Most Work is Mundane

  • Comments posted to this topic are about the item Most Work is Mundane

  • Paraphrased from my most recent interview for my current contract:

    Interviewer: "Most of this work is going to be boring, simple work."

    Me: "Thanks for the warning, but I'm okay with that. If my job's exciting it usually means I'm staring at a screen at 2 AM trying to figure out if I need to call the VP, the CEO, or the vendor first."

    Mostly, I constantly try to learn each time I do something that's mundane. For example, right now I've ended up with a neat little puzzle on getting the most recent record from a table, and the results are surprising when you include components like secondary indexing and data distribution.

    Every piece of code I do can usually end up with something like this, where I take some time and learn a bit more about the system. The fact that the rest of it IS mundane and common tasks means I can spend the time doing these miniature side projects that keep me engaged.

    - Craig Farrell

    Never stop learning, even if it hurts. Ego bruises are practically mandatory as you learn unless you've never risked enough to make a mistake.

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  • In some respects, automating 'the usual' is exciting in itself. I've learned a lot by being lazy enough to want to automate the grunt work but motivated by my laziness... <lol> Once you get things under control with monitoring, dashboards and alerts, it gives you time to explore new builds of SQL, try those odd functions that aren't needed by your current tasks but just cool, or focus on projects.

    I actually automated enough of my job at one employer that caused my Oracle DBA co-worker to want to take my stuff over after I left. I guess he liked the idea of drinking a cup of coffee while checking out a dashboard as part of his 'morning routine'. BTW: even though he's still really Oracle-savvy, his main focus is SQL Server now.

    I'd like to say he came to the dark side because of me... <lol>

  • I'm a data centred web dev so a little different to many types here - but I like a variation between grinding out code (mundanity) and solving intractable problems and designing sensible architectures and data models. I'm senior enough to allocate the junior devs to do the grunting when I get bored of it now - and as it is still hard enough for most of them, generally that's cool.

    My diasasters tend to be of the 'this remuneration report is showing £351.07 out from the £1,271,234.09 it should be' nature. That's when I know I'm in for a 3 day brainache.

  • I've been saying for years that the job of a DBA is to make his own work as boring as possible.

    I use SSC to stay sharp and interested.

    There are issues that come up once in a DBA's career, if at all. By helping others solve them, I set myself up so that, if they come up for me, I'm ready for them, instead of being in the position of "I read about that once ten years ago". Instead, I'm in the position of, "I helped someone solve that last week, and a different person last month, and someone else the month before that, so I know exactly what needs to be done". That practice keeps me interested, keeps rarely-used skills sharp for the time I may need them, and makes otherwise boring days go by quickly.

    My job is to keep my work as boring as possible. That doesn't mean the day is boring, it means the servers aren't doing anything "interesting" most of the time. That's a good thing.

    Property of The Thread

    "Nobody knows the age of the human race, but everyone agrees it's old enough to know better." - Anon

  • Following the line of other posters, I agree that my job is to make my job mundane and routine. The more routine tasks I can automate or eliminate, the more routine my job becomes. But this makes my time more manageable. Then I can spend time on other interests as well. There is always a server which could benefit from some performance tuning. There is always a new version of something which can be investigated. If I want to veg, there is some code which I can write. My subscriptions to LearnDevNow and Safari Library offer many more opportunities to fill my time with training and research. While my job does get mundane at times, I can't say I've ever considered it boring in the past six years. And besides, data, and the possibilities of what can be gleaned from the data residing in these repositories, is itself exciting.


    SQL Server DBA

  • Participating in forums like SSC is for database professionals what weightlifting and practice drills are for professional fire fighters. If you're fighting fires every day, then something is seriously wrong, but if you don't keep yourself in shape daily, then you won't be prepared for those unseen challenges that are around the next corner.

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

  • If you watch the movie 'Sanctum,' you will appreciate how lucky we are to lead a mundane life. A billionaire funds the underground cave exploration project in the South Pacific, and dies with a cyclone.

    My DBA is great. If I have a connection string problem, he comes to my desk and shows me how to fix it. I never thought his job was mundane.

  • young.lee (2/11/2011)

    If you watch the movie 'Sanctum,' you will appreciate how lucky we are to lead a mundane life. A billionaire funds the underground cave exploration project in the South Pacific, and dies with a cyclone.

    My DBA is great. If I have a connection string problem, he comes to my desk and shows me how to fix it. I never thought his job was mundane.

    Oh, don't make the mistake of thinking my life is mundane!

