4 Attitudes I Wish I Had Earlier as a DBA

I was tagged by Mike Walsh (blog | twitter) in his post 4 Attitudes I Wish I Had Earlier As a DBA.

I Don’t Have to Do It Alone

I’ve always worked hard in my IT career to be knowledgeable in my field. I don’t like not knowing how to do something, and I’ll spend the time and research to figure out how to make something work or how to fix a problem. Early on in my career, whenever my team would encounter an issue, I took it as a personal challenge to solve every issue. At first this sounds great. Brian is being a real go-getter. But there’s a catch.

It hurts the team. When one person is solving all the problems, especially when that one person isn’t giving anyone else a chance, the rest of the team starts to become apathetic about new problems coming in. After all, Brian will solve it. This means one person, me, gets stuck with all the new problems. It destroys my work life balance. It means I don’t have a life. I get stressed out. I miss work. Suddenly there are problems that need solving and Brian is out. Or, two big problems hit at the same time. Brian can only work on one.

Now there’s a big problem. Since others stopped solving problems, the team isn’t prepared to solve the one Brian isn’t working on. As a result, Brian, the team, and the organization suffers. It’s one thing to be a high performer. It’s quite another to try and do it all alone. What I have learned is to be a high performer and to try and bring people along with me to also be high performers. Let’s solve the problems together, so others grow.

The Technical Solution Isn’t Always the Right Solution

This one took a long time for me to get. I like processes. I like solving technical problems. Often times I could see a technical solution to a problem, albeit a complex one. It took my last manager to get through my head this simple concept: sometimes the best solution is a people solution and not a technical one.

There isn’t a standard rule when this is true. However, when you start weighing a technical solution versus a people solution and the people solution looks less complex, it’s time to start seriously considering the people solution. This is especially true when you don’t need 100% adherence or when you have time to offer a few reminders.

People Skills Are Important

One of the reasons I received promotions early in my IT career is that I was able to talk with key business folks. I interacted well with HR when we were putting in a new software package. I could understand the PMs (probably because I was one in the USAF) and could give them estimates in their terms as well as explain variances due to issues being faced. However, I sometimes struggled with developers. Don’t all DBAs? Maybe, but most of the struggles were my own creation. Rather than asking the question, “What are you trying to solve?” and then working with the developer to find the answer, I was quick on the “No, you’re wrong,” stamp. That doesn’t do anyone any good. I have found that when I can remember to engage my people skills and not my rubber stamp, I am more effective at my job.

Remember Who Is the Boss

At the end of the day, I may feel a solution is not the best. I may not like it at all. However, unless I feel that a solution or an instruction causes me to compromise my morality or my integrity, if my management decides to go a certain direction, I’m supposed to execute. I can offer my objection to my management, but if they say, “This is the way it is,” then it’s time to stop fighting and go to it.

I knew this before becoming a DBA. After all, this is the way things work in the military. You can object, if there’s time, to your immediate chain-of-command and if that person says, “This is the way it is,” you are supposed to make the command your own. However, when I got into the civilian workplace, I somehow forgot this way of thinking. I know a few situations earlier in my career would have gone a lot better if, having voiced my objections, I hunkered down and got the work done.

 

Nothing earth-shattering, but hopefully it’ll help someone else.

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The Scary DBA Comes to Columbia, SC

Grant Fritchey*sound of glass crashing* *cue theme music*

(in a wrestling announcer’s shocked voice) “It can’t be! He’s not supposed to be here! It’s the Scary DBA! What’s he doing here!”

