Senior Database Administrators (DBAs) through experience develop and practice a variety of habits that become key contributors to their success.
Here are 10 habits of successful DBAs that you can begin to put to work for you right away.
Habit #1: Use Free SQL Server Tools
What if I told you that you can get free quality advice on how to make your SQL Server databases go faster? That would sound almost too good to be true right? Well it is true and there’s much more where it came from too.
You see there’s a way that you can get Index Optimization insight, access to performance diagnostic tools, improved query plan analysis and database maintenance automation. These time saving and performance improvement opportunities are just some of the great potential that you could benefit from by using free SQL Server tools.
Senior DBAs know that by using free SQL Server tools they can increases their productivity and results. So can you!
Habit #2: Implement Automation Everywhere
This is a really big one. It’s like The Force for Data Professionals. If it’s strong with you, then the potential of what you can achieve will increase dramatically.
As a Database Administrator (DBA) your skills, services, expertise and ultimately your time will always be in demand. You can only ever deliver on a finite amount of time, that’s just the way it is, so it’s incredibly important that you maximize the use of the time you have available. I guarantee you that this is a philosophy that all Outstanding DBA’s believe.
The more tasks, systems and processes that you can automate, the more time you have available to Proactively reinvest in tasks that add value to your business and to you.
- Mike Fal (Blog|Twitter) automates his Server Inventories
- Pieter Vanhove (Blog|Twitter) runs his DBA Checklist with Policy Based Management
- Rob Sewell (Blog|Twitter) speeds up patching runs using PowerShel
- Merill Aldrich (Blog|Twitter) developed a rules-driven solution for database maintenance
- Stuart Moore (Blog|Twitter) shows how to Automate Backup and Restores with PowerShell
The positive impact that practicing and developing this habit will have for you is quite profound. It’s why I strongly believe that The Best Database Administrators Automate Everything and why you should too.
Habit #3: Take Advantage of Free High Quality Training
There are many excellent SQL Server training resources that are at your disposal. Successful Senior DBAs make a habit of taking advantage of these free opportunities to learn and develop their skills.
Some examples of various high quality training opportunities include:
- Attending your local SQL Server User Group. UK folks visit here for a list of local User Groups.
- Joining SQLPASS – conferences, 24HOPs (webcasts), Virtual Chapters, and lots more.
- Vendor community events like SQL In The City courtesy of RedGate
- SQL Server MCM/MCSM Training Videos
- The SQLBits conference video archives
You get the idea….
There’s an abundance of quality training material and opportunities available for Data Professionals to benefit from. All you have to do is go ahead and use them.
Habit #4: Manage Time Effectively
Senior DBAs understand that time is their most valuable asset and that maximizing how it is used is an essential practice.
Time management and productivity are big topics, about which many excellent books have been written. If you’re like most data professionals then there’s always something else that needs doing. You have to focus your time and energy on what is most important.
To ensure that you are investing your time and energy in the right place, you must use a system. By using a task management system you can keep an accurate track of your workload, prioritise and ensure that you spend more of your time delivering on what’s really important.
In the modern working world the demand for data professionals who are able to work effectively remotely is also increasing.
Habit #5: Know Where to Find Quality SQL Server content
The volume of content available on the internet is vast, making it difficult to establish the credibility of the information that is out there. How do you know what you can trust?
It’s one of the reasons that I created Something For The Weekend(SFTW), a round-up of the best SQL Server blog posts and technology content shared each week via email.
- Hand picked quality SQL Server content
- A variety of posts from both established and new bloggers
- Staying informed on the SQL community
- No longer worrying about overflowing RSS readers
- A generous helping of British candor with a splash of humor
Simply complete the sign-up form to receive SFTW and new blog posts.
Authoritative sources of information are typically discovered, collected and established over time by experienced professionals. Sounds like hard work eh chaps? Fortunately some great folks in the SQL community have already done the hard graft for you.
