Do You Have the Gifts to Be a DBA?

  • Louis Davidson (@drsql)

    SSCommitted

    Points: 1505

    Comments posted to this topic are about the item Do You Have the Gifts to Be a DBA?

  • skeleton567

    SSCarpal Tunnel

    Points: 4970

    Louis, I guess maybe I'm not the one to say that I have a 'gift', but I definitely had a desire and the motivation.  Of course, I started my career long before there was the concept of a DBA, or even a database.  I had studied Sociology and expected a career in Criminology.  Then while I was working as a bookkeeper and Credit Manager, a friend who managed a staff of eight programmers took me to his company on a Monday and showed me their data processing installation.  While there, he gave me a short 'apptitude test' that he had, just for fun.  The following Wednesday evening, my phone rang and it was the company's HR department who offered me a job to learn programming at a salary increase of 44%.  That began a run of over 42 years that included taking evening classes at a community college on my own, buying books, and after personal computers came along, buying software and learning new skills.  I fell in love with working with logic and developing processes.  My first exposure to databases began in 1974 when I took a position as 'Data Processing Manager' for a company that had no prior use of computers at all.  Eleven years there taught me that I definitely did NOT want to be a manager ever again.  But I was hooked on database design and SQL development, and my last years were spent in a DBA group at a company where we had probably 25 virtual instances locally of SQL Server with many large databases and doing replication across the US at various company locations.  My main specialty ended up being creation, debugging, and performance-tuning of stored procedures working with front-end application developers.

    I wouldn't claim that I 'had' a gift, but one was definitely given to me.

     

    Rick
    Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
    - L. DaVinci

  • Jeff Moden

    SSC Guru

    Points: 995161

    I'm with skeleton567 but maybe a little worse... I don't have a "gift".  I have a passion.

    I started my love for computers back in high-school in the late 60's where I had the incredible pleasure to work with punched cards, unit record equipment, and an awesome 2nd generation computer that used transistors rather than vacuum tubes.  Just before I joined the United States Navy, I bought an incredible Texas Instruments SR-56 programmable calculator that had 100 programmable steps. As a sonarman, it served me very well in calculating the "Ranges of the Day", "Best Depth for Evasion", and for doing the calculations for manually plotting "Raypath Traces", "Convergence Zones", where the "SOFAR Channel" is ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SOFAR_channel ), and extremely (necessarily) fast "Ping Steal Ranging" calculations all based on a "Sound Velocity Profile"  measured during a special dive the sub would occasionally do to a given depth combined with the measurements from "Bathymetric Charts" for deeper depths that had little change over time.

    In late 1977, I was teaching electronics at Fleet ASW school during my "shore duty" and the "school masters" came in and asked if anyone had any computer experience.  Myself and another fellow (his name was Regis Krug and I'll never forget it because of what we did together) raised our hands.  We were then told that we had 5 weeks to build a 5 week (5 days a week 8 hours per day, 200 hours total) new course on micro-processors.  Of course, our first question was, "Ok... what's a micro-processor"? 😀  It took an insane amount of study and testing on some uProcessor training sets and the manually interface-able digital logic boards but we did it.  And, we also very successfully taught a bunch of others (including "farm boys" that didn't even know what a 4 function calculator was) how to hand-assemble machine language programs that they had designed and written.  I even wrote a tone generation program and had 3 of the computers (2 players and 1 conductor) play Bach Inventions in C-Dur for Guitar 1 and 2 and wrote the code for a digital recorder and playback system using nothing but hand assembled machine language.

    When I got out of the Navy, I joined a fortune 100 company as a "Senior Field Engineer" and worked especially with a sonar system console, which also happened to be computer driven.  I was also fortunate in another area... someone had ordered a desk-top computer (an HP-2647A and they almost took up the whole desktop back then) that had some canned charting ability.  It was also programmable and I was asked to "figure out how to use it", which I did.  I also figured out how to interface it with a remote main frame even though it wasn't designed to do so and did some really neat things with auto-magically creating charts and graphs from main-frame info.  I even wrote a graphic program to print WBS charts (Work Breakdown Structures that look like org charts).

