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Re: DBA tasks by experience

From: Peter Barnett <>
Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2007 07:18:07 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <>

We have trained a number of DBAs with varying degrees of success. A couple of thoughts based on this experience.

  1. Make sure that the trainee really knows what s/he is getting into. Many people are not prepared for the fact that weekends, nights and holidays are prime time for DBAs. On call or being perpetually lashed to your cell phone are just part of the job. To most on this list this is just the job. To a trainee it can come as a real shock. Three trainees did not survive this shock.
  2. Degrees and certifications do not equal a successful trainee. Scratch two more with Master's degrees who found the day-to-day stress of production support and the demands of developers to be too much.
  3. Do not end the training/mentor program too soon. Most will be able to pick up the routine work in fairly short order. Usually, they are on call within six months of starting their training. Make sure that they have someone specifically assigned to back them up when they are on call. Also, when that first production recovery call comes to them, have a plan to make them successful - even if it is two years after they are 'trained'.
  4. Notes without context do no one any good - make sure that they take good notes and then make sure that they read and use the notes that they have taken. When you tell someone for the third time exactly the same thing and they diligently write it down you know that they are not using the notes that they have taken or do not understand either the question, the answer, or both. Start asking them questions.
  5. Patience, patience, patience.... It took me five years to become a decent DBA, ten years to become really good. Doubtless, there are many people on this list smarter than me but expecting a trainee to be fully ready for everything in less time is probably not realistic.
    • Stephane Faroult <> wrote:

I fully subscribe to this. There are tons of things you do when you know well a topic that are not laid out very explicitly in docs, you don't waste your time on many details, and a beginner who watches an old hand operating learns must faster than by reading docs or trying things alone; especially when he asks questions and forces the old hand to explain things done more or less intuitively in the light of experience; even the tutor benefits from this type of question. When I started on Oracle (technical support, good grief) I was lucky enough to share the office of someone who was 15 years my senior, had a lot of experience on databases (not necessarily relational ones because that was long ago) and explained to me a lot of things that any amount of RTFMing wouldn'd have taught me as fast, even if the volume of Oracle docs was far, far less daunting then than it is now. After all, whenever you go to a course and are happy with an instructor, it's usually because his or her teaching style is more like tutoring than lecturing - it's always the voice of experience that appeals.

   I have bought some time ago "Teach what you know" by Steve Trautman, there are very interesting things in it about organizing tutoring; no magical recipe, but very good guidelines. There is a chapter in it about learning styles which is probably the one I liked best (free ad :-)).

HTH Stephane Faroult  

On Tue Sep 25 3:56 , "Rumpi Gravenstein" sent:

In all things training the time tested apprentice method should not be overlooked or under-appreciated. I've found that what works best is beginner working with expert, (think watered down extreme programming
with both working together on the same projects and tasks -- expert guiding the work, parceling out sub-tasks, and reviewing everything that is done. As the novice comes up to speed there's less and less supervision. While this is an intensive approach, when done faithfully you should come close to cloning the best around while avoiding those bad habits that can develop with guesses that seem to work but don't account for all that is possible.

To recap, don't put beginners in an environment by themselves, where they can, mind you this is the best of circumstances -- relearn all the hard lessons by themselves. Better, pair them up with your best preferably someone with a gentle hand, and watch what develops.

On 9/24/07, GovindanK <> wrote:               

How about putting beginners to Development db's to start with and then move on to QC / UAT etc? That would give you some breathing time to arrive at the criticality.



Rumpi Gravenstein

Pete Barnett        

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-- Received on Tue Sep 25 2007 - 09:18:07 CDT

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