Where Do You End Up as a DBA?

  • Steve Jones - SSC Editor

    SSC Guru

    Points: 716540

    Comments posted to this topic are about the item Where Do You End Up as a DBA?

  • Yet Another DBA

    SSCarpal Tunnel

    Points: 4299

    Where?? pass

    But the simpler question as 'As what?' then the answer becomes: a jaded cynic, with all the optimism of IT getting better buried by the ever increasing list of ORMs. And the last glimmer of hope of logic and sensibility surviving to the end of the week being shattered by the new project demand of a square wheel coloured an interesting shade of blue.


  • Gary Varga

    SSC Guru

    Points: 82166

    Most jobs in IT stop progressing either:

    a) when you die whilst still working


    b) when you decide to retire soon and will stay where you are until that point.

    That may sound depressing but what I am suggesting is that until you have finished, or are very close to doing so, you cannot know what is going to happen and all plans are fluid by necessity.


    -- Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen...they're everywhere!!!

  • sean redmond


    Points: 5740

    I have several answers to this based on the careers of people I have seen:

    1. You become the super-DBA — you master as much of your chosen RDBMS as possible. You are so fast and so reliable that you are worth the extra money. You allow the company to take on bigger projects, you do the work of several DBAs or you save the company money by rehabilitating moribund projects. Consultancy is in this category.

    2. You become the indispensable DBA — you become the person the company is afraid to fire. People, especially underlings, will hate you. You may not get more money, but you are essentially your own boss.

    3. You branch out — having mastered the day-to-day running of SQL Server, you start to learn Oracle or DB2. The career path is up into Government and large corporations.

    4. Systems Architecture — you branch into the design and running of whole systems.

  • Stephanie J Brown

    Hall of Fame

    Points: 3866

    They end up on the "DBA TEAM". Or chasing them. 😀

    Here there be dragons...,

    Steph Brown

  • Ed Wagner

    SSC Guru

    Points: 286959

    I found the article fascinating. When I think about it, the factors of money, challenge and stability are the ones we all look for and struggle with. I think it's largely about balance. I don't know anyone who wants to go to work every day and simply check the backups and not much else. Even if you make a lot of money, without a challenge, there's no fun in it. A high-stress environment can make it hard as well. Then again, nobody wants a challenge that's impossible to meet, such as drawing a red circle with 3 perpendicular lines in blue ink.

    I think the balance between money, challenge and stability is one we all struggle to find. Those that are really blessed not only find it, but also actually enjoy doing it.

  • Xavon


    Points: 2280

    I have found the challenge and money are often mutually exclusive.

    Large, established companies are frequently already set up well. The day to day business is fairly stable (which is not to say their aren't emergencies), new systems are either carefully developed so as not to rock the boat, or are done so in specially constructed (and disposable) silos so as not to cause problems when they break.

    Meanwhile small start-ups have to do more with less. And are more likely to try risky and interesting things. But they also tend to not be able to pay as well.

    Of course, none of that is hard and fast rules, just what I have seen in my career and what most of the people I know have told me their jobs were like.

  • jworthington


    Points: 7

    I definitely agree with your point that it's all about your colleagues along the way. Working in a collegial environment with great colleagues raises the bar for everyone on the team, and motivates everyone to perform to their full capacity, even to grow and expand the breadth and depth of their abilities.

    But to answer the question: Where do DBA's end up? The exact same place as everyone else - Dead, Buried and Anonymous!

  • Eric M Russell

    SSC Guru

    Points: 125032

    "Where do senior DBAs land finally?"

    That's a self-answering question. If you want to do something more, then you have to become something else besides a senior level DBA.

    That said, there is a lot of variation in what a DBA or Database Developer is and does. Depending on the organization, or one's specific role within the organization, a "Senior Level DBA" could spend 80% of their time:

    - monitoring processes and managing backups

    - writing T-SQL code

    - building reports and dashboards

    - sitting in meetings

    - traveling and speaking

    - browsing the web, staring out the window, and polishing their resume

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

  • shoestringdba


    Points: 6206

    I'm with Steve: Environment and co-workers are the real deciding factors. You only "land" or "end up" six feet under. Even then don't be too sure. 😀

    I can't be micromanaged. I put up with A LOT of it doing field support for several years, but to some extent that's the nature of the job. So now I'm in a position where it's me and the boss, and he's been shanghaied into a lot of financial and analytics work - mostly because I showed up.

    I'm really the geek, the office nerd, the computer guy, the local help desk, the database guy, the Accidentally-on-Purpose DBA, ad nauseum. I work a 40-hour week (with rare-to-occasional off-hours support as is always the case with IT). I'm not my own boss but I'm probably the next closest thing. I've got a lot of latitude in how I do my job. I've got my own SQL Server sandbox to play with. I can pursue pretty much any project that interests me. Sometimes they actually prove useful. Most times I'm just learning some principle of relational databases or some technical point about SQL Server. I've always got to be exploring, learning and chasing stupid little rabbits that cross my path now and again. I've got to set things on the back burner to boil and bubble until something useful pops out.

    In short, I get to play with cool toys at work and they actually pay me for it.

    Not to say we don't have our challenges (John Sansom had a SFTW link to an Inc. story on "The Law of Crappy People" which is a great read and a fair description of certain parts of our company, but I digress...). But the team I work with in my office is overwhelmingly comprised of people who care about the work they do and do it well. That's rare in the workplace.

    My wife and I joked for several years we felt like the Isrealites following "a pillar of fire at night and a pillar of smoke in the daytime." We'd park somewhere for a while and when it became obvious it was time to go a different direction we'd pack up and go, sometimes literally. I came very, very close to leaving my current job about this time last year (along with almost everyone in my office) due to reasons which are much too involved to explain. But things settled down and I'm having a grand time of it. When the pillar moves, I'll be on my way.

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

  • DEK46656


    Points: 2001

    Sean Redmond (2/20/2015)

    4. Systems Architecture — you branch into the design and running of whole systems.

    This is what I've seen most.

    Beer's Law: Absolutum obsoletum
    "if it works it's out-of-date"

  • bernard black


    Points: 463

    Interesting and thoughtful article. At 56 years of age, the article was right up my alley. I am reminded of what Charles DeGaulle said to a staffer when someone was deemed to be indispensable: "The cemeteries are filled with indispensable men."

  • Sioban Krzywicki

    One Orange Chip

    Points: 27769

    Wanted to point out that there's another consulting route besides "Work with a company" and "Start your own consultancy". I was a consultant for 20 years and I never worked for a single consulting agency. Every time a job ended or I was ready to move on I worked with every agency in the area that listened to me and provided good leads. That ranged from 5 to 20 agencies at a time. Work as a W2 employee for each of them when they get you a contract and they take care of taxes and float your paycheck. You also don't have to have consulting insurance that way.

    When you encounter a problem, if the solution isn't readily evident go back to the start and check your assumptions.
    It’s unpleasantly like being drunk.
    What’s so unpleasant about being drunk?
    You ask a glass of water. -- Douglas Adams

  • GoofyGuy


    Points: 6029

    Where do you think Senior DBAs end up?

    In the grave, as far away from deceased programmers as is possible.

  • Steve Jones - SSC Editor

    SSC Guru

    Points: 716540

    Stephanie J Brown (2/20/2015)

    They end up on the "DBA TEAM". Or chasing them. 😀

    The DBA Team

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