DBAs: Get a Raise!

Database administrators are critically important contributors in modern enterprises, ensuring that key infrastructure is performing optimally in support of the organization's goals. Like employees in every department, the best DBAs are constantly seeking to increase the value of their contributions and, correspondingly, to increase their compensation and to advance in their organizations. Increasing knowledge and skills and taking more important responsibilities are time-honored methods for career advancement. Here are 10 concrete suggestions for DBAs looking to get ahead.

1. Expand your knowledge beyond the "Big 3" commercial databases to include popular open source database systems. Open source has become one of the most important trends in enterprise IT by saving organizations money and increasing their flexibility. By appropriately promoting the adoption of open source database alternatives in your organization, you can be seen as a strategic thinker concerned with the big-picture financial health of your company.

2. Get certified. Many of the commercial and open source database vendors have certification programs to test your skills and knowledge. Basic certification may not get you a pay raise, but progressing through the basic to the most advanced certifications shows your employer that you share a common skillset with the other best-qualified professionals in your field. This alone could justify a raise.

3. Learn about high availability, clustering, and replication. These are complicated topics with significant implications for your database architecture and administration requirements. Skills in this area are highly coveted and hard to find, and experts are highly compensated. Similarly, an understanding of other advanced database technologies, such as memcached, is a valuable credential.

4. Enrich your database administration skills with expertise and experience in data security. You know the drill: data is a key asset in every company on the planet. Knowing how to implement a rock-solid data security plan can enable you to make a critical contribution. Poor data security is a big financial risk for any company. Today's companies are more willing than ever to pay for this experience and expertise.

5. Know about data quality and how to implement a data quality and auditing solution in conjunction with your database projects. This is particularly important if your company is dealing with lots of customer or product data. Duplicate data, wrong data, incorrect address information, and poor product data can lead to serious business problems. Having the skills and the knowledge to either correct or prevent data quality issues is extremely valuable. As one example, if your company is sending duplicate catalogs to thousands of customers, this could add up to some big bucks in expenditures. Showing that you have saved the company significant money by implementing a data quality strategy might be the ammunition you need for a raise at review time.

6. Drive the adoption of metadata management capabilities across the organization including establishing a metadata business glossary. What do the terms Customer, Employee, Parts, or Inventory really mean in your database? Does one organization in your enterprise define the terms the same as another? What if employees could go into a glossary and find the real definition and other information, including where the data is referenced? Metadata is another hot enterprise IT topic today, and being proactive on this subject is very important. If you start hearing the word "compliance" in your company, you need to have your metadata act together. Helping executive managers and others stay out of compliance trouble is another high-value activity that can be correlated with higher pay.

7. As a DBA, you might not be writing any application code, but you will need to become a SQL expert over time. Helping developers to optimize their SQL will significantly help your organization. If it takes 10 seconds to execute messy SQL code to get results to a high-value customer and you can optimize both the SQL and the database to get sub-second results, a raise may be in your future. Be sure to able to show how much money your company has likely saved by optimizing and enhancing poorly written SQL.

8. Become a member of the customer advisory board of your company's database vendor. Take initiative to work closely with your strategic database vendor's technical and product teams. Being part of an advisory board can also help your company to influence your database vendor's product priorities and directions to meet your particular requirements.

9. Mentor other DBAs in your organization. Help new and less-experienced DBAs improve. Consider establishing a DBA group that meets once a month to discuss important DBA topics, including new technologies. This kind of leadership can be a real plus at review time.

10. Dig into the topic of database analytics. For example, knowing when to archive infrequently accessed databases can result in significant cost savings. Likewise, detecting spikes in database queries can indicate security breaches that require immediate attention.

Take the suggestions above to contribute more and earn more-review time is coming!