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Jonathan has been working with SQL Server since 1999. He enjoys performance tuning, development and using SQL Server to provide appropriate business solutions. He is the founder and leader of the PASS SQL South West user group , is a moderator at SQL Q + A forum and is on twitter at @fatherjack. He has spoken at SQLBits and SQL in the City, SQL Saturdays and local user groups across the UK and Europe.

What job is most similar to being a DBA?

Published 24 October 2011 3:00 am

As long as I have worked with computers, and that’s a length of time that may be easier on the eye when converted to dog-years, computers have been compared with cars. I guess the car was the most complicated thing in our lives until the PC arrived. We had plenty of time to get used to the car and how it worked, or not, and how it gradually became more complex. We can compare backups to spare tyres, CPU cores to pistons ("the more you blow, the faster you go"), and so on. I am not aware of any comparison however, between the role of a DBA and any other job.

What other occupation would you equate to DBA. Construction worker? Rocket Surgeon? Pilot? Even a Secret Agent maybe? For sure RedGate value the DBA very highly, on their DBA in Space site they say

"But we also think DBAs, the exceptional individuals who manage the smooth running of our planet’s data supply, have been under-appreciated for too long. That’s why we’re holding DBA in Space. DBAs deserve better. Better recognition, better software tooling, better prizes."

While there may be similarities, either real or imagined, with these other jobs and the RedGate description is very flattering, I think the DBA role is most closely connected to the trade of gardener. Yup gardening.

I moved into a new house many years ago and the elderly previous owner had done nothing to the garden for years, probably tens of years, and I had a big job to do. For many weeks I didn’t do anything but view the garden from various angles, from inside the house, from outside the garden in the road at the back, I cut a couple of paths through the garden to get a feel for the changes in level in the ground underneath the It started with a brush cutter and many bonfires to clear out bramble and shrubs that had gone wild and bushes that had died off due to lack of light. After that, I had a clean sheet, albeit with a few trees here and there, to do with as I wanted. I did some landscaping and then planted a lawn etc., etc.

How many DBAs have taken on a new set of systems when they move into a new post and have wanted to do something similar? To clear out a load of accumulated growth of bad content and start over? This mustn’t be a case of purely slash and burn though, you need to have some sympathy for the pieces of the existing systems that are important and worth keeping. Remember those trees in the garden I cleared, they were kept and formed some key parts of the remodelled garden.

There are plenty of other similarities between being a DBA and a gardener which I may cover in a future blog …

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