Trumpet Sounds; Call To Post

ChurchillThis past weekend was the KY Derby. All eyes are on this one day of horse racing; celebrities come in to town in what seems to be a whirlwind two days. According to experts over 100 million dollars is pumped into the local economy.

I get to see all the hoopla firsthand, and throughout the week can walk down the street from the shop and see no telling who walking down the street on their way to the limos, Escalade’s, and the such.

The Race

Then comes the day of the race. The big race where people go to the track spend the day, and then in the evening for 2 minutes, which has been deemed by others as the most exciting 2 minutes in sports, the horses are loaded in and off they go. Some 160k people cheering in the stands and millions of dollars are at stake.

The horses start off in a pack going into turn 1,2, and 3. Jockey’s maneuver their way in the field to position themselves for that final stretch. Turn 4 and horses are in their stride; jockeys kick it into gear and now an all out sprint ensues. Sometimes there is a dead heat; sometimes there is a huge gap, but nonetheless it is a mad dash to the finish.

The DBA Race

As I went throughout the week leading up to the Derby my mind kept wondering to how closely it reminded me of the life of a Data Professional. Being a Data Professional means that you will be in the same space and many other fellow Data Professionals and if you pay attention closely all jockeying for that last leg to the finish line. I’ve kind of stepped back and started looking at how I was running the race.

If you go at an all out sprint in turns 1,2,3 would you really have anything left on turn 4 in the home stretch?

What if you laid back in the field and waited for the opportune time but come to find out you waited to long and the bottleneck wouldn’t give you a clear shot at the end goal?

Or you could be like the one jockey I saw get thrown from their horse during the race.

I’m finding that being a Data Professional and, to be more exact, being a DBA my journey can be at times related to a race. I remember when I first started out how excited you become; just like starting out of the gate. Then, as you go through your journey and you see some of the Data Professionals that you started out with start to fade. Whether they get burned out, choose a different career, move on, or whatever the case may be the numbers start to drop then it is another cycle where new faces come in.

The Call To Post

The trumpeter starts the call and in walk the Data Professionals, as we get ready to prepare to run our race don’t settle for the being average. What are some of the ways when you start out of the gate as a DBA you can do to prepare yourself  for the journey? I’m not sure there is any one right answer but I can share with you what has helped me along the way. It’s not rocket science and it is not something that you can snap your fingers and it be done. If this helps just one aspiring DBA then so be it; it would be worth it.

  • Community – I was late to this game and had I become more involved with the community earlier on in my career I believe it would have helped me more. I’ve already elaborated on my “Fab Five” and if you haven’t read that yet check it out. For me I looked for people in my industry who were at the top of their game and who I knew were what I considered the best of the best. Learning from others in the community is a huge positive and one can garner much knowledge from others if we would do just two things – be still and listen.
  • Initiative – how bad do you want it? If you are expecting someone to hand you success and you are a data professional then you are in the wrong business. Early on in life I was taught discipline and a hard work ethic. If you want it that’s fine; go after it and prove to yourself that you can do it.  One quote I always remember being told to me is that “Somewhere someone is practicing getting better at the skill and goals you want to achieve; how bad do you want it?”
  • The Craft – learn it; live it; breath it. If you are a DBA like myself then what are some of the things that you can do to enhance your shop? Perhaps it is implementing a maintenance strategy around index fragmentation, or is it disaster recovery? Have you restored that backup yet, do you know if you were asked for a restore from 3 days ago could you do it? How about exploring the Plan Cache and getting a feel for how your stored procedures are acting? Oh wait do you know if you have any missing indexes present in your current environment? Speaking of environment have you documented your environments yet? So much work to be done in this are that a paragraph in a blog post doesn’t do it justice.
  • Ask Questions – have you ever been in a session or speaking with a group of people and you wanted to ask a question but didn’t because you thought it would make you appear to not know what you are talking about. Guess what, we’ve all been there. The end of the day every question is valid. If you don’t know then say you don’t know; research and find the answer that is called learning. The challenge is to continually learn; go back up to my Community point. My “Fab-Five” are ones that continually learn and hone their craft and skill set.
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – now don’t take this point and execute something in production that causes your company an outage and money. No that’s not what I’m saying. Think outside the box; test new alternatives and do so in a manner that meets your shops integrity and criteria with environments.  Why wait for someone else to come to a solution; everyone can bring something to the table.

The Roses

Every horse that wins the Derby is dawned with roses over their mane. Guys I don’t know when my race will end, but when that time comes I want people to realize that I gave it my all with integrity, character, honesty, and in a trustworthy manner. I want that developer to be able to come to me and not worry about me chewing his head off (yes that has happened before), or the network guy who can come talk to me about space concerns, heck why not throw in the business unit requesting some help with architect something out. No we (DBAs) aren’t perfect and days will come where we flat out fubarb and make a mess out of it, but guess what? How did you run the race?

