DBA career advice

  • MikeS.

    SSC Veteran

    Points: 217

    I've been working in IT, largely as a software developer, for the past 20 years. Much of that time has also been with SQL Server and/or Oracle (I'm preferential to SQL). I've used SQL Server since version 7.0, and currently work with SQL Server 2012.

    As I get older, I'm finding it hard to maintain the creative energy needed to be a good programmer, constantly trying to find interest all the trendy language features, concepts, design patterns, etc., most of which doesn't allow me to do anything that much better/easier than I could have years ago.

    Having said that, I'm interested in making a transition to a DBA of some sort. Most DBA's I've known usually do things like handling stored procedures for the programmers, and the general dirty work of maintenance (i.e., backups, etc.), installations, etc., with some doing ad-hoc reporting and what-not.

    Despite my tenure, I don't think I'm experienced enough to get a DBA job right now. As a fer-instance, I had a recent episode where there was a panic over an SQL Server whose RAM was maxed out (16GB total). Me and the other programmers rushed in and said we need to reboot the server, cuz lots of bad things could happen! A DBA laughed at our naivety, and explained that it's not a problem -- SQL Server will gladly grab up all the RAM and not return it back to the OS (at least not in a visible way), for us to go back to our playing with our silly javascripts and to let the real SQL experts handle this.

    Another example, are things like 'clustering', setting up log shipping, etc., that are a bit of a mystery to me. But I know T-SQL and can write some mean sprocs like nobody's business!

    I live in the Dallas area and make in the 90k range a year. I'm curious if a DBA job would pay more-or-less the same (assuming when I qualified for a job), what kinds of certifications I should get (if any) to help make me more attractive to employers, and any other advice you might offer?

    Appreciate your kind guidance.

  • Sean Lange

    SSC Guru

    Points: 286402

    MikeS. (9/13/2015)


    I've been working in IT, largely as a software developer, for the past 20 years. Much of that time has also been with SQL Server and/or Oracle (I'm preferential to SQL). I've used SQL Server since version 7.0, and currently work with SQL Server 2012.

    As I get older, I'm finding it hard to maintain the creative energy needed to be a good programmer, constantly trying to find interest all the trendy language features, concepts, design patterns, etc., most of which doesn't allow me to do anything that much better/easier than I could have years ago.

    Having said that, I'm interested in making a transition to a DBA of some sort. Most DBA's I've known usually do things like handling stored procedures for the programmers, and the general dirty work of maintenance (i.e., backups, etc.), installations, etc., with some doing ad-hoc reporting and what-not.

    Despite my tenure, I don't think I'm experienced enough to get a DBA job right now. As a fer-instance, I had a recent episode where there was a panic over an SQL Server whose RAM was maxed out (16GB total). Me and the other programmers rushed in and said we need to reboot the server, cuz lots of bad things could happen! A DBA laughed at our naivety, and explained that it's not a problem -- SQL Server will gladly grab up all the RAM and not return it back to the OS (at least not in a visible way), for us to go back to our playing with our silly javascripts and to let the real SQL experts handle this.

    Another example, are things like 'clustering', setting up log shipping, etc., that are a bit of a mystery to me. But I know T-SQL and can write some mean sprocs like nobody's business!

    I live in the Dallas area and make in the 90k range a year. I'm curious if a DBA job would pay more-or-less the same (assuming when I qualified for a job), what kinds of certifications I should get (if any) to help make me more attractive to employers, and any other advice you might offer?

    Appreciate your kind guidance.

    Probably the absolute best thing you can do is set up a lab at home. You can download sql server student edition for $50 and it has all the features of enterprise. If you have 2-3 computers you can hobble together you can easily setup some clustering and mirroring to work with and figure it out.

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  • RTaylor2208

    SSChampion

    Points: 13188

    ^^ As above.

    I would also add that studying the SQL 2012 MCSA materials is a good idea as well as this covers the basics of SQL server and gets you thinking more like a DBA. Sitting the exams will also help prop up the knowledge and potentially make you more attractive to a employer.

    What I would say is don't think being a DBA means you don't have to keep up with technology though. SQL Server has evolved a long way from when I started with it back in 1999 with SQL Server 6.5.

    Also DBA's that get paid best will be well versed in most of the SQL Server functionality from the basic engine right through SSIS \ SSRS \ SSAS. And from there specialize in at least one field whether that be a production DBA, development DBA or a hybrid of both.

