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RE: dba mgt woes

From: <>
Date: Thu, 4 Aug 2005 23:12:49 -0400
Message-ID: <>

My CIO is fond of the following:

        There are old DBA's and there are bold DBA's, but there are no old bold DBA's.

I think he is somewhat right because when we're old and bold the experience "talks" first.

-----Original Message-----
[] On Behalf Of
Sent: Thursday, August 04, 2005 9:33 PM
To:;;; Cc:; Subject: RE: dba mgt woes


I am so thankful for the critical thinking and attention devoted to this original post.

My dream is to foster a team of dba's who think independently but who collaborate and work dynamically together to come up with best-practices, solutions beyond one person might think on their own.

I am challenged in managing different levels of staff, different environments, consultants and FTE's mixed in an organization that has not had a strong DBA role to do this.

I appreciate all of your input as it makes me think that my ideals are reachable and gives me some steps to take in dealing with my employees better.

I made peace with this young man, I will next give him some issues to work on - giving him a chance to come to his own solution - then being accepting and supportive as he walks me through his approach. I will continously remind myself of the mentoring I love to do.

Thanks for your input.

-----Original Message-----
[] On Behalf Of Murching, Bob Sent: Thursday, August 04, 2005 4:17 PM
To: ''; ''; ''
Cc: ''; '' Subject: RE: dba mgt woes

This has been a fantastic conversation. I hope that everyone following it has made some time to listen and absorb. Reading some of the responses, suddenly I've become aware of several things I may be doing right and several things I probably am doing wrong!

I believe the original poster alluded to several issues which shed light on important qualities for a DBA and are a challenge to nurture in others. (By no means am I an expert at this! But talk is therapeutic, so some thoughts

  1. Confidence must be calibrated to experience. Many DBAs are type A personalities, often justifiably so, but at the outset when they are far more self-confident than experienced, there can be a tendency to assume a failure of system, process, management, etc., when nine times out of ten the cause was human error due to lack of experience. "Your process does not work" is a great expression of this. This is difficult because while too much confidence is dangerous, not enough confidence can have much worse long-term consequences for a person. A solution is to give that person a mix of assignments, some to build up confidence and others to force that person to push a little bit beyond their limits and maybe learn to ratchet back any instinctive "couldn't have been my fault" reflexes they may have while learning something in the process. IMO, this is something you can only do so much to address, and when the situation hasn't changed after twelve months that is when you start thinking about a staffing change.
  2. Good gut instincts are critical. I don't think there is a more important quality for an intermediate to senior DBA and it's a must-have in any sort of production environment. DBAs have to deal with the unexpected more frequently than many other IT roles. Knowing how to zero in quickly on the right course of action is critical. Making quick, accurate, agile and adaptable decisions is critical. Quickly identifying when the current line of inquiry won't yield the answer is critical. When in unfamiliar waters, this becomes the difference between a DBA who solves issues in minutes vs. one who solves them over days. When developing good instincts, I do not know any substitute for experience. Install the software. Then tear it down and install it again. And again. And again. Make mistakes. Don't make mistakes. Try every option. Make note of every behavior at every step, and what consequences it led to. Every time it doesn't work, figure out where to go to fix it. Go through the long, boring and painful process of opening the TAR or asking for help from your teammates to fix it. Once its fixed, start all over. Then, months later when you get a novel error message you haven't seen before, chances are that something about it will remind you of something you encountered during "play." That's what good instincts are all about. >From a mentoring perspective, it's necessary for the manager to find ways to create an environment where people can play, even during work hours. It's equally necessary for the DBA to make time outside of those work hours to continue.
  3. Don't bother with people who regard database administration as a fancy title and big paycheck that come with minimal responsibilities and a clock-watcher attitude. This is a competitive field for ambitious and talented people. At the end of the day, it's a matter of pride in oneself. Pride in one's abilities and pride in how others regard him or her. If a person does not care, they need to pursue a career that is more vocational in nature. Yes, some DBA roles at some shops can be pretty mechanical: wait for the red light to light up, then hit the green button, all day long, week after week. Most DBAs however need to be faster on their feet, more agile, and prepared for constant and intense self-directed learning. They often are right there at the junction between servers, networks, operating systems, application code, security/regulatory compliance, business continuity, etc. ad nauseum. That's a huge responsibility and it requires smart, talented and aggressive people with pride in their jobs, pride in their team and teammates (AND manager!) and maybe even a competitive bone or two. In many fields, people can survive and indeed be successful even if they don't have all the qualities of a successful employee. Less so for the DBA---you really need to be the total package (or at least want to be) otherwise you will find yourself marginalized. I don't think this is adequately explained to many new DBAs, and some more seasoned DBAs tend to forget it. If you have other quality people, it would be a shame for them to miss out on your attention because someone else needs so much micromanaging.

There is some good advice given in this discussion that I agree with. "If you're still stuck after 30 minutes, ask for help" is excellent advice.
"Spend at least 30 minutes before asking for help" also is good advice. I think one strategy is to make this person (even if he is a Jr. DBA) a master of something--perhaps something simple like installing the software. Then use his confidence in that one thing as a point of reference in coaching him and pointing out his [comparative] weakness in other areas that you want him to work on.


-----Original Message-----
From: Allen, Brandon [] Sent: Thursday, August 04, 2005 12:52 PM To:; Cc:; Subject: RE: dba mgt woes

I wholeheartedly agree with the balance of work and play, and finding work that you enjoy - not just to make money, when possible (not everyone can be so fortunate). I also find it interesting that some people think their company owes them a big thank you, as if we are donating our time or something. Remember, they are paying us, so perhaps it should be the other way around and we should thank them for many years of employment - that is as long as they are paying fairly and treating us well.


-----Original Message-----
[]On Behalf Of Gints Plivna Sent: Thursday, August 04, 2005 9:36 AM
Cc:; Subject: Re: dba mgt woes

Hmm I assume these types could be united. I personally love technologies and especially Oracle and even more especially developing some nice apps with it. BUT. I'm also making sure my employer doesn't employ me too much. He pays me for 8 hours. Extra hours means extra money or at least (if these are sometimes and rare) big thanks. I'm learning many things also not only in my working hours but that's just because I like them, not because I feel obliged to do that.
Life can be lived only once, there are also other things apart from work.
I'v seen several people that worked very hard, worked past their official pension years and lastly when they were laid off, earth didn't collapse, our country stayed in the same place and even many times their company didn't say them very big Thank you after so many years of work. I don't want be like that.


On 8/4/05, Bellows, Bambi <> wrote:
> Bang on!
> I always said there are people in this field because they love the
> technology and there are people in this field because it's an easy way

> to make a nice living. I'm in the first category and naturally think
> the people in the second are a shallow bunch of twits. The folks in
> the second category naturally think that I am a nerd and not fit to
> teach their children how to dress.
> Twits.
> Best wishes,
> Bambi.


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Received on Thu Aug 04 2005 - 22:15:35 CDT

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