DBAs and the Career-Life Balance

  • There is a difference between being a realist, and just being a pessimist.

    Yes, there is a definitely a difference between someone who thinks that the worst thing will happen in every situation, which is a pessimist. A realist on the other hand, is someone who accepts events and situations as they really are and deals with them in a practical way. This is what I am referring to, the "real world", not the "ideal world", or the "moral world". 😀

    "Technology is a weird thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ...:-D"

  • TravisDBA (1/17/2012)


    A realist on the other hand, is someone who accepts events and situations as they really are and deals with them in a practical way.

    Correct that we are DBA's, we live in a real world, we are often on call and must respond at odd hours, and the family is affected. That's part of the job and to some extent unavoidable (and even part of the fun 😛 ). Granted we cannot just wistfully pre-schedule this aspect of the job out of our lives.

    However you speak of accepting situations and "deal[ing] with them in a practical way." Perfect, that's exactly what we're trying to discuss.

    What are some practical ways you have found to be a good DBA while still being good at your other roles in life (despite being on call)? Have you found you have to manage it actively, or are you just a natural?

  • Rather than scramble to keep up with all of the new, sometimes obscure, features that new versions of SQL Server bring, I've worked to position my self as the guy who "may not know the answer now, but I know he'll find it". My peers and my boss know that just about any problem that they throw at me will eventually get resolved, and they also know that if/when something catches fire, I'm going to be somewhere accessible to help extinguish it.

    Not having that pressure of trying to keep up allows me to have time for a personal life and hobbies, and also allows time for blogging and when the urge strikes, forum participation. Yes, sometimes it feels like work intrudes into my personal time, but then I remind myself that work is paying the bills, and that in the end, I really have it pretty good where I am. How can I complain about a job that allowed me, and paid me, to go to Colorado Springs to attend a SQL Saturday event, when I'm in Minneapolis?

  • Tracy McKibben (1/17/2012)


    Rather than scramble to keep up with all of the new, sometimes obscure, features that new versions of SQL Server bring, I've worked to position my self as the guy who "may not know the answer now, but I know he'll find it". My peers and my boss know that just about any problem that they throw at me will eventually get resolved, and they also know that if/when something catches fire, I'm going to be somewhere accessible to help extinguish it.

    Not having that pressure of trying to keep up allows me to have time for a personal life and hobbies, and also allows time for blogging and when the urge strikes, forum participation. Yes, sometimes it feels like work intrudes into my personal time, but then I remind myself that work is paying the bills, and that in the end, I really have it pretty good where I am. How can I complain about a job that allowed me, and paid me, to go to Colorado Springs to attend a SQL Saturday event, when I'm in Minneapolis?

    You hit an important point. Companies that show appreciation to their employees, eg. by helping them go to professional meetings, make it all the more easier to accept the sacrifices of personal life we all have to make.

    I wonder how many companies realize that...

    __________________________________________________________________________________
    SQL Server 2016 Columnstore Index Enhancements - System Views for Disk-Based Tables[/url]
    Persisting SQL Server Index-Usage Statistics with MERGE[/url]
    Turbocharge Your Database Maintenance With Service Broker: Part 2[/url]

  • Have you found you have to manage it actively, or are you just a natural?

    It has to be managed, no one does 24/7 on call duty naturally, that I have found anyway. But it beats the alternative of being out of a job.:-D

    "Technology is a weird thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ...:-D"

  • Granted we cannot just wistfully pre-schedule this aspect of the job out of our lives.

    I planned my career so that I can do exactly that. Pre-family, I worked long hours, on call rotations, etc. The idea was that by the time we were ready to settle down and have kids, I would have moved into a higher rung on the career ladder and would have more leeway to choose my work-life balance. Although now with the economic downturn, employees have a lot less leverage to do so. But I made myself so valuable to my company, that when I had my kid I was able to negotiate 4 days work from home for 6 months and then slowly transition back into more in-office days. I made sure that I never abused the perk and kept up my quality of work. It worked out so well that the company was willing to allow other employees the same option.

    Unless it was absolutely necessary I would never choose an on-call position again. I have no interest in 3AM wake up calls and lost weekends. I'd hate not seeing my family and I don't even want to think about the arguments that it would cause with my husband.