    It can be a challenge but having a development back ground can be a big help as not only do I code a lot in T-SQL, I develop of processes in SSIS \ Python \ Powershell \ vb.net and batch files that we use within our estate.

    MCITP SQL 2005, MCSA SQL 2012

  • Alan Burstein

    SSC Guru

    Points: 61019

    I was a DBA from for a few years and have since moved on to Business Intelligence.

    There seems to be some debate about this but, from what I've seen, DBAs are in high demand. I have not been a DBA since 2010 but still get several calls/Emails per week based on my previous DBA experience. Like Sean said, setting up something a sandbox at home is the way to go. The best way to learn it is to do it. Try doing some of those things that you say "are a mystery to you". Things like Clustering, log shipping and replication seem much less complex when you actually set them up yourself and those are skills that even a lot of DBAs don't have.

    I also strongly suggest you get involved with the SQL community: PASS, SQL Saturday, SQL Rally, Local SQL user groups... That's where you meet, network with and get advice from DBAs and others in the data community.

    Regarding pay: I live in Chicago and here the sky is the limit with respect to DBA salaries. I've seen jobs posted for over $200K/year for some DBA jobs. The Dallas market is a little different - unemployment is much lower there than it is here but Chicago has more technology companies and Fortune <whatever> companies that will shell out $ for a good DBA. You can make more money contracting too or going out on your own as a 1099 or S-Corp.

    As RTaylor said, studying for the MCSA exam will help too; that's how I learned the skills to get a DBA job. I never actualy took the test because I was studying for the 2005 exams but got hired for a company that used 2008 and have never needed a cert to get work. It doesn't hurt though.

    My advice would be: go for it. Talk to some recruiters and/or put your resume out there and let people know you're looking for a DBA position. Since there is a shortage more companies are willing to train you provided that you have some of the skills they are looking for. I did not have the skills or experience requested for my first DBA job but was hired because I did so much better than everyone else who interviewed. Once I got the job I busted my butt to learn what I needed to succeed.

    -- Alan Burstein


    Helpful links:Best practices for getting help on SQLServerCentral -- Jeff ModenHow to Post Performance Problems -- Gail ShawNasty fast set-based string manipulation functions:For splitting strings try DelimitedSplit8K or DelimitedSplit8K_LEAD (SQL Server 2012+)To split strings based on patterns try PatternSplitCMNeed to clean or transform a string? try NGrams, PatExclude8K, PatReplace8K, DigitsOnlyEE, or Translate8KI cant stress enough the importance of switching from a sequential files mindset to set-based thinking. After you make the switch, you can spend your time tuning and optimizing your queries instead of maintaining lengthy, poor-performing code.  -- Itzik Ben-Gan 2001

  • Lynn Pettis

    SSC Guru

    Points: 442116

    When talking to recruiters, try to find ones with a headhunter mentality, not those that are just trying to fill slots or meet quotes. Those with a headhunter mentality will look at where you are and where you are going career wise and try to get you positions that are a better fit. They are also the ones that may know of other companies and make contacts that typical recruiters might not.

  • MikeS.

    SSC Veteran

    Points: 217

    Appreciate the advice everyone.

    Any particular books and other study guides you can recommend?

    I'm going to look into the MCSA study guides in the meantime.

    Thanks!

  • RTaylor2208

    SSChampion

    Points: 13188

    There is a few free ebooks and links to books that can be bought here on sqlservercentral:

    http://www.sqlservercentral.com/Books/

    And the MCSA books are readily available on line in the likes of amazon and ebay search for 70-461, 70-462 and 70-463.

    MCITP SQL 2005, MCSA SQL 2012

  • angelshell609

    Newbie

    Points: 3

    The students can earn their bachelors, masters or PhD degree through accredited online colleges or universities which is very easier and inexpensive than on campus education.

    check : [/url]

  • BrainDonor

    SSCoach

    Points: 19182

    My current job is my first as a DBA - before this I was a Developer with an interest in databases. I was asked by a recruiter (via LinkedIn) if I was interested in a DBA role and I too didn't think I had enough experience. I only went through the interview process to see what I would need to know in a couple of years; when I thought I would be ready for the transition.

    What actually swung the decision for the employer was my attendance of a SQLBits conference in the UK and paying my own way for SQLPASS.

    Sometimes showing how keen you are to learn can make the difference. I didn't know a great deal about SQL Server, but I was obviously interested and they could teach me their way of doing things without an pre-existing 'bad habits'.

    Since then I've met a lot of DBAs - contractors and permanent staff and I've discovered one scary thing - the 'average' standard of a DBA is lower than you might think.

