What Counts for a DBA: Being Replaceable

  • Louis Davidson (@drsql)

    SSCommitted

    Points: 1505

    Comments posted to this topic are about the item What Counts for a DBA: Being Replaceable

  • Dizzy Desi

    Ten Centuries

    Points: 1031

    This is a great viewpoint. Although none of us wants to be replaced unless it's by our own choice, we also typically have enough ego that we want to be remembered in a positive light. If someone else takes over for me and their job is terribly difficult because of the way I've done things, you can bet they will complain and let everyone know that I left a mess.

    Hopefully most of you can agree to this - I absolutely love most of my customers, and I don't want to leave them in a bad situation if I leave my position. Therefore, my own "job security" aside, I do try to make sure that I am replaceable.

  • Mike Dougherty-384281

    SSCrazy

    Points: 2764

    Another good reason to be replaceable is that you should be able to "hand off" to a coworker so you can advance within the organization. If you've built yourself into a role so completely that it would be painful to your employer to move you up, then you'll be stuck there until you retire.

  • Jeff Moden

    SSC Guru

    Points: 995170

    What an incredible article. I wish more people had that attitude. I've often told people that if you're indespensable in your current position, you can't get a promotion, can't get a decent night's sleep, and can't take a vacation without your laptop and phone.

    And I agree with what "Dizzy" said above. It's a small world and news travels fast. If you leave someone in bad shape even just once, good luck trying to find another job in the local area.

    I also don't want to leave any co-workers hanging. In one of the shops I recently worked in, I was teaching the SQL Developers and the resident DBA everything I could on every project. One of the Developers asked me why I was making myself so replaceable by teaching them so much and so many "SQL tricks and secrets". My answer was "I'm not making myself more replaceable. They can replace me at the drop of a hat... any hat. No... You're a good person and a good developer and if something happens to me, I want you to succeed whether you stay here or not. Besides, if you were to say 'I worked with Jeff Moden', I'd want you to be able to live up to that claim." 🙂

    Sounds kind of corny to most but I've always said it and I live by it. "Pass it forward". The totally unexpected side effect of doing that is that it has come back a hundred fold.

    --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)

  • jasona.work

    SSC-Forever

    Points: 49923

    I agree that one should try to be "replaceable." As Jeff M pointed out, being replaceable means taking a vacation in peace, enjoying time with your friends and family in peace. The people who try to be "irreplaceable" are only hurting themselves, both in their personal and professional lives.

    One of the ways to work towards being replaceable is to document *everything*, document thoroughly, and make sure others know where to find this documentation (in the filing cabinet in the basement bathroom with the "beware of tiger" sign on the wall :hehe:)

    Jason

  • C# Automator guy

    SSC Rookie

    Points: 31

    I have a couple of different thoughts:

    I try to become valuable to a dept/company- not invaluable. Being invaluable means I created a position with no room to advance. Valuable means the right folks know what I do without me needing to stuff an ego with chest pounding (we all know that type 🙂 )- that's where reviews, bonuses & raises acknowledge my work. Knowing most people last 2 years or so in a position on average, a job just preps me for the next career challenge. Keeping things in order, documented, making time to cross train keeps me replaceable. It also makes me valuable as an asset. I don't work in a silo (when an issue is resolved, "try it now" isn't good enough of an explanation). I've seen a former enterprise drop 2,500 pink slips on colleagues desks 1 week before Christmas and it stuck: We are all rereplaceable so I use a job to make me more hireable the very next day- every day and that is my focus. As my skills get better, so does my level of proficiency at the current job. Make my skills more dedesirable than the next guys.

    It's a competitive thing with me: Yes, I'm replaceable but I'll make sure 1 person alone can't replace me. The last couple jobs replaced me with 2 to 2 1/4 new full timers, (2 as new hires) and that's a form of flattery especially when I cross trained my replacement and it's been established "things are in good order", "best practices are being followed"- and it still takes 2 people to replace me because of skills and proficiencies that are unique to me. That's flattery in my mind.

  • David.Poole

    SSC Guru

    Points: 75200

    Mike Dougherty-384281 (12/8/2012)


    Another good reason to be replaceable is that you should be able to "hand off" to a coworker so you can advance within the organization. If you've built yourself into a role so completely that it would be painful to your employer to move you up, then you'll be stuck there until you retire.

    Excellent point. Not much fun watching your colleagues get all the interesting projects and training courses while you are shovelling albatross turds simply because you've gained the knowledge to stop it pecking.

  • GeorgeCopeland

    SSCertifiable

    Points: 6896

    Mike Dougherty-384281 (12/8/2012)


    Another good reason to be replaceable [snip]

    I agree too and well said. I would point out that the Internet paradigm requires free exchange of information. If you silo your information, you are using an outmoded business model and you are on your way out. I will go so far as to say that making yourself irreplaceable by obscuring a system is unethical. Professionalism demands the opposite.

