point, “Don’t you have a family?” And it is true, I do – I have 3 years old daughter Shaivi and very supportive wife Nupur.
My busy schedule makes it sound like I spend no time with them. And sometimes I feel that way, too. But the great part is that I can work from home, so I know my family is right on the other side of the door – in fact, I can hear them through the day, and my daughter will pop in every two or three hours. My daughter is my favorite distraction. So I never feel far from my family because I can see them and hear them whenever I want.
My days are usually 14 to 16 hours of work in front of a computer, and my weekends can be similar. But when you are tired and satisfied at the end of the day, but feel you earned your bread properly, that is the best feeling in the world. I get a great amount of satisfaction out of my work. I feel like I am helping my community, customers, and the company. I get to learn things for myself, and I still can spend time with my family.
I often hear this question. The best way to become a master of SQL is to have the proper education, of course. But the second key factor is that you have to have a desire to learn, and feel convicted to do things.
People will find me and will have my book and think that they will become masters, and I try to tell every one of them that you need to do all the exercises and read every page and become good students – not just in university, but in life. I am sure that 50% of the people who purchase my book will be energetic in the beginning but will slow down and never complete the process. They probably have seven or ten books from a variety of authors, read all the blogs, have links to all the videos, but the time and effort they dedicate to actually learning is lacking.
The best way to become a DBA is to just become one. I like to say there are no accidental DBAs – because we all became DBAs accidentally. Many never wanted to become DBAs but ended up in the position with no proper training – it was just a situation where the job had to be done. The field is so big that many people end up in positions this way, and we all have to learn on the job how to do it properly.
I am still learning things today. If you don’t have an interest in learning new things, being a DBA is not for you. The best DBAs have found a proper place where they can learn, and they know the three key elements: practice, practice, practice.
Keep learning my friends! That is the only solution.
What an inspirational story and jam packed full of great honest advice for those considering a career as a Data Professional. Thanks Pinal! You can find Pinal’s blog at SQLAuthority.com and follow him on Twitter.
If you would like to share your story you can find the details you need here, along with all the other great guest posts in the series.