5 Ways to Be a More Effective DBA Today


Regular readers will now that I like to talk (quite a lot) about how we can be more effective as Data Professionals. Often the advice I put out there requires a consistent effort in order to really reap the greater benefits. Take my post series 5 Days To Outstanding DBA Customer Service as an example. Sure you can start benefiting and learning from the recommendations right away but in order to really improve our Customer Service skills we have to work at them. What about quick wins, I hear the impatient and super busy DBAs ask? Well first you should go away and read why The Best Database Administrators Automate Everything but in the mean time here are 5 ways to be a more effective DBA today!

1. What are the primary objectives of your role?

As a DBA you will never be in short supply of work to do but are really working on the tasks that will deliver the most value? It’s easy to get stuck with your head down, rushing from one task to next without taking notice of the bigger picture. The key to ensuring that you are focusing on your most valuable and truly important tasks is knowing why your role exists in the first place. What is it that your were hired to do? There will be a core list of objectives that ultimately all of your other tasks “should” fall into. If they don’t then it’s time to question why you are doing them in the first place!

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Pareto Principle, more commonly known as the 80/20 rule. Use this to start really honing in on what’s actually important to ensure you are delivering the maximum value to your business and customers. I can’t emphasise this enough and I’m not really doing it justice here and so I highly recommend you refer to some of the reading material referenced in the Extra Credit section below. Several of the titles explain beautifully how you can achieve this.

2. Get organised

Following on from the previous point. Once you know what it is that you really “should” be doing with your time the next step is to clearly prioritise. If you don’t have a list of all your currently outstanding tasks and their priorities then how can you expect to manage your workload effectively? Whether you use a simple list, some sort of Excel matrix or one of the many popular methodologies out there like Getting Things Done (interestingly not one that I am a fan of), what’s important is that you devise a system for managing and tracking your tasks that works for you. I’m a big advocate of Remember The Milk for general task management but for work I use an Excel document based on a methodology outlined in Eat That Frog (which somewhat irritatingly I always thinks is called Eat That Purple Frog because of @PurpleFrogSys).

3. Learn something new

Make it a goal of yours to learn something new about SQL Server every day. It may not seem like much on it’s own but over the course of a month and with consistency a year, the amount of knowledge you acquire will very quickly mount up.

Some suggestions for resources you can use to learn something new about SQL Server every day include:

  • SQL Server Central has an abundance of new SQL content published daily including articles, blog posts, community news and there’s even daily digest email you can subscribe to.
  • Learn from and participate on SQL Server Forums (My Top 5 SQL Server Forums)
  • Watch a SQL Server training video. (I make a habit of doing this each day before I start work)

4. Start a new project/initiative for improvement

You probably already have in mind the one I’m talking about already. It’s all too easy sometimes to accept things as the way the are. Often we know what it is that we are not happy with in our environments. Make a commitment right now by creating a plan of action that outlines the steps involved in order to make the project happen. Maybe you’re not happy with the current backup process at your company or perhaps you have an index optimization routine that could do with some hands on improvements. Whatever you choose, make a start on it today! Don’t accept or settle if you are not happy with an existing system, get creative and make a difference.

5. Sign-up for your next local User Group event

Attending your local SQL Server User Group is so beneficial to your career that it probably deservers an entire post on its own. If you’re not attending yours then you really are missing out on some of the best experiences and opportunities the community has to offer. I guarantee you that if you attend just a single meeting you will be convinced of the same. Sign up for your next User Group event today. You can stay up to date on the latest User Groups scheduled in the UK by subscribing to my weekly SFTW posts or you can visit SQL Server FAQ.

Extra Credit

Want to learn more about how to increase your effectiveness as a Data Professional, how to stand out from the crowd and what to do to really take your career to the next level? Here are a number of excellent books that I highly recommend you read:

  • The 4 Hour Work Week – Tim Ferris – Packed full of life and work improvement potential. All you have to do is to choose to implement it.
  • Eat That Frog – Brian Tracey – Short, succinct and yet very powerful if you apply the teachings. Can easily read in a weekend.
  • Linchpin – Seth Godin – This will change the way you think about your role and enable you to take your career to the next level.
  • Tribes – Seth Godin – More of an inspirational/creative read. Will definitely appeal to bloggers.

(Note: I only recommend books that I have read personally. You may have guessed that I like to read a lot so if you have a book in mind that you think I might enjoy then please do let me know!)

There you have it, 5 easy steps you can take right now toward being a more effective DBA today. I’m sure you have some great ideas and suggestions of your own, so be sure to share them in the comments.