That’s right, folks, SQL Server MVP Grant Fritchey (blog | twitter) will be coming to speak in Columbia, SC on May 22, 2014. You can register to attend (free) here:

Midlands PASS – May 22nd Meeting with Grant Fritchey

Here is what Grant will be talking about:

Building a Database Deployment Pipeline

The pace of business accelerates fairly continuously and application development moves right with it. But we’re still trying to deploy databases the same way we did 10 years ago. This session addresses the need for changes in organizational structure, process and technology necessary to arrive at a nimble, fast, automatable and continuous database deployment process. We’ll use actual customer case studies to illustrate both the common methods and the unique context that led to a continuous delivery process that is best described as a pipeline. You will learn how to customize common practices and tool sets to build a database deployment pipeline unique to your environment in order to speed your own database delivery while still protecting your organization’s most valuable asset, it’s data.

 

If you are closer to Raleigh or Charlotte, Grant will also be appearing in those venues. You can find details about those visits at the Charlotte SQL Server user group site.

 

Presenting on Security at Midlands PASS

On Thursday, February 13, 2014, I’ll be at Midlands PASS in Columbia, SC. We’ll be meeting from 5:30 PM to about 7:30 PM. I’ll once again be given an open ended SQL Server security talk. Here’s the description:

Midlands PASS Chapter’s annual SQL Server security refresher! This is an open-ended discussing hosted by SQL Server MVP and resident SQL Server security expert, Brian Kelley. Bring your scenarios and questions and we’ll work through the best ways to build security solutions for and using Microsoft SQL Server.

We meet at Microstaff IT in Cayce, SC. They are a great host and we enjoy the accommodations. If you’re in the area, please stop on by!

We do ask that you RSVP so we know how much food to bring.

Being a Better IT Pro – Keep It Short

Keep your emails and communications as short as possible.

Make sure you cover everything you absolutely need to, but nothing more. When an email is too long, people won’t read it. Don’t believe me? Think about your own habits. When you see a wall of text, what do you do? If you’re the type to dig in and read, realize you are an exception.

Seth Godin wrote that the tl;dr reason is foolish. His point is one can’t judge quality by length. He is 100% correct. However, most people do. If you want your emails and communications read, keep them short and to the point. The shorter the better while still communicating what you need to get across.

Being a Better IT Pro – Grammar

In my IT career, one of the things I have found that sets me apart is my ability to write. As IT pros, we write a lot. Whether we’re talking email or documentation, senior level IT workers are always writing. However, not all of us graduated college with a degree in English. I certainly didn’t. The good news is you don’t have to have an English degree to write well. Writing well consists of understanding the rules, observing good writing, and practicing.

One of the biggest areas that folks struggle is with respect to grammar. A grammatical mistake can obliterate an otherwise well-written message. Here are some of the big offenders:

CopyBlogger: 15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly

Do you struggle with any of these rules? The best way to overcome the problematic rule is to study the rule and then practice using it. For instance, the rule on there, their, and they’re is one a lot of people get wrong. There refers to a place, their is possessive, and they’re is a contraction of they are. If I was having an issue with this rule, I’d try to write 20 sentences of each example. After a few days of practice, I’d have the rule down. If you’ve never tried this exercise, it works on the concept of deliberate practice.

Master these 15 rules as a start to writing better. Writing, like most other skills, is a skill you can always improve on. Professional writers are always writing. They are always trying to improve. Even though writing isn’t our primary skill, it is still an important one for any IT worker. Invest time and effort in your writing and you greatly benefit your career.

Speaking at SQL Saturday #233–Washington, DC

For those who will be at SQL Saturday #233 in Washington, DC, I’ll be giving my professional development talk, Being the Swiss Army Knife of DB Pros, at 9:45 AM.

My career is ever evolving and so is my talk. For instance, I have just returned to the role of an infrastructure and security architect, once again stepping away from being a full-time DBA.  This brings new relevance to some of the material in my presentation. So even if you’ve seen it before, I hope there will be something new for you.

If I were to sum up my talk with one quote, this one I found recently from Miyamoto Musashi’s The Book of Five Rings is appropriate:

“You should not have a favorite weapon. To become over-familiar with one weapon is as much a fault as not knowing it sufficiently well.”

I hope to see you in Washington, DC.