  • TravisDBA

    SSCoach

    Points: 15780

    The only DBA's, or even developers for that matter, in the companies I have had experience with in the past that have become "irreplaceable' is because the company let them become that way. By allowing them constantly to not share information, to not document things they are doing, or allow them to assume the "guru' status by letting them handle everything.. If company policy, or managers, allow for this sort of thing to happen in their departments then who do they have to blame? No one person just becomes irreplaceable unless they are allowed to ascend to that position IMHO. Knowledge sharing, resource delegation, and thorough documentation practices must be enforced at a company/department policy level. Otherwise, people with will by nature try to protect their own job security.:-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"

  • Sigerson

    Hall of Fame

    Points: 3697

    As usual, Steve got me to think about an old thing in a new way.

    We are all unique and irreplacable beings, and that's a good thing--except when you're responsible for someone else's data (ie, their business). In that situation, I can see that it's a lot more appropriate to consider myself a module, a replaceable unit. Might get hit by a bus, might get downsized, but it's a certainty I won't be here forever.

    And in that context as a data handling professional, and whatever I build or implement, I need to ask myself "what can I do to make it easier for the next person to understand and manage this when I'm gone?"

    I also agree 100% with Jeff Moden's Pay It Forward philosophy--I like to share what I know.

    Knowledge is power only when you share it. If you don't share it, it's a bottleneck.

    Sigerson

    "No pressure, no diamonds." - Thomas Carlyle

  • SQLRNNR

    SSC Guru

    Points: 281205

    Mike Dougherty-384281 (12/8/2012)


    Another good reason to be replaceable is that you should be able to "hand off" to a coworker so you can advance within the organization. If you've built yourself into a role so completely that it would be painful to your employer to move you up, then you'll be stuck there until you retire.

    Good point. I also like the viewpoint that being replaceable means you can take a vacation once in a while.:-D

    Jason...AKA CirqueDeSQLeil
    _______________________________________________
    I have given a name to my pain...MCM SQL Server, MVP
    SQL RNNR
    Posting Performance Based Questions - Gail Shaw[/url]
    Learn Extended Events

  • TravisDBA

    SSCoach

    Points: 15780

    Mike Dougherty-384281 (12/8/2012)


    Another good reason to be replaceable is that you should be able to "hand off" to a coworker so you can advance within the organization. If you've built yourself into a role so completely that it would be painful to your employer to move you up, then you'll be stuck there until you retire.

    True Mike, but on the other hand, I have also seen people use this advantage as leverage (hostage) to get what they want or else (raises, bonuses, promotions, job security, etc.). They threaten to leave suddenly leaving the company in the lurch, so management ultimately caves into them alot of times. Mind you, I am not condoning this behavior by any means, I am just saying that I have seen this many times in this industry over the years. Like I said above, its management's ultimate responsibility to ensure that no one corners a monopoly on knowledge or responsibility in their respective departments. You can't always count on employees to do this across the board for you. It's human nature for many to protect their job security, particularly in today's economy.. This is how some people do this. 😀

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

  • lptech

    Hall of Fame

    Points: 3188

    Once a particular task is repeatable, documentable, and doesn't involve much decision making, it can and should be moved lower down on the food chain. Because if it isn't, management will one day figure out that they aren't getting good value for the senior person's salary.

    The exception might be a very complex mission critical system, such as a high volume trading application. But it's important to note that a company wouldn't likely be betting it's entire business on one individual (which would make him/her a single point of failure, not that it has NEVER happened), so we are still back to 'replaceable' status.

    Back in the early days of my career, an instructor tried to impress us with the need to write concise code and include plenty of comments. He then said that in his company, many people thought that not doing so would give them job security, but it actually gave HIM job security fixing things long after they were gone.

  • Mike Dougherty-384281

    SSCrazy

    Points: 2764

    TravisDBA (12/10/2012)


    True Mike, but on the other hand, I have also seen people use this advantage as leverage (hostage) to get what they want or else (raises, bonuses, promotions, job security, etc.). They threaten to leave suddenly leaving the company in the lurch, so management ultimately caves into them alot of times. ...

    We have the opposite of this. There's a guy here who's been "the guy" for 20+ years. Nobody really wants to do the stuff he does; everybody was fine with that - including the IT Director. This guy goes through months of ill health and was in the hospital twice. That's when the IT Director realized that "disaster planning" should include these critical people... since their failure will take mission-critical Intellectual Property out of the organization.

    Since then we've been on a quest to capture & document his day-to-day operations. 🙂

  • Jennifer Levy

    Ten Centuries

    Points: 1102

    This is true for not just DBAs, but everyone who does anything that is not plain "a trained monkey could do it" work. Make yourself irreplaceable in other ways, but not with your everyday processes.

    Our lead programmer at my first job always told us, "Document everything. If you get hit by a beer truck on the way home from work tonight, someone needs to be able to pick up where you left off." Especially if you're leaving for one of the less morbid reasons, you don't want to burn your bridges with your co-workers when you might want to use them as references down the line.

    The "replaceable = able to take vacations" is right on the mark too. My entire team has been struggling to get our (constantly multiplying) "special case" processes documented and get others cross-trained so we don't have to be tied to our cellphones (or, worse, our computers and an acceptably secure net connection) when we take vacations. It doesn't always work, but it's gotten to the point where most of us only get one or two calls from our backups over a week's vacation as opposed to several-times-daily ones. Makes for a much happier team, and our users/clients are happier as well since they don't have to wait as long for resolution/completion when the primary is out.

    Jennifer Levy (@iffermonster)

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