A window into the world of DBAs

In late May, before nominations opened for this year’s Exceptional DBA awards, I wrote about the top four challenges facing DBAs and wondered if the challenges mentioned in this year’s nominations would be different from those in last year’s. Those nominations are now in, and I’ve once again had a chance to review them.

The judges of the Exceptional DBA Awards are working to select five finalists from dozens of outstanding nominations; you’ll have your chance to vote for one of the finalists between August 10 and 17 on the awards’ website. In the meantime, here is a glimpse into the life and times of DBAs as reflected in these nominations.

Teamwork increases in value

The greatest challenge for this year’s Exceptional DBA nominees is the same as it was in 2008: Maintaining consistent performance and continuous availability at a time that database demands are increasing within the organization.

Several nominees emphasized the importance of teamwork to gain the productivity that is required to keep control of an ever-expanding population of database servers. Nominees talked about the importance of working together with developers, sys admins, customers and management to make sure they are maximizing everything they do, whether it’s trouble-shooting, managing the environment, or communicating infrastructure needs. These teamwork skills have become vital at a time that organizations are struggling to maintain services with fewer staff than even a year ago.

How DBAs see themselves

The 2009 Exceptional DBA nomination form asked nominees about their greatest responsibility, what makes them (or the person they nominated) special, and why they became a DBA.

Not surprisingly, nominees say their greatest responsibility is care of the databases that come under their purview. Three words cropped up repeatedly: availability, performance and security.

The number one hallmark of an exceptional DBA according to the nomination forms can be summed up as a determination to make continuous improvements – not just improving oneself through learning about new technology, but also through sharing knowledge with others and making sure that knowledge translates into better processes.

According to the nominations, the Exceptional DBA is not easily satisfied – he or she is continually looking to maximize performance using all the resources that are available.

The Exceptional DBA is also a problem-solver, like a ship-board mechanic using experience and knowledge to troubleshoot issues and keep the database freighter chugging along.

And, more than ever, the Exceptional DBA is a team player, communicating with other IT managers and providing the support that keeps end users happy (or at least not complaining).

This year’s Exceptional DBA nominees cite several reasons for pursuing a DBA career, with the following the most dominant:

  • They simply like working with databases; the work is satisfying, even if they don’t get much recognition.
  • They like challenges and solving problems.
  • They enjoy the importance of the job and the impact it has on the organization.
  • They like the level of responsibility and accountability.

What do you think?

It would be interesting to hear how your experiences and views align with those of the 2009 Exceptional DBA nominees. What’s your biggest challenge or greatest responsibility? What is the hallmark of an exceptional DBA? Why did you become a DBA?

Please comment below, and don’t forget to vote for one of the five finalists when they are announced on the Exceptional DBA Awards’ website and SQLServerCentral.com on August 10.