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How did I become a DBA

This past Tuesday night I had the honor of speaking to a small group of college students who are all members of the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP). This was my third opportunity speaking to a group of college students and my second time speaking to an AITP group. The structure and order of the meetings are very similar. I start with a short introduction and continue by discussing some trends in Information Technology and my current career. This meeting began in a very similar fashion; however this time I was asked a question that I had never been asked. One student asked me, “How did you become a DBA?” It’s strange that the question had never been posed before. Nevertheless, I was up to the challenge.

In the mid 1990’s I began my career in corporate America as a mortgage underwriter. This was a very monotonous job. A few variations to the type of income documentation, credit level or appraisal, but overall the same set of information. One primary part of the job was traveling to various branch offices within the United States. During the travels an underwriter was expected to teach the Loan Originators employed at the branch how to build a loan package that contained only the information that was needed for the approval of the loan.

When the underwriter returned to his or her home office, the person was required to send emails to the each branch, listing each loan underwritten in the branch and a list of pended items for each loan. Typically an underwriter could spend a day or two composing the emails for each branch. At the time I was not a very good typist. So for me, this was a very daunting task. During my undergraduate studies I had taken an Introductory Information Technology course. One of the requirements was to develop an Access Database. I remembered how Access stored information that was later used for reporting and making decisions. At that moment I decided that I was going to design an Access database that would store this information and I would later use that information to somehow compose these emails.

The idea was great but there was one problem, I did not own a portable computer, or as we know them today as a LAPTOP. Fortunately my mother-in-law was always purchasing things she did not need, and fortunately during our last visit she had given me a TOSHIBA Satellite PRO (T2400CT). Don’t believe me check this out:

image image   I could not believe that it still worked.  Running Windows 95 nonetheless. 

Coupling my little laptop with an Access Bible, I developed a nice Access Database, forms and reports included, that I used to collect data when I was traveling.  I assigned the Macro to a button, and when the button was clicked an Email message was opened with a Word document attached that only contained data for a specified branch. The only thing left was to add a recipient and click the Send button. This reduced the time I spent composing these emails from 2 or 3 days to a couple of hours. In the end the CEO found out about my little database and decided that it should be used by all Underwriters. I explained to him that my book stated that Access should not be used by no more than 5 or 10 people concurrently. He suggested that we upsize it to SQL Server 7.0 for the backend and keep the front end in Access, which led to the beginning of my obsession with databases.  From that project I started developing larger databases and moved on to become a DBA for a small Mortgage Company in Baton Rouge, and the rest is HISTORY!!

Talk to you soon

Patrick LeBlanc, founder www.tsqlscripts.com and www.sqllunch.com

SQL Down South


Posted by Steve Jones on 12 November 2009

LOL, very nice story. It was a good move, and I think you've become quite a good DBA. Congrats.

Posted by Tim Mitchell on 12 November 2009

Thanks for sharing the story.  It's becoming clearer that the "accidental DBA" is the most common path to that career.

Posted by Patrick LeBlanc on 12 November 2009

I have to agree with the "Accidental" comment.

Posted by Dugi on 12 November 2009

Nice story, seems that you achieve your goals to be DBA!

Posted by Glenn Berry on 12 November 2009

I had a similiar start. I was working as a claims adjuster, and I taught myself Visual Basic 3 and Access 2.0, and wrote a program to decode VIN numbers and to keep track of how many claims were going to each adjuster.

A little later, I had an Access front-end talking to SQL Server 6.0.

Posted by Phil Factor on 16 November 2009

I became a DBA when working as an application programmer in a team with a DBA who kept telling me that it wasn't possible to have what I needed for the application. I was driven by anger and obstinacy. Great Blog entry Patrick: Meeting you at PASS was a great pleasure for me.

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