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What’s the Age Limit for Becoming a DBA?

I received an email from a nice chap recently, concerning a subject that I’m often asked about and I wanted to share my thoughts with you here. Since I only have so many keystrokes left in my life, I am blogging my thoughts and emailing a link.

Dear Sir,

I am 37 years old. I’ve never worked in IT. I Would like to follow a one-year program to become a database administrator. I think it takes a lot of experience to become a database administrator. I’m not as young. Do you think I have a chance in it to succeed in my career as database administrator?

Thank you for your email and congratulations on your desire to become a DBA. It’s a wonderful time to be pursuing a career in technology and it always makes my day to hear from readers, whether it’s asking for advice or sharing what you’ve been getting up to as a Data Professional in the community.

Reaching out to me via email shows that you’re an ambitious and resourceful sort of chap, not to mention that you have an eye for great content ;-). These are excellent qualities to have as companions on your journey to becoming a DBA.

Straight to the heart of the matter then. Is age a limiting factor to becoming a Data Professional?

Absolutely not! There’s no age restriction to embarking on the journey to becoming an outstanding DBA. The only entry requirement is a passion to learn. That’s it. I’m not kidding.

You might think it a cliche but it honestly is the one and only thing you need to begin your journey and more importantly, what is needed to continue forward on it. Passion and desire to learn, age is immaterial.

Experience Counts But Not as Much as You Think

Whilst we’re at it let’s tackle the close accomplice to the age limit fallacy,  that of x number of years of experience. I’m sure you have heard folks talk about someone they know that got overlooked for an opportunity in favor of a younger chap.

Guess what? The real difference was that the younger candidate had that essential ingredient, passion for learning. They were keen, ambitious and moving forward on their journey. The other chap was sitting all too comfortably, just trying to go get a win off the back of their years of “experience”. Which by the way is vastly overrated in an always moving technology market anyway. If you’re not passionate about learning, about continuing forward on your journey, then which direction are you heading? The wrong way, sadly.

Note: Five years doing precisely the same thing is an experience illusion (1 year of actual experience repeated 5 times) and does not in fact equal five years of actual experience as a DBA. I see this all too often as a hiring manager, where I’m regularly befuddled by folks with apparently 10+ years of experience who are clueless about much of the basics.

Technical Skills Alone are NOT Enough

Technical skills are just one ingredient in the making of a successful and well rounded modern Data Professional. I bet you’ve got some great skills that you’ve developed through your professional experience. Don’t underestimate your current value in the market place.

The most successful Data Professionals are versatile and bring a lot more to the table than technical know-how. Perhaps you’re an excellent communicator, a great presenter, a natural leader, are good with customers, a skilled mentor or maybe business savvy.

Reading your email I couldn’t help but get a sense that maybe you’re having some doubts about taking a leap at something new. That’s understandable, particularly if you have invested your working life so far doing something different.

What you’re considering is new and unfamiliar to you, carrying with it a sense of risk perhaps. Great! Only by extending ourselves and taking on a challenge are we able to grow. Be confident that you can cast any such doubts aside because a decision to invest in yourself is always a worthwhile endeavor.

Thanks for your message and I wish you the very best of luck….

What do you think chaps? Is there an Age Limit to becoming a DBA?

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.


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