SQL Server Blog

Things you know now…

When I wrote about empirical evidence and learning through trying (instead of asking only), I got thinking about things I wish I knew when I was a Junior DBA that I know now.

Rather than just keep those thoughts to myself, I figured I would write about them here and tag a couple folks to do the same. So I am tagging Brent Ozar (@BrentO on twitter) and Michelle Ufford (@SQLFool on twitter). It doesn’t have to be DBA skills, but what do you wish you knew when you were starting?

Here are some of my quick hits. My posts on empirical evidence, troubleshooting methodology and questions to ask vendors also all contain tidbits I wish I knew then.

  • The World is Not Enough is a great name for a movie but not a great goal in a career – Being young, eager and wanting to please everyone I have always been the type to grow my “fiefdom” as rapidly as possible. I would say “Yes” always, try to interject a helping hand everywhere and end up with far too much on my plate. No time for family, growth and no time to focus. I am still working on this one but much better at it (though coworkers and wife may not always agree)
  • Rolling your own is fun but not always practical – As a young, eager DBA/DB Developer/”SQL Guy” wherever I was, I wanted to create my own full monitoring regimen. I borrowed some scripts, created my own and made some nifty (but ugly.. I’m not a web guy) asp and HTML pages. They gave me quick insight into the environment but not the greatest. They took time to develop, it was a good learning experience but I could have learned in other ways. The vendors of the various monitoring products (upcoming blog post in Feb or March… I am comparing four DB monitoring vendors and will write about it) all spend countless hours developing their products. They usually have world-class support teams (some even have “domain experts” available to them 😉 ). If the budget allows, buy a product that works for you! It will be far more reliable, cover more alerts and allow you to focus where your efforts are truly needed.
  • Learn through teaching and helping – Early on, I received help on the newsgroups (I will ignore a recent tweet asking what a newsgroup is, that and my hairline made me feel older than 30 for a minute). In the process of using the newsgroups, I saw questions I could answer or wanted to investigate and answer. I was shy, felt myself too new to help and too busy shooting for the world not being enough. Had I given the time to those questions, I know I would have offered assistance to a community that was helping me, built contacts but I also would have learned through researching questions I wasn’t 100% sure on.
  • Have all of your facts before barging in and making a proclamation – I see the old me in some folks I have worked with over the past years. I both admire it and shudder at the thought :-). I am still very direct and blunt, I don’t hold back the truth but I try to present it diplomatically. Early on, I would do half of an investigation find one thing and quickly attempt to impress folks with my findings. More than once I was hit in the gut by the rest of the research revealing that I was wrong and way wrong.
  • Have your own world in order before raining on someone else’s – I missed this simple lesson from the Bible early on: Take care of the plank in your own eye before helping someone else with the speck in theirs.(Mat 7:3-5). Related to the above, try and get your proactive checklist done and be sure that you aren’t the cause (through omission or commission) before assigning blame and insult. Folks are under the same deadlines as you often.
  • Humility is a good thing – Not the false humility (“Please, don’t call me a hero, I was simply doing what anyone would have done”, said in a narcissistic tone) but know your limitations. Be willing to learn from anyone no matter where in their career and walk of life they are in. Learning and asking questions is not something that will have you thought less of. Being an arrogant jerk who “knows it all” and won’t learn from anyone you feel is “lower” than you on some magical scale is going to get you nowhere.
  • What they say about assumptions; it’s really true. – This is related to the above two and I think it speaks for itself.

There are volumes of “teachable moments” I could write about but these ones combined with the previous posts cover the ones that come to mind most often. I am still working on some of the lessons and perhaps they had to come through experience but I sure wish I had them innately instead 🙂

How about you?

[Update 3/16/09] – This is still going around with more folks responding and tagging each other. I have the list of responses summed up on this post. I will try and update that with some of the more recent responses.

Mike Walsh
Article by Mike Walsh
Mike loves mentoring clients on the right Systems or High Availability architectures because he enjoys those lightbulb moments and loves watching the right design and setup come together for a client. He started Straight Path in 2010 when he decided that after over a decade working with SQL Server in various roles, it was time to try and take his experience, passion, and knowledge to help clients of all shapes and sizes. Mike is a husband, father to four great children, and a Christian. He’s a volunteer Firefighter and EMT in his small town in New Hampshire, and when he isn’t playing with his family, solving SQL Server issues, or talking shop, it seems like he has plenty to do with his family running a small farm in NH raising Beef Cattle, Chickens, Pigs, Sheep, Goats, Honeybees and who knows what other animals have been added!

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