    Luckily my company requires on the job training as it is part of our "individual development plan" and I consider it relaxing to read the latest SQL Server news on my own time. It does give all my family a laugh that I'd rather have a SQL Server Mag subscription than InStyle.

    MWise

  • Unless it was absolutely necessary I would never choose an on-call position again. I have no interest in 3AM wake up calls and lost weekends. I'd hate not seeing my family and I don't even want to think about the arguments that it would cause with my husband.

    It must be nice to be at a point in life where you can choose that. and have an extra income to support that decision vis-a-vis your husband. However, in many cases, for the rest of us working one income DBA's it's not a choice, its part of the job, period. Find a DBA job where it's not 24/7 on-call and I will jump for it. Fat chance though, because most are. Most DBA's I know are not married women with kids anyway (for exactly the reasons you state above), it rinses them out very quickly, and they usually ended up leaving because of pressure from hubby anyway. So your current situation is not typical in our field by a long shot. We all wish we could relax at home and read the latest SQL journal, but that is not the real world. But I am happy for you anyway. You got a sweet deal.:-D

    "Technology is a weird thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ...:-D"

  • bradmcgehee@hotmail.com (1/14/2012)


    Comments posted to this topic are about the item <A HREF="/articles/Editorial/87728/">DBAs and the Career-Life Balance</A>

    Brad,

    Your article and this below excerpt from your book "How to become an Exceptional DBA" on (Page 26) seem to contradict each other:

    "In most cases, Exceptional DBAs work hard, and spend a lot of time at work. They are often expected to get a task done "now," and to work as

    long as it takes to get it done. They are often also "on call", and will be expected to come to work at any hour of the day if a problem needs to be

    fixed. I have often worked long days (36 hours in one stretch was my record), come into the office at weekends, and taken phone calls in the middle of the night. Of course, I always try to be a proactive DBA in order to minimize as many problems as possible, but there is just no way to envision and avoid every potential problem. If you prefer an 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM job, then being a production DBA is probably not your calling."

    So, which is it? Is like from your book above? or is it like you said in your article "Are you focusing too much time on your career to the exclusion of doing other important things in your life?" You seem to be contradicting yourself. 😀

    "Technology is a weird thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ...:-D"

  • TravisDBA (1/18/2012)[hr

    It must be nice to be at a point in life where you can choose that. and have an extra income to support that decision vis-a-vis your husband. However, in many cases, for the rest of us working one income DBA's it's not a choice, its part of the job, period. Find a DBA job where it's not 24/7 on-call and I will jump for it. Fat chance though, because most are. Most DBA's I know are not married women with kids anyway (for exactly the reasons you state above), it rinses them out very quickly, and they usually ended up leaving because of pressure from hubby anyway. So your current situation is not typical in our field by a long shot. We all wish we could relax at home and read the latest SQL journal, but that is not the real world. But I am happy for you anyway. You got a sweet deal.:-D

    I think any woman who knows that she wants a career (not just a job) and family has to plan for it way far in advance. We have it drilled into us starting very early. I'm not sure that this is something that my male counterparts hear very often in their career planning.

    I was also very luckily to hit peak earning years during a tech and economic boom. I feel for anyone just starting out now. We hit rough waters at the start of crash, my husband lost his contract after just finishing his MBA, so I was the sole earner (while pregnant!). If it came down to it I would have been sleeping with the pager again.

    MWise

  • I have been following this discussion and get the feeling some of you are on call "all the time"?!

    How is that possible without ending up in a burnout? I am in a 4-DBA rotation, doing call one week out of every month. I hate it but I can handle it. I don't how I would be able to cope with a higher on-call frequency though.

    Being on call all the time must be what hell is like...:-)

    __________________________________________________________________________________
    SQL Server 2016 Columnstore Index Enhancements - System Views for Disk-Based Tables[/url]
    Persisting SQL Server Index-Usage Statistics with MERGE[/url]
    Turbocharge Your Database Maintenance With Service Broker: Part 2[/url]

  • Marios Philippopoulos (1/18/2012)


    I have been following this discussion and get the feeling some of you are on call "all the time"?!

    How is that possible without ending up in a burnout? I am in a 4-DBA rotation, doing call one week out of every month. I hate it but I can handle it. I don't how I would be able to cope with a higher on-call frequency though.

