Where Do You End Up as a DBA?

  • bmg002

    SSC-Insane

    Points: 22352

    I have been working as a DBA for about 8 years (roughly) and I don't see the "light" at the end of the tunnel for becoming a Sr. DBA anywhere near.  Every time I think I learned enough that I can make things work as I need, I hear about a cool new technology.

    I agree that there isn't a "finish line" for being a Sr. DBA; it depends entirely on what you, the individual, wants and enjoys.  Also, what job duties you enjoy.  Some companies consider the DBA role to be a "can you do the thing with the database?  then it is a DBA role".  So BI work falls on the DBA; data warehousing falls on the DBA; backup and maintenance falls on the DBA; windows updates to the SQL servers falls on the DBA; database object creation falls on the DBA.  Other companies have more segregated duties.  Data warehouse falls on the database analyst.  BI work falls on the BI team.  windows updates falls on the infrastructure team.  Object creation falls on the database developer.  Backup and maintenance falls on the DBA.

    Some people really enjoy the back end index tweaking and statistics maintenance tasks, installing updates... all the stuff that happens to keep the lights on that nobody other than the DBA really think about.  Others like their work to be flashy and in your face so they may enjoy building the SSRS reports.  Others enjoy the development work.  I think a lot of it falls on what you enjoy doing as well.

    Your career path aiming for a Sr. DBA role may be all about building janky reports while mine may be about getting that index tuned JUST right so the inserts are optimal while still having good performance on the selects.  Or you may enjoy grabbing data from all over the place and making a nice little data warehouse or master data management system while I prefer building my own backup and maintenance scripts.

    And the DBA role is changing.  With the advance of Azure and getting the data into the cloud (either via VM or SQL Server in Azure), and the cool new features in newer SQL versions (like the query store), the duties of a DBA are changing.  If you want to be a Sr. DBA at the end of your career, you need to keep up with the new technology.

  • David.Poole

    SSC Guru

    Points: 75108

    One caution I would add is that if you operate in a specialist area that only other DBAs will appreciate then you risk being invisible within your organisation except for a small set of colleagues.

    Operating in an invisible space means that your needs and desires are totally off the company radar.  Decisions that have profound implications for you will be taken and you probably won't have any influence or voice on those decisions.  Those who are good at marketing their skills get heard.  Sometimes these people are good technically, sometimes their self-marketing skills far exceed their technical talent.

  • Eric M Russell

    SSC Guru

    Points: 124988

    David.Poole wrote:

    One caution I would add is that if you operate in a specialist area that only other DBAs will appreciate then you risk being invisible within your organisation except for a small set of colleagues. Operating in an invisible space means that your needs and desires are totally off the company radar.  Decisions that have profound implications for you will be taken and you probably won't have any influence or voice on those decisions.  Those who are good at marketing their skills get heard.  Sometimes these people are good technically, sometimes their self-marketing skills far exceed their technical talent.

    Speaking about marketing and self promotion, it makes me think about data scientists.  😉

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

  • Beatrix Kiddo

    SSC-Dedicated

    Points: 32347

    Such a good point, David Poole.

    Always at the back of my mind is a former manager who said to me "Ah, but DBAs never do anything else". He was trying to provoke me into getting off my backside and seeing what else I could do with my skills, but obviously it stings a bit too. I enjoy being a [Sr.] DBA and it's a well-paid job, but I don't want to do it for another 30 years, nor even necessarily for the next 3. (Not wishing to sound ungrateful either.)

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