Here’s a collection of some of the best SQL Server content available and where you can find it, courtesy of the SQL community:
- Blogs/Bloggers – Thomas Larock (Blog|Twitter) created the fantastic SQL Server Blogger Rankings
- Forums – Participating in forums is a great way to learn, as well as give back to the community. Here are my Top 5 SQL Server Forums
- Ebooks – Such as those available courtesy of those nice chaps at RedGate
- Whitepapers – The SQLskills folks kindly share an excellent SQL Server Whitepaper reference list
- Twitter – Use the #SQLHelp hash tag on Twitter and don’t forget to Follow Me
Habit #6: Never Ask for Permission to do Great Work
Often we seek out the approval of others before proceeding with a task when we don’t actually need it. Just think about that for a second.
Why are you seeking out approval if you don’t even need it?
You’ll often see this in email communication with phrases like:
- “What do you think about X?”
- “Is it ok if I go ahead and do Y?”
- “Can you let me know how you wish to proceed…..” etc.
Do not ask for permission or approval unless it is absolutely required.
Take the initiative and responsibility for your actions by leading. Tell your boss, project manager or colleague how you are going to proceed. Do not ask how to do so if you have already identified how you would want to. Instead inform everyone of your decision.
Those with less experience may find this habit more difficult to put into practice initially because you won’t be used to working in this way. It’s not easy and is why I’ve written an entire post about it. It will feel quite foreign to begin with but stick with it because it will significantly improve your productivity and delivery.
Remember that your boss hired you because you are the SQL Server expert and looks to you to for insight. Take the initiative and lead.
If you’re not practicing this habit already, I want you to Stop Asking and Start Making Decisions Today just like successful Senior DBAs.
Habit #7: Make Professional Development a Priority
Having already discussed the value of accessing quality training resources and content, perhaps it’s no secret then that successful Senior DBAs make their professional development a priority.
They achieve this by having clearly defined goals and regularly pushing their limits. They understand that you need to step outside of your comfort zone, to challenge yourself, in order to really grow.
By stepping outside of your comfort zone you:
- Accelerate your growth
- Amplify your growth
- Broaden your experience
- Increase your versatility
- Challenge yourself
To learn more about how you can make professional development a priority, take a look at:
- Career Growth and How You Can Achieve Explosive Results
- How To Win Career Gold
- The DBA Ultimate Fitness Workout Plan
Habit #8: Give the Customer What They Really Want
What do your customers want?
If you don’t know the answer to this question then you are going to have an extremely tough time providing any sort of service never-mind an outstanding one.
To provide your customers with outstanding service you first must understand them. What are their needs, wants and desires?
Whatever it is that you do for your customers it’s important that you fully understand what it is that your customers expect from you. Only then can you determine whether or not you are providing a truly valuable service, which specifically provides for the needs of your customers.
Thinking like a customer is the simplest and most immediately accessible way for you to evaluate what your customers need.
Habit #9: Thinking Defensively
Our database environments are business assets and as DBAs it is our primary responsibility to guard and protect them.
As we develop and grow our skills it can be easy to fall into the trap of becoming complacent. Don’t make the mistake that i did.
Before you implement any administrative tasks whether it be deploying a set of database patches to your environment, modifying table data or creating new objects, whatever changes you plan to make, I advise you to always adopt a doomsayer’s frame of mind before carrying out the implementation.
- What is the worst that could happen?
- What are the things that could go wrong?
- Have I covered myself adequately?
Adopting a defensive mindset such as answering these questions, together with keeping a look out for signs of overconfidence both in yourself and your team, will help you on your own path to being an outstanding data professional.
Habit #10: Be the Expert that YOU Want to Be
Every successful company has them. They’re the lifeblood of their organisations. Linchpins essential to getting things done and doing them extremely well. More commonly we know them as experts.
Experts are always in popular demand and they come in all manner of different flavours.
Of course they are just everyday people, regular folks, like you and me. Regular folks that is, who one day decided that they want to be outstanding at what they do!
Being an expert is not about being the very best at something. It is about being the best that YOU can be and is a pursuit that every successful DBA makes a habit to follow.
What Habits Have You Observed in Successful DBAs?
There you have it. Ten habits of successful Senior DBAs that you can use right away.
Of course there is a whole lot more to being a successful DBA than what is presented here but adopting these habits will get you off to a great start.
Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.