    Later, they brought in these new things called "Personal Computers" (or "PC") along with some software that would do the equivalent of making an accountant's  spreadsheet and other things (Lotus Symphony and it was freakin' awesome!).    I also wrote code to make them interface with the main-frames and made it so they no longer needed to print 3 foot high stacks of Green-Bar paper for each accountant (won a couple of cash awards for that).   I even figured out how to interface the computers with certain "Daisy Wheel" typewriters.  And, of course, I started an in-house training program for everything I had done and especially for how to use the spreadsheet part of Lotus Symphony (later, Lotus 1-2-3 and much later, MS Excel, which I hated and still have some hate for).  I later taught classes on how to use these new fangled laser and desk-jet printers and how to program the spreadsheets to take advantage of them.

    And, of course, I'm also an "accidental DBA" with my roots in the mid-90's, as well.  I could talk for a couple of hours about that, but won't bore you with the details now.

    I told you that story to tell you this one...

    Obviously, I loved playing with computers, computer programming (an incredible tool limited only by one's imagination) and especially data... LOTS of data!  It's a good thing because I'm actually not very quick or even good at it.  It takes me longer than anyone I know to write code to do something (although it usually passes QA first time).  It also takes me longer to understand something than most people I know.  I have to practice things over and over to get it right and, if I don't document what I've done, it's hard for me to remember what I've done.  I hate the human thought process and how complex people make it when they try to describe what they want done (with or without data) and so my other interest has been to become rather keen on using the KISS principle (which I call "Keep It Super Simple" rather than "Keep It Simple Stupid") and the "Scientific Method" is also hugely important in such matters.  It turns out that both of those principles are especially important for making nasty fast (and accurate and fault correcting/tolerant) database code.

    The bad part of it all is that in order for me to not suck at it, I have to practice even already known things every day and I also spend a whole lot of time learning new things either from others or through experimentation.

    With that, I'll say I have no gifts as a DBA or a programmer... I have only a love, nay, deeply rooted passion for what I do.  And, very fortunately, that passion and a nearly equal passion for teaching has served me well.  I try to "pass it forward" whenever I can.

    I'll also once again say... SQLServerCentral.com, the denizens that frequent it, and the community that has grown because of it, have played a major role in what I've been able to both learn and to teach myself (experimentation to solve different problems).  There is no place in the world where you can get such a raft of interesting, real life problems to work on and learn from especially when the denizens of the site bring guns to bear on a problem.  You just can't get this type of thing in a classroom.

    And, thanks to this site, I've also made many friends (some that I've had the true honor to meet in person) that I would have otherwise certainly missed out on.

    Thank you one and all with a special thanks to the originators of the site and especially to Steve Jones for keeping it going for nearly 2 decades now.

     

    --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
    Create a Tally Function (fnTally)

  • TomThomson

    SSC Guru

    Points: 104772

    I don't have gifts to be a DBA - DBA requires more patience than I usually have.  I do find some areas of maths, some areas of computer science, and the ability to learn (natural, not programming) languages fairly easy, maybe that's a gift for something.  Maybe it's even the right mix for a DBA but I doubt it.  But for some reason or other I have tended to have to invent databases and data manipulation languages (where an RDBMS could be ruled out as costing too much) and more recently to look after SQL databases (Ingre, Oracle, Postgres, but mostly SQL Server) and be the guy who writes SQL and makes rules for others who write it.

    Tom

  • skeleton567

    SSCarpal Tunnel

    Points: 4970

    Jeff, thank you for sharing your experience and memories with us.  I believe you and I have lots in common.  I think one gift you and I share is that of curiosity and constant learning and using the skills we have.  From your post and your graduation year, it sounds as it you are near retirement if not retired now.

    I too appreciate the great folks in this group and enjoy hearing about their experiences in DAB jobs.  It helps keep up my interest and enjoyment.  As I've gotten older, my physical abilities have seriously deteriorated ( I was a mid west farm boy used to lots of 'heavy lifting' activities ), but SQLServerCentral.com keeps me going.  My last boss has kept my software active so I can actually try out and use lots of the things I learn from everyone on here.

    Cheers to all!

     

    Rick
    Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
    - L. DaVinci

  • Jeff Moden

    SSC Guru

    Points: 995161

    TomThomson wrote:

    I don't have gifts to be a DBA - DBA requires more patience than I usually have. 

    Ummm.... "patience".  Hang on... let me look that up.

