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PASS Data Community Summit 2023

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Ted Krueger: DBA of the Day

Ted Krueger is well known for his 'Less-Than Dot' website. He is a SQL Server MVP who has been working in development and database administration for over 13 years. He was one of the finalists to the Exceptional DBA of the Year Award for 2010

1138-TedK.jpgTed Krueger was one of the six finalists in this year’s Exceptional DBA Awards. He is a SQL Server MVP and has been working in development and database administration for over thirteen years.

“The time when a DBA
was thought of as the
“no to everything” person
that sat in the corner and
never interacted with
anyone has gone”

His specialties range from high availability and disaster recovery setup and testing methods to custom assembly development for SQL Server Reporting Services.

Ted is also one of the founders of LessThanDot.com technology community which includes articles on backup, recovery, security, SSIS, working with SQL Server and using all of the SQL Server features available to create stable and scalable database services.

He lives in the Greater Chicago area.

RM:
What was your career path to becoming a DBA?
TL:
Wow, my career path has been like driving a Ferrari F430 down one of those winding roads that make you feel like you are on the edge of your seat at every turn – while needing a paper bag from the feeling it gives you in your stomach. From the start of my career I always wanted to be a software developer which had nothing to do with SQL Server or databases in general. I went from your typical help desk nerd to systems engineering and finally landed myself in development with Classic ASP and pushing into .NET. During that time I noticed how bad myself and others were at helping in the technical forums and news groups concerning SQL Server and databases in general. This gave me the motivation to start pushing harder into learning more on how I could effectively use and store data. That led to taking over the role as a DBA while also working as a .NET developer in my job at the time. It didn’t take me long to realize that being a database professional was nothing like the dull job that developers sometimes think it is. Since then, I haven’t looked back and push hard daily to learn as much about being a database professional as possible while helping others at the same time.
RM:
If you could go back in time and do it all over again, is there anything you wish you had done differently?
TK:
Why wasn’t I in up to my neck in the SQL Community from the start? That is the one thing I would do differently. It’s been a decade since I took the dive into technical forums but when I first started out as that person, I never went beyond that. Over the last few years of being part in the community, my career, skills and friendships have gone far beyond where I expected them to be at this point. I hope others that are starting out and read this don’t make that same mistake and find communities like the SQL Community much quicker than I did. It will not only keep the day less stressful but adds a great deal of wealth in knowledge and support. That advances any career because you can draw off of it and build yourself as an individual.
RM:
Do you enjoy the job as much as you did when you were staring out? Are there parts of it that you just don’t enjoy any more? And what do you get a big kick out of doing?
TK:
Absolutely, without a doubt I enjoy the job as much as day one. I’d go as far as saying I enjoy it more than back then. The politics of being in a leadership role are what I dislike the most. Most DBA’s are highly technical people and love nothing more than getting their hands dirty and diving into everything. When you get to the level in your career when you are there at the front lines and reach a senior level, you really have to force yourself to hold back and understand that you can no longer simply be given the word to start running.

On the same note; being in a leadership role in my career has giving me a new way to help the people that I am fortunate to work with. Helping and working with others to learn is the one thing I get a kick out of more than anything. You find situations that you just will never see with a single persons view as a DBA.

I get a kick most out of pulling the plug on database servers and seeing if the recovery plans work. I will always want to be that guy that literally grabs the power cables and pulls them out of the PDU. The rush can’t be beaten.

RM:
Do you ever find that because you put everything into your job that it’s just not enough to get a system to work, that there are other technical issues you want to solve too?
TK:
I think most people that want to take over the world of computing will answer yes. It is what makes us better at what we do while adding the stress that leads to push ourselves even harder into gaining as much knowledge as we can. I hope that everyone like me has found themselves dumbfounded and completely lost when things don’t work and you have their finger on the button of something they just don’t know anything about. The nice thing about working on SQL Server is you have the opportunities to jump into a lot of technical areas that you may not in other careers. That being said, I’ve learned over the years that you need to know when to stand back and let the other experts in their own fields take the lead. Standing by and learning while they do their job can be just as enjoyable as anything if you learn to keep the mindset that we are all there to work together and get the job done the right way.
RM:
Tell me a little about Less Than Dot. How did it come about, what would you like to see happen with it and how do you manage to fit this in with the day job?
TK:
Almost a decade ago I started a private group in one of the technical forums and invited people I had great respect for into forming a group. That group quickly turned into some of what I think are the most talented minds I’ve ever had the pleasure of being around. At one point the group had been discussing frustrations and how a technical community could be made to work better. We wanted to remove all the things we thought ruin the experience. A number of the original group members set out and created Less Than Dot shortly after that. I think the site has really taken off and that shows when I go to SQL Saturdays and SQL Server User Group meetings and people recognise the name of the site. We reach a lot of IT professionals out there and it is very exciting to see the site growing. I’m still amazed when I think of the work some of us put in to make the site possible. Out of everything I’ve done or been part of, I think LTD is the single highest accomplishment I have been part of. Not an accomplishment that is the site itself but the group of people that I was fortunate to be part of.

