The Exceptional DBA: Soft Skills


Towards the end of my previous editorial on the "hard skills" required of an exceptional DBA, I threw in a mention of the "formidable" DBA job ad. Nobody really picked up on it, but I thought it might be fun to ferret out a few. Here's one for starters:


  • SQL Server 2005
  • Administrative experience of Microsoft Windows Server 2000/2003
  • Replication
  • Stored Procedures
  • DTS packages/SSIS
  • Reporting Services
  • MS Office (particularly Excel)


  • Microsoft Clustering
  • ISP / e-commerce hosting experience
  • Salesforce
  • ITIL/SDLC knowledge
  • MCDBA (Microsoft certified Database Administrator)

The role description was a rollercoaster ride through large scale databases, clustering, replication log shipping, advanced performance analysis, availability, capacity, security, manageability, database design, coding, and data transfer, with a bit of MySQL thrown in just to be on the safe side. Is it me, or is this "cover all possible bases" approach to the DBA job spec a little unrealistic? If this spec is the norm, then I would tend to agree with James Rea, who commented last time that rather than specialize, it was better to know something about everything and be very, very good at research! If anyone has some more-extreme examples, please send them in.

Now on to the main purpose of this editorial which is to put right the "shocking" omission of "human skills" from the editorial to this point, although I actually believe a lot of this has already come out through the discussion:

Positive attitude / easy to get along with – this is arguably the most important soft skill of the lot. As David Poole very succinctly put it: if people will voluntarily use you as the first point of contact for database information rather than the last, then you are probably an exceptional DBA.

Communication skills– this comes up time and time again. The exceptional DBA must communicate clearly and effectively with colleagues, managers, customers and developers, to name just a few.

Business Skills – As Jeff Moden put it: understanding the why (the underlying business reasons) as well as the what.

Mentoring / Teaching– the exceptional DBA must be willing to teach others what he knows, whether this be through mentoring a junior DBA, participating in forums, speaking at conferences

Project Management and Time Management – if the average job spec is anything like quoted here, these skills must be absolutely vital. I'd be interested to hear about any specific resources that you, as a DBA, have found useful in this regard.

So what have I missed out? Let me know! Once again, I'd like to thanks everyone for contributing to this editorial series. Last time, many people were impressed by David Poole's incisive definition the Exceptional DBA (quoted above), so he gets the $50 Amazon voucher. Same rules apply this time. I'll also be awarding copies of Brad McGehee's "How to Become an Exceptional DBA" to five best contributions to this editorial series (in addition to those who win the vouchers) so keep your feedback coming.




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