    {insert 5 minute timer and keyboard noises of me looking up the word on Yabingooglehoo}

    Ah... Ok.  "Patience".  Got it.  That's the stuff that causes "stress", which occurs when the mind overrides the body's prime instinct to choke the living crap out of some bunghole that desperately deserves it.  That's why I'm only a part time DBA.  The mind isn't always capable of suppressing the body's prime instincts and I don't want to have to train replacements.  😀

    --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
    Create a Tally Function (fnTally)

  • Jeff Moden

    SSC Guru

    Points: 995161

    skeleton567 wrote:

    Jeff, thank you for sharing your experience and memories with us.  I believe you and I have lots in common.  I think one gift you and I share is that of curiosity and constant learning and using the skills we have.  From your post and your graduation year, it sounds as it you are near retirement if not retired now. I too appreciate the great folks in this group and enjoy hearing about their experiences in DAB jobs.  It helps keep up my interest and enjoyment.  As I've gotten older, my physical abilities have seriously deteriorated ( I was a mid west farm boy used to lots of 'heavy lifting' activities ), but SQLServerCentral.com keeps me going.  My last boss has kept my software active so I can actually try out and use lots of the things I learn from everyone on here. Cheers to all!  

    I've found that many of us actually have a lot in common.  And, yes... I'm beyond the age of full Social Security benefits and could easily retire.  I'm just having too much fun doing what I do especially since I've been working my dream job for quite some time now.  I'm aiming to retire at 70 but I'm not sure that I'll retire even then.  At the very least, I'll consult and, perhaps, speak and write a bit more but, right now and if they'll let me, I'm going to keep working the trade I love with the people that I've grown to have a grand appreciation for.

    --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
    Create a Tally Function (fnTally)

  • TomThomson

    SSC Guru

    Points: 104772

    Jeff Moden wrote:

    TomThomson wrote:

    I don't have gifts to be a DBA - DBA requires more patience than I usually have. 

    Ummm.... "patience".  Hang on... let me look that up. {insert 5 minute timer and keyboard noises of me looking up the word on Yabingooglehoo} Ah... Ok.  "Patience".  Got it.  That's the stuff that causes "stress", which occurs when the mind overrides the body's prime instinct to choke the living crap out of some bunghole that desperately deserves it.  That's why I'm only a part time DBA.  The mind isn't always capable of suppressing the body's prime instincts and I don't want to have to train replacements.  😀

    I could manage to be patient once or twice for each idiot I think. I probably couldn't now, after a few years of retirement.   Even back then if it came round to a third time I could get very nasty - not violent, just verbally abusive.  And it doesn't really work - I sometimes think maybe I should have fired more people, but then I realise that each one fired means another one to recruit and realise that until a great miraculous change in Recruitement Agents occurs that would be a total catastrophe, since the CVs that I would have seen would be bunches of lies conconted not by the people whose CVs they were supposed to be but the bunch of bullshit that the agency hoped will persuade us to employ their victim.

    I think "victim" is the best term for anyone who lets a recruitment agent handle their job applications; last time I did that was in 1971, before the Recruitment Agency standard operting mode was "lies, lies and more lies, as long as the agency makes money - sod the firms who need the right people, and sod the people who need the right jobs, neither of them matter, only we do", and nothing else.

    I attempted to communicate with Harlequin via a recruitment agency that claimed to represent them in 1996 when I was having trouble finding contact details for them, and that was absolutely useless.  I finally found an old (1986) email from the company's founder (yes, email was widespread in the UK in 1986, at least amongst academics and amongst people doing computer related R&D), and emailed him asking why no reply.  He was furious that the agency hadn't contacted him or even his Personel department, and had been fobbing me off for a couple of months with "Harlequin hasn't replied yet" when they hadn't informed Harlequin that I had asked them to put me in touch although he had informed them that anything from me should be passed on straight away.

    • This reply was modified 5 months ago by  TomThomson.
    • This reply was modified 5 months ago by  TomThomson.

    Tom

  • bsclyde

    Mr or Mrs. 500

    Points: 570

    Louis, thank you for the excellent post. It was a great way to start off a Monday morning. It is fun to hear about someone else who started with a Civil Engineering degree in mind before making a change to IT. However, what I truly appreciated was your admonition to count the gifts we have been given, especially as related to our careers. I think most of us will find we have been given much and that should make us happier and more willing to give back to our technology community, or to our community in general.

  • timwell

    SSCarpal Tunnel

    Points: 4987

    The answer to the question in the title for me is "maybe."  I have been thinking of writing an article called something like "You're not Paul McCartney and that's OK."