    I've gone mountain climbing and scuba diving. I've jumped out of perfectly good airplanes and gone hang-gliding off a cliff. I've been held at knife-point. I've ridden horses through the woods in a blizzard at midnight.

    It's my work that I try to keep boring.

    Property of The Thread

    "Nobody knows the age of the human race, but everyone agrees it's old enough to know better." - Anon

  • I think it's always been part of my job (including part of th eparts that have had absolutely nothing to do with databases) to make parts of my job boring. One irate customer ringing me at 4am in the middle of my vacation and demanding that I escalate his problem immediately to the CEO was enough of the wrong sort of "excitement" for a lifetime (especially as I wasn't going to admit to any customer that we hadn't appointed a new CEO after the last one departed), and I had plenty other disasters to recover in my various jobs so I hadn't made things boring enough; of course it sometimes needs money which just isn't there to make things boring - in my last job our customers weren't going to pay for clustered systems, for enterprise (instead of standard) licences, or for anything else to make their systems really reliable, so the systems were vulnerable, but they still had a 24X7 requirement. But everything I could automate I did automate (and wrote an app for my desktop to analyse the emails all the monitoring tools I devised sent, so that I didn't have to look at mundane ones (I automated a lot of the recovery actions too, so a typical email say such and such a problem happened at a particular customer site and was fixed by such and such an action, so I didn't need to see it; but the frequency of the automatic fix could be a performance issue, so I needed to know how often they happened).

    On the other hand, there are other parts of the job which I've never wanted to make boring - mentoring, working out what requirements are, proposing new research projects, going and meeting new people in new places, inventing new algorithms, doing real research. I don't see how those things can be automated. And if they could I would have had to find a different job, because I don't like life without (the right sort of) excitement.


  • I agree with most of the posters here. Make the back end as stable and boring(stable) as possible. Know that you have backups in place for the 'Oh this is interesting times' and then get a dev server that you can try new versions, upgrades, improvements to the mundane tasks and scripts. In the end it will be interesting, if it's not...:-) your not looking forward.

    Mark Johnson
    MCP, MCTS Sql Server 2005,MCTS Sql Server 2008, OCP

  • As far as I can tell from my own experience, there is always a list of things about which we say, "you know, we could improve the [X] of [Y] if only we had some time to work on it."

    [X] is something like performance, integrity, reliability, error handling, alerting mechanism, recoverability, etc.

    [Y] is some problematic thing in your environment--there's always something that is less than ideal.

    The fun is making the time and knocking off one of these. Often times, few will notice. But for a while, I can cherish a hole--I can feel something missing, and it's pain! And in the process I will invariably have learned something.

  • There is mundane & there is Administrivia.

    Mundane suggests something needs to be done & it is not very intellectually challenging for you to solve it. Perhaps it was once hard & you’ve grown your skills & experience to make it easy. Perhaps it is easy for everyone. Either way, for these tasks you challenge is to improve the process &/or automate it. Develop a tool, report or something that means your spend zero time on it. This process of improving efficiency or performance is rarely mundane. And often satisfying.

    Even if it is a meeting, looking for ways to streamline peoples thinking & get to a consensus easier is good.

    Administrivia is a load of Administration tasks that you are forced to do. That you know either no-one will ever look at &/or lead to a process that is inefficient or ineffective or will lead the company in the wrong direction but someone senior decided to force the process on the company.

    Sometimes the challenge is in changing the way the company thinks & fix this process. Sometimes you can write your own process to minimise the pain.

    Once you’ve solved every mundane task, & removed as much administrivia as you can. Either work on improving the bigger picture processes within your company. Or find a new company, with new challenges & learning opportunities.

  • Yes, this kind of job can be boring so you have to find ways to get busy and focused. When we (team) were doing purely maintenance works on production environment, I had to ask my manager to give us some old desktops to run databases mainly for trying out new features and also existing features we didn’t try before. We broke 'em and fixed 'em and kept loving 'em coz no one complained about 'em. These actually became useful tools for proof-of-concepts. In these days where virtualized environments are very common, I think this can be easily justified. Also an added bonus in keeping your DBAs engaged in their work and the company. 😉

    Now I’m involved in application developments so we got milestones to hit and red-flag to avoid. :w00t:

  • It's good to see some/most mostly agreeing with the mundaneness! Of course, the ones that don't are the ones I worry about, the ones who think every day at work should be packed with excitement and challenge. Hard to find, hard to sustain.

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