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What Counts For a DBA – Attire

Published 1 April 2014 12:00 am

So, clearly there were a few unrealistic parts of this blog. First, I don’t own a tuxedo. I wore one to a wedding 20 years ago, but that was rented. I don’t even own a suit coat that I would wear. I telecommute and the only thing proper about the way I dress for work is that we have lots of windows in our house and friendly neighbors. I refuse to wear a tie except to funerals because I feel like it is choking the oxygen away from my brain (well, that and I always get some sort of food on them at lunch).

What is cool about being a DBA is that we all generally dress (within reason) how we want. I have known the worn-out t-shirt wearing DBAs, and still others who dress nicer than anyone else in the room. PASS has anti-harassment policies, but not related to any dress code. The only arguments I have witnessed at PASS have been related to surrogate key usage, what to cluster an index on, or how to model a database. What matters most is the quality of our code/ideas, and is why our SQL Server community is stocked with such a diverse group of people who share a simple common bond.

The name Geoffrey Blue was a bit of an homage to a friend of mine I worked with several years back. He wasn’t specifically a DBA, but he always dressed very nicely no matter what the occasion. He passed away several years ago, but I still remember nicely picking on him about his clothes.

Back in the 1900′s, many DBAs were well known for their outrageous costumes they wore to work. While their coworkers all donned jackets, shirts and ties to the office, they felt they could get away with untucked shirts, and often these were t-shirts with catchy slogans from science-fiction movies and video games, such as ‘Darth Invader’, ‘Shall We Play a Game’, ‘Game Over Player Dumb’, or ‘Let’s do the Batusi’. Management was not impressed, and tried to ban such attire from the work place, but DBAs didn’t listen. Things got uglier than the t-shirt that Fred Smith wore over his Chewbacca costume for the first week of 1993 in an incident that led to the great DBA walk offs of the mid 1990′s.

While there were DBAs who gave in and started dressing as desired, most of them decided that, rather than getting dressed up like a management ‘robot’, they would prefer to work at a video arcade or comic book store (which, in turn, would eventually lead to the third great renaissance of the comic book.) Since management at that time had little idea what DBA stood for, much less what they did, they replaced them with pretty much anyone who could get their computer to print out “images” they had downloaded from this newfangled Internet that they had recently discovered. This led to the new phenomenon of the ‘accidental DBA’, a term that would later be coined to refer to a DBA who never intended to be a DBA but just got crashed into it whether they wanted to or not.

As the year 2000 approached, it was generally realized that the ‘accidental DBA’s were still too green to fix the impending disaster. Although management pride prevented any rapid change of policy, their desire to hold on to their bonus structures won out, and the old school DBAs were eventually called back, paid great salaries, and were allowed to wear pretty much whatever they wanted. While this mass employment changeover caused the implosion of the video arcade, it prevented the collapse of many businesses, particularly the bulk of the banking system.

However great a thing this was for the DBA, it had a nasty side effect. The other employees realized if the DBAs could wear whatever they wanted, they could too.

On November 15th, 2001, DBA Geoffrey Blue looked around at his corporate staff meeting with the CEO wearing a well worn ‘Legend of Zelda’ t-shirt and decided he’d had enough. The next day he wore a suit and tie to work. His DBA coworkers were astounded, but when he explained why, they followed suit nearly immediately. The rest is history that you can easily read about on Wikipedia. However, today you won’t find a DBA who would even so much as sit at a keyboard wearing less than a shirt and tie, pressed and tucked into well creased trousers.

This chain of events has left us with the dress-code we adopt now, with DBAs almost constantly wearing formal attire to work.

The community at large has so accepted formal attire as a norm that in 2012, the Professional Associate for SQL Server (or SQL PASS for short) felt it necessary to develop anti-harassment policies. At the 2011 Summit, an attendee showed up to high tea without a jacket and was laughed at so hard that they filed a lawsuit which was settled out of court. As of 2013, the set of conferences known as SQL Saturday had changed from an abstract submission selection process to requiring applicants to take a test written by GQ magazine as well as submitting a  set of professionally taken photographs to determine who is worthy of speaking.

The “uniform” though does help one to think. I have been telecommuting for the past five years, and I have never gone to my office wearing less than khakis with a shirt and a tie, which I only did for a single week. That week I felt that the code I was writing was not up to the quality as when I am wearing my tuxedo. Only then do I feel like I truly meet the standard that the SQL Community has set…for all of the right reasons, naturally.

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