    I started taking classes in programming (which is what they called "software development" or "coding" at that time)  in the days of punch cards and early microprocessors.

    I did OK and I enjoyed it and have made a living at it for more than 20 years so I must have had some of the "gifts" necessary.

    And since recently becoming an "accidental DBA" I have done OK with the help of a lot of online information and SQL Server Central. SSC has been my main resource for information and keeping my skills up to date.

    However I do have some "social deficiencies" that mean my attempts at "giving back" are not very effective. I wrote some articles for SSC that have gotten an "underwhelming" response. It might be because they are articles for developers on a platform for DBAs...

    And my visit to the local users group didn't go very far (although I did get a congratulatory handshake from "the great" Jeff Moden). I don't connect well with groups for some reason...

    But anyway, thanks to SSC for all the information and feeling like maybe I was a part of something, and I should be satisfied with that rather than trying to imagine I can be like Paul McCartney or even Steve, Grant, Kendra or Jeff.....

  • Steve Jones - SSC Editor

    SSC Guru

    Points: 716659

    I think I have some minor gift, in that the logical way a CPU processes things and the flow of information and data in most systems seem to make sense to me easily. I started with a Commodore at 13 or 14, writing BASIC, peeking and poking around I realized then that recreating pong like games was hard. I could do it, but didn't love it. Probably why I'm not a front end developer today.

    Instead, a friend and I built a complex fantasy baseball system, grabbing stats and playing simulated games. Working with the program was interesting, but the data was fascinating.

    Like some others, I was doing Lotus 1-2-3, Clipper, and Foxpro training when we got a SQL Server. I loved working with data and thought the SQL platform was the way to go. Haven't looked back.

     

  • rhamnusia

    Old Hand

    Points: 334

    "Then I failed out of engineering classes" sounds so familiar.  Engineering calculus was/is a great weeding out class.  I thank my lucky stars that particular failure led me me to the path of computer science.  Never looked back.

  • Beatrix Kiddo

    SSC-Dedicated

    Points: 32396

    Increasingly, I don't think I do. I've never been very interested in coding. I can get by in Powershell and it impresses me what people can do with it, but I don't enjoy doing that myself. I like fixing things for people but I hate performance tuning. I'm good at the big picture, but easily annoyed by users who never say thank you. I like HA, DR and strategy stuff, but I'm bored by all talk of code repositories. I value autonomy above everything else. I'm neutral about cloud technologies (not anti, but not really excited either).

    I'm very lucky with the job I have at the moment (which is not a support role), but I keep wondering what's next given all that I've just said. Possibly feeling a bit burnt out.

  • Steve Jones - SSC Editor

    SSC Guru

    Points: 716659

    Beatrix Kiddo wrote:

    I'm very lucky with the job I have at the moment (which is not a support role), but I keep wondering what's next given all that I've just said. Possibly feeling a bit burnt out.

    Leaving these here:

  • TomThomson

    SSC Guru

    Points: 104772

    rhamnusia wrote:

    "Then I failed out of engineering classes" sounds so familiar.  Engineering calculus was/is a great weeding out class.  I thank my lucky stars that particular failure led me me to the path of computer science.  Never looked back.

    Well, I think a lot of us switched to computers from something else.  I switched to computing when i found that it offered more interesting jobs than the ones I was offered as a mathematician.  Not too long ago Jeff Moden was a submariner, but he is maybe the best database man (a developer DBA, I think) I know of.  Computing has pulled people away from other fields over the years - it had to, if we had kept to only the number of people who worked with computers 70 years ago we would have nothing in the way of hardware and software that we have today.  Even in 1967 when I finished my maths research degree my first job involved deciding whether some software that ran on Deuce was worth bringing forward to "modern" machines. The expansion of computing in the 50s , 60s and 70s was a big change and took on a lot of people who had studied something else, not computing.  In the early 70s I was running a group of projects having recruited people with qualification ranging from english A levels or scottish Highers (roughly American High-School graduates) to first degrees in history or geography or music to people with PhDs in physics or chemistry or maths, no-one with any qualification at all in computing.

    Since then, I've had people coming out of university with degrees in Computer Science with UK 1st Class Honors or USA Summa cum Laude - and most of them have been useless, because they know a little bit (that's all there ever is in a first degree) but they think they know it all and just won't accept that they don't.

    So it's great to see someone here who has pulled themself out from another subject joining us here in this community.

    Tom

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