Can You Farm?

mitch_hedberg_edited”As a comedian, I always get into situations where I’m auditioning for movies and sitcoms, you know? As a comedian, they want you to do other things besides comedy. They say “alright you’re a comedian, can you write? Write us a script. Act in this sitcom.” They want me to do shit that’s related to comedy, but it’s not comedy, man. It’s not fair, you know? It’s as though if I was a cook, and I worked my ass off to become a really good cook, and they said “alright you’re a cook… can you farm?” – Mitch Hedberg

The other day one of my good friends asked me, “Dave, how much would you charge to create a simple website for my buddy so people could order his stuff from the web?”

I tried to explain that although I do have some web development experience, I haven’t really touched that in two years and I wouldn’t be able to do it. Her friend could not afford to pay me while I re-learned to do it, and he should seek out a professional.

My friend then continued to argue with me that since I’m a geek, a super-geek in her eyes, that I should be able to do it. She just kept asking me how much. I guess this whole notion that computer professionals can do anything with a computer stems from the belief that what we do is magic. Since they don’t have any idea how we do our jobs, they think that we can just cross over into jobs that seem related to them.

As computer professionals, we may laugh privately at such requests, but are we not guilty of similar thinking? In the past year I’ve read articles regarding The Great DBA Schism and problems with Microsoft’s BI Certifications that further suggest more separate DBA roles.

I’m not suggesting that I have the solution to these issues, but I agree that more attention should be brought to them and further delineation is necessary to accurately describe our database roles. If SQL Server DBAs continue to refer to ourselves simply as DBAs, is that not the equivalent of asking a great chef if he can also farm?

6 comments to Can You Farm?

  • Judy Graham

    LOVE IT! And how true… if it involves anything with a computer, we should be able to handle any task… correct?! 🙂

  • rk


  • Kim

    I loved Mitch Hedberg. It’s so sad he overdosed. In honor of Christmas:

    “A severed foot is the ultimate stocking stuffer.”

  • I deal with this kind of thing on a daily basis. I’m a programmer, plain and simple. People come to me when their computer is “broken” or they can’t do something on the network or whatever it might be and I often have to tell them they’re talking to the wrong guy. I never took any classes on fixing hardware or setting up networks, so all that I know in those fields is what I’ve found as it happened to me. I can write code in 11 different languages, but I can’t tell you what to do when your computer gets jacked up. Well, I can but “I don’t know, go ask John,” doesn’t really get you very far.

  • Stephen

    Seriously. I’m the IT person. My background is in data communications. But what do I get asked to fix here a lot? The plasma cutters.

  • Another ditto here. I don’t even bother trying to explain what I do anymore. Instead, I agree with them. I grab the nearest pen and paper and start whipping up a ballpark project plan. I give rough guesstimates about the number of days/weeks each step will take. After I’ve sketched out at least half a dozen steps in the plan (each usually taking at least several days), I say in a completely straight, honest tone of voice:

    “This looks like a pretty big project at first, but it’s not really that big at all compared to what we do at work. Thing is, we usually have several web programmers working on this full time, so it only takes us a couple of weeks. But if I tried to do this just by myself, I’ve only got 2 days per week to work on this – max – and that’s if I ignore Erika all weekend. At this rate, I’ll be done in six months of continuous weekend work, at which point you’ll have a web site and I’ll be single again. I can’t do that, but I’d be glad to help you call local consultants to help you find people who can work on this full time.”

    Usually I don’t have to get all the way through that schpiel – they understand long before I get to the punch line. The key is that you can’t be sarcastic – you have to be fair, just like if someone at work came to you and asked you to build that same thing yourself.

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