Recently one of the founders, George Mastros wrote a program called SQLCop which validates SQL Server against a listing of best practices. The list was composed and is growing still from the members of LTD and from community feedback. It was the step I think LTD needed and I know each of the LTD founders is grateful for the hard work George put into it.

My hopes are that Less Than Dot continues to grow because it has become a valuable source of knowledge and a place anyone can go to for help. The blogs on LTD have been the most successful to date but we’ve seen a large increase in memberships and content in the forums as well. Denis Gobo has done a great deal of work on the WiKi section and it has also turned into a valuable resource.

Fitting something like LTD into my day never seems that hard because of the group that runs it. Some founders get busy and aren’t able to get in for long stretches of time but someone stands in and the site keeps moving. I think that makes the site what it is and a great thing to be part of.

RM:
How do you stay on top of new emerging technologies?
TK:
No sleep and those 5 hour energy drinks are awesome in helping with that. It takes a great deal of energy and time to keep up. I’m sure there are some hard core people out there who absorb technology during their sleep. I think if you’re motivated and enjoy work it really isn’t that hard to keep up with technology. I keep on top of most things through the SQL community as well. There are so many experts out there writing about experiences so you really have no excuse not to stay on top of things.
RM:
Are there skills apart from programming that you think DBAs should develop?
TK:
Absolutely without a doubt. I’ve always felt strongly that in order to push forward as a DBA, you need to grasp every aspect that is in the software development life cycle. Programming is a huge part in that. Hardware is the next step. I’ve seen far too many DBAs step back during the building process of a system and ignore everything that goes into the layers until it is time to install the media. We need to learn to manage that aspect to our business as well. DBA’s have a leadership role and we should be seen as such. Mentoring is a step I’d like to see everyone take. My advice would be to work with the other teams in your job, not only draw knowledge from their skills but share your skills about databases with them. It’s about mutual improvement.
RM:
Do you think the kind of people who can be successful DBAs has changed, and is becoming a DBA more of a career choice than an accident?
TK:
I think the type of person who becomes a DBA hasn’t changed but the job’s more popular than ever before and because of that there are more accidental DBAs. I think the strength in the SQL Community has had the largest impact on that and has been pushing more IT professionals into thinking that becoming a DBA is a sound and exciting role. The time when a DBA was thought of as the “no to everything” person that sat in the corner and never interacted with anyone has gone. I hope the SQL Community continues to grow and recruits many more talented people to become DBAs.
RM:
How do you recognise talent?
TK:
It’s not easy. A well of motivation and ambition comes to mind. If you can find someone with the drive, determination and ability they can tackle anything being a DBA can dish out. Even when I interview others, I look for the basic foundation of technical skills but look hard to find if there is drive in them. It isn’t always easy to get that out in an hour long interview but if you find it, you know you can rely on the person to do what it takes to get the job done. Talent in this field is being able to learn apply knowledge and do so unconditionally.
RM:
How do you see your career panning out? Do you have a master plan and where you want to be in say, five years time?
TK:
In the last twelve months ago I’ve seen my career get better. I found myself being nominated for the Exceptional DBA of the Year by one of my co-workers and made it to the final six which was pretty pleasing and it helped to make me more visible to other DBAs. In July I was awarded the SQL Server MVP award by Microsoft and that also has caused my career to really jump into directions I could have only hoped for. So in all, my career is panning out to be a very successful one – I owe a great deal to the people I’ve been able to work with and learn from.

I do have a master plan but it has changed a few times during my career. I think any plan needs to evolve while you move through a career in IT because it needs fine tuning every now and then.

RM:
You talk about finding a mentor, is there any one person who has helped you in your career?
TK:
I haven’t had much of a mentor in my career but I feel l having that type of figure is very important which is partly why I put a lot of my energy into mentoring for others who are starting out as a DBA or Developer. It’s good to learn things the hard way but at the same time, it’s important to know upfront what choices you have and how to handle the day-to-day level of service we need to provide. I hope my mentorship helps guide people down the right path.