In the database industry, there are a wide range of skills, mostly of which masquerade under the overarching job title, 'DBA'. Curiously, there are some highly-skilled DBAs who are as likely to be able to design a database, or create business functionality within it, as they are to turn into ostriches. On the other hand, I've met a few talented database professionals who would struggle to perform a point-in-time restore to save their lives.
At one end of the spectrum are the Database Developers and at the other end are the Operations Database Admins. We're all somewhere along that spectrum, and many of us also diverge greatly in our training and work experiences. I've met DBAs who started out as teachers, rock musicians or roadies, nurses, army veterans, hairdressers, psychologists, lawyers – the list is endless. There is something about having a range of previous experience that fires the essential curiosity, stubbornness and tenacity that DBAs need.
I remember appointing a brilliant DBA who had previously worked as a specialist policeman in the elite anti-riot unit known as the 'riot squad'. He was a bodybuilder and wrestler, and was probably no stranger to the Vulcan Nerve Grip. Although he pined for the hurly burly of containing a good violent demonstration, he was the master of any DBA task and calm in any crisis.
Around the same time, I also appointed as our Ops Manager a tall, well-built, cockney who impressed me at his interview by explaining how to avoid any tiresome clamping and parking penalties using a mixture of sheer cunning and a crowbar. He was so talented in a range of network skills that I politely overlooked a five-year blank period in his CV.
My IT Management team, tall and menacing in their shades and bursting out of their dark suits regularly popped into one of the local pubs after work. Never before or since have I experienced that quite uncalled-for frisson of fear around us was we walked in; the sudden hush. Until they got to know us, several publicans would, unnecessarily, buy us extra complimentary rounds to ensure our continued goodwill. We never had any trouble in our IT department. nor from the Business generally, come to think about it.
While there is nothing whatsoever wrong in single-minded pursuit of a single career in the database industry, our profession is enriched by the variety of skills, experience and understanding that come to us from career change. Although training and experience in databases is essential, nothing beats initiative, clear thinking and tenacity.