My Biggest Regret as a Database Administrator

Is one simple, small thing. It’s not spending as much time as I possibly can with other people.

These Are Actual People

A DBA’s Time Is Limited

There’s almost always more things to be done that a DBA has time for. Some people I know are great database administrators because they’re very great parent types– they’re responsible, they’re organized, they like to keep everything in line, and they want to take care of something and raise it up to behave right and do well in the world. They actually care about their databases– I don’t mean this as a metaphor, they actually care about them.

But a database is a hard thing to love. It doesn’t talk, or think. It’s really just a bunch of 1’s and 0’s. It’s not that caring is bad, it’s just that if you care too much about your database then you end up stuck in the details of the thousand and one things that threaten its perfection.

And, Seriously, People Have Issues

This is clearly true in more than one sense.

Yeah, other people have reality TV issues. And they also have data issues. Can you make this query run faster? Oh, and these numbers don’t add up. What was the cause of the outage last week? Have you released this new code yet?

When are you planning to apply the latest patches? What new features are available in the next version? Is this table in replication? If so, what will happen when I remove these three columns? Oh, and by the way, we want to do some key changes on that billion row table.

Have you refreshed the preproduction environment? The dev server won’t start up. Can I have your IM address?

But Still, The People Are What’s Most Important

Really. I mean this.

It’s fairly obvious that I’m a serious geek and a technical person at heart. I have fancy certifications, a giant stack of books, and I know a TON of acronyms: that’s gotta be good enough to show something, right? But still, I’m the one who’s sitting here and saying that other people are what got me where I am today more than anything else. It’s 100% true. As much as I’ve tried to teach myself things from the internet, from classes, and from books, 99% of my knowledge has come from users, sys admins fellow DBAs, and developers in the trenches. Even (GASP), my SAN admins.

These other people who taught me what an index does and how to get that query to use it. They showed me how to tell why things are slow in SQL Server. They taught me how to build out hardware and how to figure out what components go into a SAN. My coworkers taught me how to build software and how to make it better every single day. Sometimes it was their job to teach me, sometimes they were just good people, and sometimes we were just having fun. I tried to give back as much as I could, but looking back it’s hard to express how grateful I am for all of that help along the way.

As a DBA, I’ve always spent a lot of time with people. But my biggest regret is not spending even more time, and not listening even more. Because working with people has always been the very best part of my job. Your coworkers will give you so much, if you just let them.

3 Responses to My Biggest Regret as a Database Administrator

  1. John Halunen October 30, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    I seem to remember someone with a kendrl login teaching me a bunch 🙂 That love goes both ways, and is well worth your/our time.

  2. Andy Galbraith (@DBA_ANDY) October 31, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    “These are actual people” – I always though Brent was a robot….

    • Kendra Little October 31, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

      It is confusing, particularly since Jeremiah is always talking about his robot army.

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