What Counts for a DBA: Adventurousness

This post (hopefully obviously) was my April Fool’s day post. I assume that was quite obvious as everything in this post was opposite of the common reality (and really, is adventurousness even vaguely a word?)
The fact is though, while you can pretty much toss a boolean NOT() operator around the entire article and get much closer to reality, a sense of adventure and progressiveness would certainly be a great trait for a DBA. Keeping up with the latest versions of software is a great practice as more often than not, the vendor fixes problem as time progresses. Even if you want to follow the one service pack rule, it is still better than waiting until the day before Microsoft stops supporting the version you are on to start thinking about upgrading.
Finally, it can’t hurt to at least understand the alternatives to the paradigm you are following. New languages, alternatives to relational databases, etc, usually all have merit for some applications. The best way to defend against technology misuse is to understand the proper use. Otherwise you just sound like a zealot when you protest a decision that is actually wrong, but Flashy Bob Manager read about it in a magazine (written by the vendor of the new product, natch’) and you are going to use it.
The following is the original post:
The ever changing nature of the relational database system requires administrators who relish risk and adventure. From the moment that Edgar F Codd proposed his 12 rules that defined the relational database management system, the language COBOL and the VSAM databases that had been so popular vanished as database administrators rushed to adopt the new system, keen as always to adopt the latest technologies, using hardware that had less power than the current middle school math student’s calculator: the relational era was born.
DBAs are characteristically keen to upgrade to the latest technology. In a survey done in December 2005 of DBAs employed in Fortune 500 financial and health care corporations, over 80% of these organizations were already using the new SQL Server 2005 database technology, and 19% had already begun using a beta edition of SQL Server 2008. (1)

This rapid uptake of new RDBMS versions causes much difficulty for locating new DBA candidates, because most technology employers desire new hires to have years of practice with the tools they are being recruited to use.  John Smith, a hiring manager for Natural Utility Tools commented, “For most technologies, we look for 3-5 years of experience in a technology before we will make use of it. Just now in 2011 we are getting people ready to make good use of C# and Visual Studio 2008. But DBAs rarely have any production experience in a SQL Server version before they have used it in production and are pushing to start working on the next beta or alpha edition.  It really drives the other developers crazy”

To be a really great DBA requires not only an adventurous nature with database technologies, but technologies of all sorts. Whereas most people wait for months or years to adopt a Mobile Phone technology (2), and keep that technology until they are required to upgrade, DBAs regularly change phones at least yearly if not more frequently, making sure to have the most up to date electronic communication devices. 

Most DBAs spend a lot of their time enthusiastically and uncritically learning all sorts of technologies such as  LINQ and XML in order to understand the world of the developers they deal with regularly.  Most DBAs understand networking, hardware, and learn at least one procedural/object oriented language (and many are fluent at several.)

Finally, one of the key ingredients in being a successful DBA is keeping up with trends in the business. As new database technologies come out, like Object Oriented-Relational, Entity-Attribute-Value and recently NoSQL, most DBAs find that it is important to learn everything they can about these in case they might be a suitable replacement for the relational model that has served them well for 25 years: DBAs are constantly on the cutting edge out there searching for the next best thing, and it could be 10 days from now, or 10 more years, but for the successful DBA, it is all part of the adventure.

1.       Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe Technology Studies, 2005

2.       Steve Bow and Frank Guss Statistics, 2008