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SQL DBA Career Path Advice Please


SQL DBA Career Path Advice Please

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Steeb
Steeb
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I'd like some advice on a training path to becoming a SQL DBA. I’m not sure what employers are looking for out there so I’m reaching out to the community for advice. I have prior experience working in a SQL 2000 environment, mostly from a TSQL programming and reporting standpoint, and I really loved the work. I do not use SQL in my current job, and want to transition out of my industry (banking) and into the IT world, specifically with SQL DBA positions in mind. I have a BA in Finance but have always loved technology. Can anyone please give me some advice on where to start and what employers are looking for? Many Thanks!
quackhandle1975
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Hi,

it depends on what you really are interested in doing? In simplistic terms you can ask yourself: 'Do you want to play with data or look after it?' Do you want to become a SQL Developer or a SQL Production DBA?

When I started out many moons ago (1999) many DBA jobs were simply that, a company wanted to use SQL Server so they needed a SQL Database Administrator however this might have meant a work load of 75% production skills and 25% development skills. However I've been in jobs where these numbers have decreased/increased maybe even to 50-50 but I've always saw myself as a solid production DBA, but if asked I can design Data Tier systems from scratch from buying blade servers, SQL Clustering etc, to creating a 3NF database schematic. I can debug a complex stored proc (slowly!) but I'd rather install a SQL Cluster. ;-) I seemed to have stayed away from Analysis Services though, cubes don't really do it for me. :-P

In the last 5 years though I've noticed that there is a clear shift in technologies - more and more companies (although not all) seem to be specific in what they want: a SQL Production DBA or a SQL Developer or SQL Reporting Specialist or SQL Data Warehouse Specialist or SQL BI Specialist. If you look at MS Exam structure for espcially for SQL Server 2008 you can now specialise in one of these areas.

You mention you like t-sql programming so maybe becoming a SQL Developer is your thing, check out the job market and see what is on offer, possilby look at some studying, home learning etc. SQL Server is such a vast product that can do many things you can easily spend years rooted/focused on one level of it (clusters/index fragmentation) and know nothing about other parts of it (eg - Cubes, ROLAP, MOLAP, etc)

Good luck.

qh

Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. – Carl Jung.
barsuk
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You mentioned that you want to move away from the banking industry you work for to IT. I wouldn't do it. How about merging it?
So if you really want to be a DBA I would do a following: Keep in mind that it is not an overnight process, so it will take quite some time. Brush your T-SQL skills and start looking for a job in FO, MO, Fin Reporting where you can utilize your both Fin Skills and T-SQL skills. Start learning DBA skills at new job and show your interest to DBA, try to be friends with them and when the opprtunity knocks they will call you. Over a year ago one of our DBA quit and at the same time one of Fin Reporting guys with T-skills asked us if we would take him as a Junior DBA. It didnt work out at the end, but we were considreing him for that position...



Elizabeth Good
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I made a career transition in a similar way. I got to know the programmers in the company and asked for advice. I also asked my current boss if I could do some part time programming work for the other department. When there was a programming opening, they considered me, but hired someone from outside who had more experience. That programmer ended up leaving after a few months, so they offered me the position. I programmed for six months, and then again volunteered when a Senior DBA said she needed an assistant. Then she left the company, and it was "Tag, you're it!"

Get to know people, ask advice--it doesn't cost them anything. Then volunteer your time to learn what you're interested in. I found out that I wasn't cut out from programming, but was more suited toward DBA work.
webrunner
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My two cents (worth about a penny and a half at most :-) ):

Make sure you learn as much as you can about each possible job regarding how specialized it is. As you may already know, if an employer is looking for a specialized production DBA, they will welcome T-SQL and reporting skills but will probably be looking for you to primarily use other skills - backup, monitoring, performance tuning work, migrating or installing systems, etc. And vice versa if they are looking for a SQL developer and already have a person specializing in the production DBA stuff.

I also agree with those who've suggested looking at the exams and certification descriptions. Those will tell you what kind of work falls into what category, and whether you want to go down that path. If there's one thing I've learned as a (maturing) DBA, it's that it is almost never 100 percent one thing - as others have said, it might be 75/25 or even 50/50. But at least by knowing the way the specialties are being broken down you will be better informed about what the positions are describing, reading between the lines if the ad is unclear or even preparing you to ask the employer about the tasks involved if necessary.

Best of luck - this is a tough field but never, ever boring and potentially quite rewarding - intellectually as least as much as financially.

- webrunner

P.S. Also check out these sites in addition to SQL Server Central:

Simple-Talk SQL
http://www.simple-talk.com/sql/

SQL Server Performance.com
http://www.sql-server-performance.com/

MS SQL Tips
http://www.mssqltips.com/

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SQLRNNR
SQLRNNR
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I think the skillset will vary greatly depending on employer. Some employers want a DBA who is an architect and a developer and others want a DBA just to do the production/operations administration.

I think you should start with a technology (SQL 2008 for instance) and learn what you can there starting with the fundamental admin skill-set if you are seeking to be a DBA. From there, branch out to the dev and architect arenas.



Jason AKA CirqueDeSQLeil
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MCM SQL Server, MVP


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schmib83
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Elizabeth Good (8/30/2010)
I made a career transition in a similar way. I got to know the programmers in the company and asked for advice. I also asked my current boss if I could do some part time programming work for the other department. When there was a programming opening, they considered me, but hired someone from outside who had more experience. That programmer ended up leaving after a few months, so they offered me the position. I programmed for six months, and then again volunteered when a Senior DBA said she needed an assistant. Then she left the company, and it was "Tag, you're it!"

Get to know people, ask advice--it doesn't cost them anything. Then volunteer your time to learn what you're interested in. I found out that I wasn't cut out from programming, but was more suited toward DBA work.

amber.richard
amber.richard
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"I also agree with those who've suggested looking at the exams and certification descriptions. Those will tell you what kind of work falls into what category, and whether you want to go down that path. If there's one thing I've learned as a (maturing) DBA, it's that it is almost never 100 percent one thing - as others have said, it might be 75/25 or even 50/50. But at least by knowing the way the specialties are being broken down you will be better informed about what the positions are describing, reading between the lines if the ad is unclear or even preparing you to ask the employer about the tasks involved if necessary."

So true. In so many industries, positions are being consolidated and a lot of employers are looking for part this/part that.

I still see no problem with specializing, though. In terms of pay, people who become subject matter experts often have higher pay, but less longevity (they tend to come on a project or fill in as someone who is providing oversight rather than come into a job more long term). The more broad you are, the more likely you are to fit into a unique position and find something more long-term, but the pay might not be quite as high.

But that's in general. It certainly hasn't applied to every position I've looked at. I would pursue the area you have the most interest in. The passion you have for it will be the most attractive thing about you. And there's no need to necessarily transition out of banking/finance into IT because every industry needs SQL DBAs, developers, architects, BI, etc.
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