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

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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.

Hunger

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?

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