Rest assured we’ll get to the finish line one day. Let’s have some fun along the way and realize that we won’t be perfect everyday, run a steady race, and continue to work hard day in and day out. For it is in the face of adversity when true character will shine through.

For those just starting out check out the advice in a collaboration John Sansom made happen that I was honored to be a part of. For those that have been around keep working hard. Hard work will pay off; keep fighting the good fight.

If you could give a DBA just one piece of advice, what would it be?


This post is part of the SQL Community Project #DBAJumpStart by John Sansom.

“If you could give a DBA just one piece of advice, what would it be?”

John asked 20 successful and experienced SQL Server professionals this exact question. I share my own thoughts with you below and you can find all our answers together inside DBA JumpStart, a unique collection of inspiring content just for SQL Server DBAs. Be sure to get your free copy of DBA JumpStart.

Two Essential Pieces to Your Success Puzzle

“If you could give an aspiring DBA just one piece of advice what would it be?”

This is a question that has stood the test of time; one that has been asked by many aspiring DBA’s on their journey. Some might say that you need to be centralized and good at one technical aspect such as replication, ETL processing, database mirroring, disaster recovery, or log shipping. All the technical aspects that a DBA must learn and endure along their journey are all prevalent and are a must for success, but over my thirteen year career to date I can visualize taking a new DBA and, if they are adaptable, teach them along the way.

For me I see two very important pieces to the puzzle that many miss, few obtain, and those who do are humble in their practice.


Most people will look at my title of this section and be thinking, “What in the world is this guy talking about, hunger?” No, I am not speaking of food in a literal sense or being hungry for literal food, but do you have the hunger and the drive to learn?

I’ve been around long enough to know and understand the personas of a lot of the all-knowing DBA’s; do they exist – sure they do but the more prevalent ones I’ve noticed something different about and they are the ones who have a hunger or desire to better their skill set day in and day out.

There will be many days on one’s journey that the DBA will experience frustration as the DBA will wear many hats along the way; however each challenge that presents itself can be viewed as an opportunity to learn and find a resolution. Write your own learning destiny, success doesn’t come handed to you. It is something that you have to want and strive for.

Be Exceptional

You may or may not have heard the term “How do I become an exceptional DBA?”.

Being exceptional is going above and beyond the desired task at hand. This can have a broad meaning; how are your communication skills with others such as the business teams, development teams, release management teams, QA teams? Or when you are faced with an issue do you follow it through to the end or do you wait for someone else to help? Or is there something else noteworthy that in your field you can look on and gauge where you are at professionally?

Being exceptional is, at times, doing things that no one else wants to do. For example, the places I have worked at in my career I like to come in and first thing I ask my boss is, “I’d like to have the things that no one else wants to do”. Guess what, so far a lot of times it has been documentation on the system and processes which uncovers a plethora of information about the environment.

I have been asked by many people how do I get there? How do I achieve being exceptional? Each individual is different and circumstances surrounding that individual are different.

For me, I grew up playing sports and was heavily involved with team consensus at an early age and into college that has carried over into my career – I’ve always tried to surround myself with people who have been through the trials before; having a good team. Today, like so many others, I look up to people I consider top in our industry – the Brent Ozar’s, Paul Randal’s, Glenn Berry’s, John Sansom’s, Chris Shaw’s, John Sterrett’s, and Adam Machanic’s. If you have never gotten involved with the SQL community itself start now. The men and women in our industry share knowledge like no other community and a lot of times it is free. Let me ask you this….have you ever been to a technical blog by any of them, checked out SQL server forums such as SQLServerCentral, or logged onto twitter and followed these people. The wealth of knowledge you can pick up on is phenomenal and some of the free tools they offer so you don’t have to re-invent the wheel such as sp_whoisactive, sp_blitz, or Glenn Berry’s diagnostic queries are outstanding!

Whatever the situation, issue or challenge may be, take a step back and be exceptional. Provide leadership through service, and at times put away our ego and pride and just listen – you will be surprised at what you can pick up on by just being a sponge.

Make a Commitment to Yourself

I ask this question of you today….what is your hunger level and after taking inventory are you striving to be an exceptional DBA, or are you satisfied with just showing up?

Be hungry, be motivated, and be exceptional. I will not sit here and expect you to believe that every day will be a rose garden when dealing with DBA tasks, but what I can guarantee is that each person has the ability to make a difference and impact in their respective environments. It only takes one – will you be that one?