    If you can get to any SQL Saturdays, or SQL in the City or suchlike then do so. Put them on your LinkedIn profile under 'training'. Create a simple blog site of what you have learned. Make sure people know you are actively studying the subject and interested in learning. That will go a long way to convincing companies to employ you.

    Good luck and come back to SSC as often as you can. There are some very talented people here you can stalk.

    Steve Hall
    Linkedin
    Blog Site

  • SeattleDBA

    Ten Centuries

    Points: 1019

    MikeS. (9/13/2015)


    I live in the Dallas area and make in the 90k range a year. I'm curious if a DBA job would pay more-or-less the same (assuming when I qualified for a job), what kinds of certifications I should get (if any) to help make me more attractive to employers, and any other advice you might offer?

    Appreciate your kind guidance.

    Some of the best DBAs I have met were former developers that made the transition into DBA.

    Every DBA needs to do a bit of SQL programming. Those with a CS background and years of development experience are naturally very strong in terms of supporting a development team.

    Most DBA jobs seem to pay the same or more as development jobs around the Seattle area.

    Get the MSCA for SQL Server 2012.

    If you have the time, also get the MCSE Data Platform.

    With your background and those two certifications, you will have no problem getting a DBA job. Just my opinion.

    https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/sql-certification.aspx

  • Ed Wagner

    SSC Guru

    Points: 286955

    Like Sean said, setting up a home lab is the best way to play and learn. If you screw things up, you won't lose any corporate data and you can just start over.

    There's a good book on troubleshooting available for download from this site at http://www.sqlservercentral.com/articles/books/76296/. There are stairway series on this site that explain a lot of things from start to finish. Perry Whittle's series on AlwaysOn at http://www.sqlservercentral.com/stairway/112556/ does an excellent job of explaining clustering and I'd recommend it to anyone.

    Like Alan said, DBAs are in demand. Good ones are very in demand. The job description is, so it seems, perpetually in flux. There's never a shortage of things to learn. Continual learning is just a part of the job.

  • prafuljemail

    SSC Veteran

    Points: 231

    you can prepare for sql interview by trying interview questions on forums of winmilestone.com / http://www.winmilestone.com/Topic?Interview

  • Jeff Moden

    SSC Guru

    Points: 993884

    prafuljemail (6/7/2016)


    you can prepare for sql interview by trying interview questions on forums of winmilestone.com / http://www.winmilestone.com/Topic?Interview%5B/quote%5D

    Only if you want to cough up a shedload of information. You want way too much info to join.

    Besides, if you have to prepare for an interview, then you're not ready for the job. 😉

    --Jeff Moden


    RBAR is pronounced "ree-bar" and is a "Modenism" for Row-By-Agonizing-Row.
    First step towards the paradigm shift of writing Set Based code:
    ________Stop thinking about what you want to do to a row... think, instead, of what you want to do to a column.
    "If you think its expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."--Red Adair
    "Change is inevitable... change for the better is not."
    When you put the right degree of spin on it, the number 3|8 is also a glyph that describes the nature of a DBAs job. 😉

    Helpful Links:
    How to post code problems

  • RonKyle

    SSC-Dedicated

    Points: 31423

    Besides, if you have to prepare for an interview, then you're not ready for the job.

    Disagree. It never hurts to review the basics even though you know them to ensure you can state them succinctly. I know what ACID is and what the normal forms are, but if I had an upcoming interview, I would review these topics and others to refresh my memory and ensure that if a question hit on these areas I would answer with no hesitation.

  • x

    SSC-Insane

    Points: 23349

    RonKyle (6/9/2016)


    Besides, if you have to prepare for an interview, then you're not ready for the job.

    Disagree. It never hurts to review the basics even though you know them to ensure you can state them succinctly. I know what ACID is and what the normal forms are, but if I had an upcoming interview, I would review these topics and others to refresh my memory and ensure that if a question hit on these areas I would answer with no hesitation.

    Have to add my vote to that. Its good to prepare for the specific interviewer also, like show interest in the company by researching it if possible. If you feel theres a chance of questions in areas you don't routinely work in might want to be at least read up on them. Don't invent experience that doesn't actually exist, but knowing something is always better than not knowing something in my opinion.

    ACID, normal forms, isolation modes, declarative versus procedural code, those are always good topics to refresh up on, even if at your previous job your vendors used nolock LOL, heck for that matter study why nolock is a bad idea even if you've never used it. Never know what question you might get right?

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