I received an email from a reader the other day, asking for a spot of advice. You know, that highly sought after and dangerous free stuff.
Our SQL community chum posed some rather splendid questions, some of which you have likely pondered too. Since a chap only has so many keystrokes in life, I’m sharing my thoughts with one and all, blogging my reply and emailing them the link.
I’ve scoured your website several times and wondered if it would be okay to ask for a bit of advice?
I’ve been working as a junior database analyst for the past 8 months for a marketing company. My job literally consists of producing customer orders using selections they have specified, for example, outputting addresses for people living in a certain area with certain interests. I also import/export data and help to build our consumer product which consists of 50 million people.
Before doing this job I had very little experience using databases but in my previous job I dabbled with them and wanted to learn more so I did an open university course on relational databases. (I worked doing data collection and manipulation for a sports data company after obtaining my mathematics degree at University).
I know how to run queries and other basic SQL server tasks but not a great deal more. I was wondering if you could advise me on the next best step to becoming a DBA? I’m worried that if this job was not to work out, I’d be a bit stuck finding another job I could do!
I should also embarrassingly admit, for someone who works with computers all day, I know very little about them past the basics. Maybe I should have picked a different career path…..
Any advice or tips would be greatly appreciated!
Thank you for your email and congratulations on your decision to pursue a career as a Data Professional. I’m delighted that you’ve discovered our little corner of the Internet. It really is a wonderful time to be working in technology.
At some point we all doubt our chosen path. Is this the right career for me? Of course there’s only one person who can really answer that question.
It is entirely for you to decide. It is your path after all and so only you can truly know if it is indeed right for you.
Kicking Self-doubt to the Curb
Fear is a sneaky little blighter. We must remain vigilant of its whereabouts in our lives. All too easily it can become a barrier to our progress, if we are not careful. Have us worrying that we’re not good enough and all that sort of nonsense.
Being apprehensive about things and the future is okay, so long as you are able to take that energy and re-direct it toward something positive. Fear being a trickster, it tends to present barriers to us as being greater obstacles than they really are.
One way that we can take on fear is to “call it out”, to identify it and give it name.
Concerned that you may not know enough about server hardware? – No problem. Eliminate doubt and get-your-learn-on today by grabbing a free copy of Glenn Berry’s SQL Server Hardware.
Putting the spotlight on your fear has a shrinking effect, it makes it manageable.
I’m going to shut-up about fear now as I’m danger of sounding like one of those touchy-feely types, which I myself loathe to read. There’s plenty of good reading available on the subject for those that are interested but I did just want to call out the theme of fear here explicitly in the post because it can be a very powerful influencer of the course of your life. How so, is up to you.
You’re Already Off to a Great Start
From reading your email it sounds to me like your career journey is starting out from a great place.
- You’ve got a real degree (not a Mickey Mouse one) that has value and not just the subject.
- You have a job that exposes you to growth and potential to develop DBA skills.
- You’re working with data. I mean really working WITH it.
I want to emphasise that last point. It might sound counter-intuitive but many Data Professionals don’t actually develop a real appreciation and understanding of data until quite some time into their careers.
Like you, I too began my career working as a Data Analyst, myself working for a consumer marketing company. I get where you are coming from and what you’re going through. Right now you are intimately close to the actual data itself. You’re already developing an appreciation for data and a holistic understanding of it’s significance. Learning about the importance of data quality, the value of data to the business, data security and so on.
Take heart and feel encouraged knowing that you are in a good position right now, one that you can leverage to take your career forward.
Mapping Your Own Unique Journey Forward
So you’ve decided that you want to a become a DBA. Great! Now what?
What needs to be happen in order for you to Be the Data Professional That You Want to Be?
First, you need to identify what the role you want looks like. Only then can you create your own personal road-map for how you will get there.
This is a very individual exercise and you’re going to need to invest a fair amount of time on it but it’s incredibly important that you do. Set aside some time, grab a pen & paper, then go sit someplace away from a computer. You need space to get in your right mind and think on this.
You might wish to make a start by asking yourself questions and thinking about:
- What does a DBA actually do? – What tasks and responsibilities do I need to perform in this role?
- Who is the DBA that I want to be? – Think character traits and behaviors. How might you practice and develop these?
- How can I learn what I might need to know? – Certifications, building a virtual lab environment, books etc.
Completing this exercise will enable you to create your very own personalised roadmap for becoming the Data Professional that you want to be. It’s a great tool and one that you should use often throughout your career, taking account of any course corrections to ensure you are still heading in the direction you desire.
For more ideas, take a look at my Your Road To Becoming a DBA post series, where I talk about how you might go about laying some foundations from which to grow your career as a Data Professional.
Also, grab a copy of our free eBook DBA JumpStart. It’s packed full of inspiration and advice for aspiring DBAs.
Additional reading and resources:
The Short Version
In summary then:
- Identify what’s really holding you back from achieving what you want.
- Define exactly what you are going to do about it.
- Realise you’re in a good place right now and there’s potential to make it even greater.
- Create your own personal roadmap for an express route to the role/career you want.
Of course this is just my take on things. Others will have their own thoughts and suggestions for you. It’s one of the reasons the Community Forum is such a great place to get your questions answered and share ideas.
It really is an exciting time to be working in technology. You have the opportunity to create and define the career that you want. We all do. Knowing what you want, what it looks like for you, now that’s the tricky part.
Thanks for your message and I wish you the very best of luck….
For an excellent guide on what you need to know in order to thrive during your early life as DBA see Thomas LaRocks outstanding book DBA Survivor. I recommend this as essential reading to all those considering the path of the DBA.