Saturday, June 16, 2007

Is Database Administration for Suckers?

Tim DiChiara over at Eye On Oracle has a post titled "Database Administration is for suckers" where one of his reader posted their disillusion with being a DBA. Stephen G, the DBA in question, basically complains about being a DBA and the bad hours (on standby, lack of appreciation, excess hours, etc) that comes with it. He went on to say that if he has the opportunity to start all over again, he would rather be an accountant or a lawyer instead.

Predictably, there was a ton of comments with folks agreeing and disagreeing with Stephen G's assessments. I think it is how you approach your job/career. If you are looking at making big dollars with minimum hours, well, those are far and few between that those who got it are not going to give it up.

Me, I operate from a few principles which I think applies to this situation and I think it is true for all kinds of jobs. These principles includes:
  • doing the best job that you can with pride;
  • enjoy your work;
  • be learning; and
  • work yourself out of the job.
I think the last one probably warrants an explanation than the first three as they are pretty self-explanatory. Most people goes "Huh? Why would you do that?" when I told them of the last principle mentioned. Most good consultants do that as a principle, they cross-train and transition over to the employees so that they can leave for their next assignment. Employees should similarily be doing the same. By doing so, you are freeing up your time to enable you to focus on the advanced & strategic tasks. In this way, you can work yourself to a better position bringing more value to the organization.

If you don't and only work to ensure that you are the only one who knows the systems/applications or whatever that you do thinking that you have just ensured "job security". Well, you haven't as you have now put yourself in a position where you have become a liability to the organization. How are you going to be able to take time off your job for training, vacation, etc? The organization is now at risk if you leave or if something happens to you so the logical thing for management to do is to cross-train someone else to learn about the system. The purpose of this cross-training is not to free you up for the more advanced and strategic tasks but rather it is to insure the organization against losing you whether deliberately (you leaving for greener pastures) or accidentally (you getting hit by a bus).

Getting back to Stephen G, each person have choices and the fact that he stuck around for 20 years in the same career say something but if you are not happy with your current work situation, then my suggestion is that you do something about it (i.e. either work to change the job or go somewhere else). Easier said than done, I know but again it is about choices. Remember that you spent roughly a third of your day at work so it is in your best interest and health to ensure that you enjoy the work and the people that you work with.

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