Most important DBA Skill?

  • Comments posted to this topic are about the item Most important DBA Skill?

  • To summarize what you said and to paraphrase what Mr. David Poole once said....

    If you're the first person people seek for help rather than the last, you might be an Exceptional DBA.

    --Jeff Moden

    RedGate Exceptional DBA - 2011

    --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.

    Change is inevitable... Change for the better is not.

    Helpful Links:
    How to post code problems
    How to Post Performance Problems
    Create a Tally Function (fnTally)

  • Thanks Jeff,

    I recommend reading two books by Max Eggert on interviews and CVs. They were brilliant, succinct and (lets not deny it) inexpensive.

    One of them said there are only really 3 questions in an interview

    • Can they do the job
    • Will they do the job
    • Will they fit in

    There are lessons in them for both the interviewer and the interviewee.

    Jim is absolutely right. Not everyone is comfortable with "people skills" but at some point you are going to need them.

    I would also recommend taking a course on giving presentations. There is a lot to learn in giving presentations that can be applied outside of the presentation arena

    • Understanding and identifying your audience
    • Tips and tricks to make your key points memorable
    • Body language, how to use it to communicate confidence and trustworthyness and how to take control of a situation
    • How to avoid "Death by Powerpoint"
  • "I would rather hire someone with a little less experience and technical skill who is a great communicator and people person than an expert who cannot relate to people or is rude and arrogant. If you have the right base skills, you can always learn the technical stuff. Learning the people stuff is not so easy. "

    YES, YES, YES!!! The only thing I would add is a willingness to learn as well. Give me someone who though maybe a bit less technically adept has decent customer skills and a teachable attitude and I'd hire them over a whiz kid nearly every time.

    That said, it's also possible to teach people skills, though it is a much different and arguably tougher process.

    Just my $0.02 from over here in the cheap seats of the peanut gallery - please adjust for inflation and/or your local currency.

  • people skills mean that DBA should share his knowledge with others ,able to listen with a high attention to business user, helping people ,that I'm trying to do in my current job every day

  • This has been a huge pet peave of mine for a long time. Brilliant people who can't even talk to (or get along with) a fence post. Add to this a certain 'proprietary' behavior (reluctance to share info or tutor someone due to insecurity about their own job). Moreover, receiving frequent complaints from users about this person compounds the problem. This is a perfect formula for eventual termination.

    Forgot to mention that each person interviewed for a position here is required to take a so-called 'personality test' - usually one of the first steps in the process. If there's a red flag or they do poorly on this test, then that's it - they're no longer considered for a position.

    For a time I worked at a large car rental company. They had this policy (perhaps unwritten) of 'be professional and respect each other'. Essentially, you could be the most successful manager or employee in the company, but if you verbally abused other employees or treated them unfairly, and gained a reputation for that, you were terminated. I saw this happen in IT several times. I respected the company for doing its best to eliminate any semblance of a hostile work environment, and think of the employees first. On the other hand, I've worked for companies that didn't care how employees were treated.

  • I Know - the "Sheldon Cooper" syndrome - even worse when you are a Junior DBA and he is senior

  • From someone who has been in this business since 1985, you couldn't have said it better. I don't care how technical you are or how important you think you the core of any successful business is the ability to work together as a team. I know...I've been riding this damn software career for over 25 years.

  • On the soft skills side a DBA is a bridge between so many layers of business, a dba can touch on development, operations, and the individual business units and internal customers. It requires being able to speak all the different languages and so being able to work well with everyone is a requirement. (I.E. Communicate)

    On the technical side a DBA is sometimes called to fix or solve problems so far outside of just the database that a DBA needs to understand the fundamentals of all aspects of the IT world. Development, QA, Servers, Disks, Networks, and End-User products. (I.E. Technical Jack of All Trades)

    On the personality side a DBA needs to be proactive and aggressive at getting the job done when required. If a bunch of customers are threatening to leave because production is slow, a DBA needs to be leading the charge at solving those problems, especially when the application is heavily database backed.

    So in my mind, a highly technical social person are the best DBAs. The type of person who starts out IT but goes into IT Management and being a DBA is a stepping stone of transition. The last stop to verify they have a full technical understanding, but the soft skills for management, and being able to quickly get data from a database is a good skill into the analytical work a Manager sometimes needs to get themselves.

    I know it's not the traditional thought when thinking of a DBA; however, the best DBAs I've ever worked with or had work under me where these types.

  • Well, monitoring and disaster recovery are perhaps the two most important DBA skills. People skills is what would differentiate an exceptional DBA who loves their job, gets invited to lunch, and will eventually be the team lead. Still, a DBA should not neccessarily be Mr. Nice Guy. He / She has got to fill the role of Gate Keeper. A good role model would perhaps be the Wizard Gandalf.

    "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Instead, seek what they sought." - Matsuo Basho

  • I would say that's not just true for a DBA job, but for any type of technical job. If you've got great technical skills, but you aren't willing to listen to users or aren't able to communicate with them, you will fail. Another need is the right mixture of self-confidence and humility; self-confidence to know when you're right, humility to know you're not always right.

  • Now back to the real world. All the people skill in the world is not going to matter a tinkers darn if you can't deliver the goods under pressure, end of story. Are you a good guy/gal or a goto guy/gal? They are not the same and are usually never the same in one package. That's just the way it is folks. Brilliant usually is arrogant and cocky, so get used to it! Anyone that tells me that aptitude and ability can be learned is kidding themselves in a real time production environment today. Sure, if you got months to train someone and bring them up to speed and to be really good, then good for you... However, most shops today just dont have that kind of time. They have commitments and hard deadlines. They need someone to hit the ground running and knows their stuff and can deliver on time, period. If this was not the case then high priced consultants would be phased out of the industry by now, and believe me they are still around. I have seen a lot of "good people skils" guys and gals come and go over the 29 years I have been in this business...Most of them are selling cars or flowers now.:-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"

  • I agree people skills are extremely valuable. I wouldn't be where I am if I didn't have some people skills.

    But, to be contrarian and to agree with TravisDBA, I have worked with people who have no people skills, but they deliver. They exceed expectations and they are brilliant at what they do. While it'd be nice if they had people skills too, there's still no comparison to someone with more people skill and less technical skill (in their role).

    I would argue there's a difference between lacking people skills and being rude/arrogant/short-tempered too. While people without people skills can come across as rude or arrogant, it's a question of intent. Are they being arrogant because they are an a**, or because they know what they're talking about? If the former, then yeah, that shines through. If the latter, anyone who works with them will quickly gain respect for what they have to say, regardless of initial impressions.

    Madison, WI

  • There are a lot of DBAs who don't have people skills, a university degree, or even socks, but they are amoung the best at what they do.

    "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Instead, seek what they sought." - Matsuo Basho

  • Yea, the real world aspect, is if they are 'that' good, they will move onto either high priced consulting or higher level job which kind of moves away from the original question what is the most important skill. I don't think it's a skill, I think it's many skills. The most important think I think a DBA needs is the skill of Jack of All Trades, to be able to quickly deliver on a development project, turn around solve a production problem, spit out a report for management, and if something bad happens recover an environment. It's why DBAs are typically paid well. A good DBA is worth his weight in gold.

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