Important (Oracle) DBA Skills to Have, Obtain, and Nurture

During Quest Forum Digital Event: Innovation Week, Markus Michalewicz, senior director of product manage­ment at Oracle, outlined the critical skills that DBAs need to have in the ever-changing IT industry. Employers today look for a broader and more adaptive skill set in their DBAs. Michalewicz’s session took a look at skills that any DBA should have and also those that a DBA should look to obtain and nurture, regardless of which new technology is entering the hype cycle.

Soft Skills

Michalewicz started with what may be the most important soft skill of them all—communication. People communicate every day. Whether you are talking with colleagues, writing emails or texts, giving a presentation, applying for a job, etc., it’s important to communicate effectively. Michalewicz shared a LinkedIn report, “Skills Companies Need Most,” that cited communication and persuasion as being among the top three soft skills for the next 3 years.

Along with communication and persuasion, some of the other notable soft skills cited in the LinkedIn report were leadership, collaboration, time management, creativity, adaptability, and emotional intelligence.


In addition to these important soft skills, DevOps is taking over parts of the DBA work. DBAs have always been in the middle between storage administrators, network administrators, and app developers. Demarcation lines are fading with the expansion of DevOps processes, and DBA roles need to adapt to become part of the DevOps strategy.

If you are an operational DBA, you probably spend a great deal of your time in the areas of maintenance, security, and reliability. Roughly 72% of IT budgets are spent on generic maintenance tasks versus innovation. Additionally, 85% of security breaches occur after the CVE (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures list) was pub­lished, and 91% experience unplanned data center outages.

Autonomous Database

The Autonomous Database means the removal of tactical drudgery and more time for strategic contribution for DBAs. Now, DBAs can focus on architecture, planning, data model­ing, and strategy. Efforts can also shift to focus on data security and data lifecycle management. There is also application-related tuning and end-to-end service level management.

Converged Databases

Converged databases are another extraordinary evolution. Phone calls, messaging, cameras, calendars, and music all orig­inally required separate products, but now they are largely fea­tures of smartphones. Similarly, key-value, in-memory, analytics, machine learning, JSON, and sharding originally required sepa­rate products, but now they are becoming features of a converged database.

There are numerous benefits to a converged data­base. It supports mixing of workloads, data types, and algorithms. A converged database also enables SQL and transactions across any data type and is simpler, lower cost, and more reliable. In addition, it provides unified security and management across all data and prevents data fragmentation and copy contagion. It also removes initial and recurring inte­gration costs and enables powerful synergies across features.

Synergy across features makes the whole better than the sum of its parts. Real-time fraud is detectable by converging analytics with online transaction processing (OLTP). OLTP adds flexible data models by converging with document types. Data ware­houses achieve high concurrency and security by converging with OLTP, and document stores gain analytics by converging with warehouses.

An Oracle converged database enables simplicity and data syn­ergy, and supports all workloads. For DBAs, a converged database means a “transferrable technical skill.”

Technical DBA Skills

There are three essential technical skills that Michalewicz emphasized during his presentation: cloud tool skills, networking skills, and security skills.

DBAs need cloud skills because, unlike some other technologies, the cloud is here to stay. You will need to learn new tools and cloud architectures because different cloud infrastructures come with their own tooling and architecture. In addition, DBAs must understand networking because the only way to reach a database in the cloud is the network. Finally, DBAs need to be able to secure the data at all times. To help obtain those skills, Michalewicz recommended look­ing into Oracle Autonomous Database and cloud skills through data modeling, data security, and application tuning.

Some transferrable on-premise skills that Michalewicz cited as beneficial include Oracle Database, Real Application Clus­ters (RAC), Data Guard, sharding, and Maximum Availability Architecture (MAA) skills. Infrastructure- and database-tuning skills are also very useful.

Obtaining DBA Skills

Obtaining a set of strong skills and identifying your strengths is vital to your success. Build on what you can do best, and keep in mind that very few people can do everything. Extend your skill set into areas you are interested in. The easiest way to do this is by look­ing into skills related to those that you already have. Remember that obtaining a completely new set of skills gets harder later in life.

Michalewicz shared what Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba Group, categorizes as the five career stages:

  • In your 20s (20+): Join a good company to learn from a good boss
  • In your 30s (30+): If you want to try to be an entrepreneur, try it!
  • In your 40s (40+): Do something that you are good at.
  • In your 50s (50+): Spend time training and developing young people.
  • In your 60s (60+): Harvest the fruits of your labor and play with your grandkids.

Ma says to plan 10 years ahead and adjust the timeframe as needed.

Nurturing DBA Skills

After obtaining your set of skills, you should nurture them. Find areas that interest you and stick with them. However, this does not mean that you must remain with only one thing. Doing what you like will motivate you, make you focus on details, and make you enjoy your work. Consequently, loving what you do will make you better at what you do.

Some general direction and next steps that Michalewicz shared include the following:

  • Increase your value as a DBA
    • Explore new technologies
    • Change your job
  • Consider changing into an emerging job (per country)
    • Know which skills are currently in demand
  • Change your field of expertise
    • Decide on a new field
    • Consider “your stage of life” and potentially adapt field accordingly

Michalewicz shared a Gartner research report about “hype cycles” that will help DBAs distinguish between hype and what’s commercially viable when looking to change their field of exper­tise. Gartner provided a graphic representation of the maturity and adoption of technologies and applications and how they are poten­tially relevant to solving real business problems and exploiting new opportunities. The Gartner Hype Cycle methodology gives you a view of how a technology or application will evolve over time, pro­viding a sound source of insight to manage its deployment within the context of your specific business goals.

The hype cycle graph walks through the five different phases of a technology’s life cycle:

  • Innovation Trigger: A potential technology breakthrough kicks things off. Early proof-of-concept stories and media interest trigger significant publicity. Often no usable prod­ucts exist, and commercial viability is unproven.
  • Peak of Inflated Expectations: Early publicity produces a number of success stories—often accompanied by scores of failures. Some companies take action; many do not.
  • Trough of Disillusionment: Interest wanes as experiments and implementations fail to deliver. Producers of the tech­nology shake out or fail. Investments continue only if the surviving providers improve their products to the satisfac­tion of early adopters.
  • Slope of Enlightenment: More instances of how the technol­ogy can benefit the enterprise start to crystallize and become more widely understood. Second- and third-generation prod­ucts appear from technology providers. More enterprises fund pilots; conservative companies remain cautious.
  • Plateau of Productivity: Mainstream adoption starts to take off. Criteria for assessing provider viability are more clearly defined. The technology’s broad market applicability and rel­evance are clearly paying off.

Should you make an early move? If you are willing to combine risk-taking with an understanding that risky investments don’t always pay off, you could reap the rewards of early adoption.

Is a moderate approach appropriate? Executives who are more moderate understand the argument for an early investment but will also insist on a sound cost/benefit analysis when new ways of doing things are not yet fully proven.

Should you wait for further maturation? If there are too many unanswered questions around the commercial viability of an emerging technology, it may be better to wait until others have been able to deliver tangible value.

To learn more about important DBA skills, check out Michale­wicz’s Quest Forum Digital Event: Innovation Week presentation at