Really great read. One thing that I am always missing though is more information about landing the "big break" in the field of choice, in this case as a DBA. What certifications or experience tipped the scales? Also, how was it the first year not having hands-on experience and working with a team of seasoned people?
I've been in and around IT for the better part of 15 years. It's somewhat easy to break into the lower levels because they are entry level. But making that leap from help-desk or PC tech into a system admin or dba is very challenging. Also starting from the bottom is especially hard when you cannot afford to drop back down to a lower pay; the mortgage, car, and credit card payments don't go away...
Having recruited for technical positions, I can tell you that the employers I have worked with always prefer real world experience over education or certification. I've seen an employer pass on DeVry graduates with a 4.0 GPA in CS, in favor of someone who had years of actual experience. And that wasn't even for a developer role!
For myself, I'd love to be a DBA and work with SQL, T-SQL, and related technologies, but I just can't see what the next steps are. I have some professional experience working with Studio and know the basics, but am unsure of how to bridge that gap where I have enough knowledge to feel comfortable in a DBA role and not be completely worthless.
I've seen people try to make the transition into IT who didn't know what they were doing, but were good interviewers. They get eaten up and spit out more often than not. I always felt bad for them and I think having seen the negative side, it makes me hesitant to pursue a career in a new area.