If you could give an aspiring DBA just one piece of advice what would it be?

This post is part of a collection of content masterminded by John Sansom, please see the reference section at the end for the details of how to get all the other thoughts and contributions

Prioritise, and Socialise.

I have been working in an IT department for almost 15 years now and even before that I was working with back office systems and data analysis and reporting. Something I haven’t done for so long is communicate with other professionals in similar roles at other companies. Nowadays I have a network of friends and acquaintances across the country and indeed across the world that I speak to on an irregular basis, sometimes enquiring about family or social events and other times to bounce work idea off. This makes my work much more fun than being insulated in an isolated office as the only DBA in a small team. Even if you are in a big team I would argue that meeting and talking to more people in the industry will broaden you appreciation of the bigger IT world.

Sure you will do OK, I did/have. It was only OK though, there is a chance that years and years ago I could have spoken to someone who knew something or someone that helped me create something better or put me in touch with an opportunity that would have given my life a different trajectory. I was happy in my bubble and who is to say that things could have gone worse rather than better? All I can say is that since I joined in with the community I have had more fun and feel as though I have grown as a developer and a person and as such have been more value to my employers.

“So how do I get involved?” you are asking.

Well the best place to start would be to go along to your local user group meeting and find out who is close to you geographically and get into the community that way. Some groups run monthly, others every couple of months and some quarterly. Get on the mailing lists and you might even be close enough to choose to visit more than one every once in a while. Perhaps you can help out running the meetings – just something as simple as being on the door greeting people while someone else sets up the AV is an amazing help.

Next you might want to attend a conference or two. In the UK we have a healthy number of opportunities for you – SQL Bits is the longest standing SQL Server conference in the UK, there are also now 3 SQL Saturdays each year and SQL Relay conferences happen all over the UK too.

May be you are not mobile and can’t get to user groups or conferences. Well, even without leaving your desk you can access some great technical content and discussion. Join SQLServerCentral.com or Ask.SQLServerCentral.com or stackoverflow.com or sqlskills.com or sqlpass.org or sqlserverfaq.com. There are free videos on sqlbits.com from previous conferences so you can catch up on what has happened in previous years. SQLPass.com hosts the online marathon 24 hours of PASS each year which is like tag-team learning – 24 one-hour sessions on SQL Server from people booked to speak at the annual PASS Summit. It’s all free. If you do nothing else, visit those sites and get registered.

OK, you said Prioritise and Socialise but I’m only seeing Socialise…

That’s right, prioritise your socialising. Be sure to do it. I delayed quite a while because I was uncertain about getting involved – Would I know enough? Would I ask stupid questions? Would I actually be able to help anyone? Would I be welcome? The answer is yes, in every case, for every person. The SQL Community doesn’t judge you by how much you know, how stupid your questions are* or anything else. We are just glad that new people getting involved means that there are more people to share with. Don’t put it off until tomorrow, if you aren’t already in the community in some way then make it a goal for today to join at least one site in the references below. If you are active then join another one. If you belong to them all then add a comment with details of one that I haven’t listed.

Links and reference

DBA JumpStart by John Sansom http://www.johnsansom.com/dba-jumpstart/

UK user groups contact details https://sqlsouthwest.co.uk/other-user-groups/

PASS http://sqlpass.org / http://www.24hoursofpass.com/

Q + A sites http://ask.sqlservercentral.com / http://sqlservercentral.com / http://stackoverflow.com/ / http://www.sqlskills.com/

Other UK community sites http://www.sqlserverfaq.com / http://sqlrelay.co.uk / http://www.sqlbits.com / http://www.johnsansom.com/

* – believe me, I have asked plenty of really stupid questions in my time!