Being a successful database administrator requires more than just deep technical knowledge of database systems. Gaining the technical know-how is important, yes, but there are many sources that offer technical guidance for DBAs. The non-technical aspects of database administration are just as challenging, yet there are fewer guiding resources to help. With this in mind, let’s look at the 10 “rules of thumb” for DBAs to follow as they work on their career:
- Document everything: DBAs encounter many challenging tasks and time-consuming problems. The wise DBA always documents the processes used to resolve problems and overcome challenges. Such documentation can be very valuable (both to you and others) should you encounter a similar problem in the future.
- Keep everything: Database administration is the perfect job for you if you are a pack rat. It is a good practice to keep everything you come across while performing your job. If not, it will always seem as if you need that stuff the day after you throw it out!
- Automate: Anything you can do, probably can be done better by the computer—if it is programmed to do it properly. And once it is automated, you can save yourself valuable time that is better spent tackling other problems. Increasingly, AI and machine learning will be incorporated into automated DBA routines, making automation even more applicable and important.
- Share your knowledge: The more you learn, the more you should try to share what you know with others. There are many vehicles for sharing your knowledge, such as local user groups, online forums, web portals, magazines, blogs, Twitter, and so on. Furthermore, explaining things to others helps to reinforce the knowledge in your head.
- Focus your efforts: It is easy for a DBA to get overwhelmed with certain tasks—especially those tasks that are not performed regularly. Understand the purpose for each task you are going to perform and focus on performing the steps that will help you to achieve the goal. Do not be persuaded to broaden the scope of work for individual tasks unless it cannot be avoided. Analyze, simplify, and focus—only then will tasks become measurable and easier to achieve.
- Don’t panic: Problems will occur. There is nothing you can do to eliminate every possible issue or error. Part of your job is to be able to react to problems calmly and analytically. When a database is down and applications are unavailable, your environment will become hectic. When you experience such problems, remain calm and go about your job using your knowledge and training.
- Measure twice, cut once: Being prepared means analyzing, documenting, and testing your DBA policies and procedures. Creating simple procedures in a vacuum without testing will do little to help you run an efficient database environment— and it will not prepare you to react rapidly and effectively to problem situations.
- Understand the business: Remember that being technologically adept is just a part of being a good DBA. Technology is important but understanding your business needs is more important. If you do not understand the business reasons and impact of the databases you manage, then you will simply be throwing technology around with no clear purpose.
- Don’t be a hermit: Be accessible; don’t be one of those “curmudgeon-in-the-corner” DBAs who developers are afraid to approach. The more you are respected for your expertise and availability, the more valuable you are to your company. By learning what the applications must do, you can better adjust and tune the databases to support the business.
- Use all the resources at your disposal: Remember that you do not have to do everything yourself. Frequently, others will have already encountered and solved the problem that currently vexes you. Use your DBMS vendor’s technical support to help with particularly thorny problems. Use internal resources for areas in which you have limited experience, such as network specialists for connectivity problems and system administrators for OS and system software problems. Build a network of colleagues that you can contact for assistance. Your network can be an invaluable resource, and no one at your company even needs to know that you didn’t solve the problem yourself.
Achieve DBA Success!
The job of the DBA is a challenging one—from technological, political, and interpersonal perspectives. Follow the rules presented here to improve your success as a DBA.