Outside of Work is Really Important
This one is first and longest for a reason.
Time – it keeps going. It doesn’t pause while you have a busy month at the office. That means the things that matter the most in life keep happening. Whether you are there or not.
Right now. Right this moment – especially if you are new to IT, or in your beginning years – you have a decision to make. It’s possibly one of the most critical decisions you will ever make.. Ready? What’s more important? Your work life? Or your outside of work life?
You need to balance things. I’m not saying work isn’t important – it’s very important – it’s a blessing to be able to do work and provide. It’s important to show up, to put in your all and work your tail off and put in an honest days work. BUT… It can get out of control very quickly.
There are years that I would do anything to go back and change. I have a lot of really great memories of my 1st and 3rd biological children at young ages. The first because I managed my time differently and was home and around more. The third because I saw some of the damage my failures here were having, that and going independent as a consultant helped.
My middle biological child, though? I look at his pictures of his first 3-5 months and it’s a blur. I wasn’t totally absent at all. But I was absent enough.. Absent enough to not really be able to close my eyes and see his 3 month old face like I can my first or my third… Or even his 1 year old face. I missed many things between late nights and commutes. I’m not going to get that time back. I missed real time and memories. Because I put the emphasis on work.
For the most part – your managers aren’t going to step in and say “stop that – you are working too much” (I argue a great manager will and should). The company isn’t going to whine. If you fall into the trap of overworking needlessly – it will bite you hard, and 10 years will go by before you realize you were bitten by it.
Bonus Tip – Emergencies happen for DBAs. We get calls in the middle of the night. You need to separate the real emergencies that require immediate attention from those that don’t. Develop that skill today. Say “no” a little more often.
Get some.. As a DBA – you’ll lean on this a lot. You will be angry at developers, users, managers, project managers, other DBAs, vendors (Oh.. vendors…) and sometimes Microsoft. Sometimes it is well placed.. Sometimes it isn’t. But if you don’t approach situations with empathy and ask, like Tom’s post suggests, “what’s their MacGruffin?“, you are going to do some of the things I’ve done – and am not proud of – in my early and mid points of my career… A miss here can ruin a career or goodwill at a company. I’ve had customers tell me that that was a reason they expand relationships with us – because we exercise empathy.
Remember that we all start somewhere. Remember that there is a base knowledge that everyone brings and a perspective everyone brings. It’s different for everyone. History and situations influence that. Until you know what that is with someone, until you understand where they are coming from – put away assumptions.. Best Cure Here? Get to know the people you work with. Listen. Understand and sit with them and figure things out.
Bonus Tip – E-Mail is a dangerous tool when you lack empathy – because it is easy to rip someone apart in e-mail, it’s easy to let your assumptions boil. Put it down and go talk in person or over the phone with them. It’s harder to lack empathy when you are talking to the person…
Hero != Blank Check
I used to have “white knight” syndrome, still do sometimes. I wanted to charge into the situation on my noble steed, slay the dragons and then let everyone know I slayed the dragons. I guess I’m a people-pleaser and my “love language” is praise and affirmation. I got it too. I worked insane hours. I put my best effort in (when there was a crisis..) and I solved problems and was the go-to guy wherever I went. It was great…
Except… That it wast great in the long run.. In my focus on being the hero – I became really really useful when a big problem arose – and burned out, bitter and lazy the rest of the time. You see I’d drop some other tasks, I’d mess up some routine things – because I spent my time saving the day. The worst part?? I rationalized this behavior. My attitude was “well do you want dragons slayed or not? If you want dragons slayed, then you should just be happy with me…”
Bonus Tip – Do the small stuff really well. Make everything a dragon to slay. Don’t do things for the praise of others – do them to do a great job and work hard. Don’t expect something because you kill a dragon – just do it because it’s part of the job… This attitude is a hard one to shake.
Getting Things Done
This one is quick. Get a system for getting things done. If you were that kid in school who never followed up on assignments, if you never got your term paper started until the last minute.. FIX.THAT.PROBLEM.NOW!! The biggest challenge I have carried with me for these 35 years I’ve been in this body? Procrastination. It’s cost me money. It’s cost me time. It’s cost me happy customers.
Consistency is key. You can be a dragon slayer – but if you slack off and don’t get things done? If you say “yes” and then never deliver – you’ll be known for that. You won’t be seen for the marvelous piece of code you delivered or the fact that you saved the day.. You’ll be seen as that unreliable DBA whose yes means maybe and dates always slip…
Get a system. Get one that works now and keep yourself accountable here. Or else.
Tag.. YOU are it.
I want to hear your thoughts on this. What do you wish you could go back and tell yourself when you started? You don’t have to be a DBA for this. If you are in the SQL Server Community, I tag you – If you want to share- blog about this, add a comment. But I’ll call a few people out specifically:
I hope to see your posts. Link back to me or just send me an e-mail with your post and I’ll maybe do a wrap up post.
Brent also reminds me of a great resource we both contributed to from John Sansom. A free e-book for DBAs starting out. Chalk full of great articles. (And thanks to Brent this section got a lot smaller. He quickly shot back his tips, and he was much more to the point.)