    Being on call all the time must be what hell is like...:-)

    I'm on-call 24x7x365, no rotation. All alerts come to my phone, the escalation tree includes my phone number. At first, it was horrible, I've had to leave restaurants in the middle of a meal. As things progressed, I started taking steps to make the recurring issues self-healing, or just buttoning things up to the point where the issues don't occur in the first place.

    Today, 4 years or so later, I rarely get called for anything. In fact, I can't remember the last time a call was escalated to me. Maybe once a week I'll get an alert for blocking (which I ignore unless they continue coming), or an alert because replication has fallen behind. By being on call like this, I was forced to deal with the pain, or learn ways to minimize it. I chose to learn, and now I'm reaping the rewards.

  • Tracy McKibben (1/18/2012)


    Marios Philippopoulos (1/18/2012)


    I have been following this discussion and get the feeling some of you are on call "all the time"?!

    How is that possible without ending up in a burnout? I am in a 4-DBA rotation, doing call one week out of every month. I hate it but I can handle it. I don't how I would be able to cope with a higher on-call frequency though.

    Being on call all the time must be what hell is like...:-)

    I'm on-call 24x7x365, no rotation. All alerts come to my phone, the escalation tree includes my phone number. At first, it was horrible, I've had to leave restaurants in the middle of a meal. As things progressed, I started taking steps to make the recurring issues self-healing, or just buttoning things up to the point where the issues don't occur in the first place.

    Today, 4 years or so later, I rarely get called for anything. In fact, I can't remember the last time a call was escalated to me. Maybe once a week I'll get an alert for blocking (which I ignore unless they continue coming), or an alert because replication has fallen behind. By being on call like this, I was forced to deal with the pain, or learn ways to minimize it. I chose to learn, and now I'm reaping the rewards.

    How many db servers are you reponsible for? That sounds like a slow-paced static shop that doesn't have alot of changes occuring, either in the hardware environment or in the software applications. Different story all together in a fast-paced, fast-changing environment. A lot of DBA's are doing as much automation as they can given the circumstances to relieve constant phone calls, but that does still not get you totally off the hook when you are responsible for 200 db servers versus 20. 😀

    "Technology is a weird thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ...:-D"

  • TravisDBA (1/19/2012)


    How many db servers are you reponsible for? That sounds like a slow-paced static shop that doesn't have alot of changes occuring, either in the hardware environment or in the software applications. Different story all together in a fast-paced, fast-changing environment. A lot of DBA's are doing as much automation as they can given the circumstances to relieve constant phone calls, but that does still not get you totally off the hook when you are responsible for 200 db servers versus 20. 😀

    19 production servers, mix of 2000/2005/2008R2, another 20 or so non-production.

    Production code changes occur monthly, during scheduled release windows.

    Between those windows code is promoted from Dev to a pair of QA environments, then to a "pre-production" staging environment.

    Rarely does something get to prod that is just flat-out broken, but we frequently have performance issues to deal with for a few days after these monthly deployments.

    It's far from slow-paced...

  • @TravisDBA

    You are such a downer dude... lol

  • Mhlewis (1/18/2012)


    TravisDBA (1/18/2012)[hr

    It must be nice to be at a point in life where you can choose that. and have an extra income to support that decision vis-a-vis your husband. However, in many cases, for the rest of us working one income DBA's it's not a choice, its part of the job, period. Find a DBA job where it's not 24/7 on-call and I will jump for it. Fat chance though, because most are. Most DBA's I know are not married women with kids anyway (for exactly the reasons you state above), it rinses them out very quickly, and they usually ended up leaving because of pressure from hubby anyway. So your current situation is not typical in our field by a long shot. We all wish we could relax at home and read the latest SQL journal, but that is not the real world. But I am happy for you anyway. You got a sweet deal.:-D

    I think any woman who knows that she wants a career (not just a job) and family has to plan for it way far in advance. We have it drilled into us starting very early. I'm not sure that this is something that my male counterparts hear very often in their career planning.

    I was also very luckily to hit peak earning years during a tech and economic boom. I feel for anyone just starting out now. We hit rough waters at the start of crash, my husband lost his contract after just finishing his MBA, so I was the sole earner (while pregnant!). If it came down to it I would have been sleeping with the pager again.

    MWise

    This is an editorial, with the sole purpose to get people to think about their careers and their home life. There are no "right" answers.

    Brad M. McGehee
    DBA

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