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Career Advice: Personality, Traits, and Attributes of a DBA


Good evening Mr. Fernandez,

I am a customer support rep for a software company who is slowly making a transition to Junior Unix systems engineer. I actually start in March of next year in my new role. I have placed your book Beginning Oracle Database 11g Administration: From Novice to Professional into my wish list for my wife to get me as a Xmas gift.

I really look forward to cracking it open and beginning my road to determining if a career path in Oracle development or database administration is the right one for me. I have already downloaded a free version of the Oracle database on to my laptop so that I can follow along with your book.

I guess I am writing this email to you to find out if you had any advice for a complete newbie who still hasn’t decided which direction I should go? In other words what type of personality, traits, attributes you believe are important for a DBA?

Dear M.,

Congratulations on convincing your management to give you this opportunity; you must have impressed them with your capabilities and adaptability. In an interview published in the July 2007 issue of the NoCOUG Journal, Jeremiah Wilton answered your question in these words: “Of far greater importance than seniority is a DBA’s ability to solve problems in a deductive and logical manner, to synthesize creative solutions to problems, and to forge positive and constructive business relationships with colleagues and clients. For years at Amazon, we simply tried to hire extraordinarily smart people with a strong interest in working with Oracle and others. Some of Amazon’s most senior DBAs started with little or no Oracle experience. I believe that the focus on experience in specific technologies and seniority causes employers to pay more and get less than they could when filling DBA positions.”

I agree with most of what Jeremiah said except that I don’t believe that one has to be “extraordinarily smart” to succeed as a database administrator (or system administrator). I’ll let you in on a personal secret; I have two decades of database administration experience but may not know how to start or stop your databases. The operative word is “your.” I know how to start and stop my databases but I may not know how to stop or start your databases. Every individual situation is different. Oracle Database 10g is available for numerous flavors of Unix (including Mac OS X Server) as well as Microsoft Windows, HP OpenVMS, and IBM z/OS. You may be using an HA solution such as Microsoft Cluster Server, Veritas Cluster Server, HP Serviceguard, Solaris Cluster, or Oracle RAC. That’s only the tip of the iceberg of possibilities that one may encounter in the field. The solution is to document standard operating procedures. If you do so, you will greatly increase your chances of success. If you neglect to do so, you will greatly increase your chances of failure. The “extraordinarily smart database administrator” will also be less successful if he or she doesn’t document standard operating procedures. I cannot say it often enough, so I’ll say it again. Document your standard operating procedures.

I suggest that you study for certification exams such as the Oracle OCA certification exam. As a junior system administrator or database administrator you need a structured study program such as provided by a certification curriculum. You’ll want to invest in a beginning SQL text such as Beginning Oracle SQL by Lex de Haan et al. And to prepare for your first day on the job, I recommend reading Chapter 2: “Now What Do I Do?” of DBA Survivor: Become a Rock Star DBA by Thomas LaRock (reprinted in the November 2010 issue of the NoCOUG Journal).

Merry Christmas,

Iggy

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Categories: Career Advice, DBA, Oracle
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