1. This made me laugh.

    I am the gf who tries to sell the high performance tuning kit, yet cannot open the engine compartment!

  2. Ha! Interesting way of explaining the DBA profession!

    Let me give my answer to this question, because as you, I am also asked frequently what exactly DBAs do.
    My answer is something like the following: “Think of a company. Every single company on earth works with data in order to continue operating. If it wasn’t for us, this data which the organization uses on a daily basis will not be available when it is needed. That said – no data – no business (and no business – no DBAs, but that’s something I won’t discuss now.. :) )”.

  3. Great post, I have two answers when asked what I do. I first start with “I work in IT”. This generally has two answers “Oh right” given by people with little to no understanding of IT and “I’m an xxx what area of IT do you work in” where xxx is generally an IT related job. With the later of the two answers I can justify elaborating and explaining “I’m a SQL Server DBA” with less risk of the person’s eyes glazing over :)

  4. I assume in this analogy is really in reference to SQL RDBMS.

    My analogy for this would be the database isn’t the engine (the application is always the engine unless you have terrible architects that would ever create a database driven app!), it’s a catalytic converter. Aka something that’s not needed, impedes engine performance, and is merely used out of expectation to how things are done / controlled by regulation (fear laden nontechnical management) .

    • Now using a database that actually makes sense for an application like RavenDB, MongoDB, Neo4j that’s like an engine block with straight pipes and nothing to impede the flow of energy like a catalytic converter does.

    • Chris, I wonder if you might be over-thinking this post chap ;-)

      That said, I do get what you’re saying and it is indeed totally context dependant.

      The beauty of an analogy is that it’s a tool to communicate your message, that’s adaptable to both context and the audience.

      Thanks for your comments!

  5. “Want to sit next to me at your next dinner party? Of course you do!”


    I just say … I work with computers. Its pretty rare that people want to go further down that rabbit hole.

  6. I stopped mentioning I work in IT, because the only reply I get is requests to fix their computer/phone.

    I agree on using analogies to explain things, though :)

    When describing databases, I typically use the analogy of comparing it to the foundation of a house. Like a house, you simply cannot keep bolting stuff onto it, unless the foundation supports it. And if the foundation was not designed with growth in mind, the application running on it will at some point come crashing down.

    I keep the racing car analogy for the discussion between transactional databases and data warehouses. Transactional system: F1 car. DWH: semi-trailer.

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