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You are NOT a Junior DBA.

If you found your way to my blog, the chances are good that you consider yourself a Junior DBA. The chances are also good that you’re wrong. I can hear you saying right now, “Damn, you’re good, how do you know all that?” Well, I’m glad you asked.

Perceptions

I still remember my first SQL Server User Group Meeting and feeling like the dumbest guy in the room. And for a couple of years, I continued to think of myself as a Junior DBA. So, I spent a small fortune on my own education. Took classes, attended meetings and SQL Saturdays, and paid my own way to my first PASS summit. However, I still felt like my skill set didn’t measure up.

Meanwhile, local community members tried to convince me that I wasn’t Junior at all. Sean McCown (Blog), Jason Massie, Tim Mitchell (Blog/Twitter), and Tim Costello (Blog/Twitter) all encouraged me to go out and find my new job. However, perception is reality and if you think you are a Junior, then that’s what you are.

Revelations

About a year ago finally I started looking for new opportunities, and I realized something. I wasn’t a junior DBA and hadn’t been for some time. How did I come to this conclusion? The interview process. I had no problem passing any of the technical screens, nor did I have any major problems in any interview. I realized that my skills were better than the average bear. In fact, in one interview, the interviewer started jotting down notes as I pointed out several flaws in his SSIS Packages. Anyway as many of you know, last July I became a Senior Business Intelligence Consultant for a firm in Irving and since then my skills have increased exponentially as well. If you want a confidence boost, become a consultant and look at the majority of existing code out there. Trust me, it’s an eye opener.

Comparisons

I don’t know the origin, but I love the following quote.

Two campers in the woods see a bear approaching and one guy starts putting on his running shoes. The other guy asks, “what are you crazy? You can’t outrun a bear.” The guy with the running shoes replies, “I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you.”

The point is, when evaluating your skill level, compare yourself to the right group. I had been comparing myself to Brent Ozar (Blog/Twitter), Brian Knight (Blog/Twitter), Tim Mitchell (Blog/Twitter), Andy Leonard (Blog/Twitter), and Sean McCown (Blog). Notice a pattern there? They’re all SQL Server MVPs and a couple of them are Microsoft Certified Masters. So of course I felt like I was inferior. However, I don’t have to “outrun” these guys, I only have to run faster than the average DBA and compared to mere mortals, my skills are great.

Recommendations

This all came to a head recently when a friend from my user group lost his job and needed help finding a new one. I made some calls and such for him, but the most important contribution I had was advice about his attitude. Please allow me to pass it on to you as well.

If you’re still reading this, you’re most likely going to User Group Meetings, SQL Saturdays, and other events and therefore NOT a junior anything. Remember that what you think of your skills is what others think of them as well. Skills correlate to income and the more you think you’re worth, the better the offer you’re likely to receive. Take pride in what you’ve learned and be confident that you can learn any skill faster than the average person. Always try to secure a position a little higher than your current skill level and be prepared to raise your game so you can succeed in it.

If you’re not attending User Group Meetings and other PASS events like the upcoming SQLRally 2012, by all means get involved. SQLRally is in Dallas this year and I am in charge of the volunteers at this event so if you’d like to get more involved in the community, and I completely recommend it, message me. I’d be happy to help.

So if someone tells you that you’re a Junior DBA, or you’re telling yourself that very thing, be more confident in your abilities and always be working to improve.

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12 comments to You are NOT a Junior DBA.

  • I could not agree more. The fact that you are willing to go the extra mile is just what I look for when I interview a canidate.

  • I never realized it until I read this post but I think this is definitely something I struggle with as well. With a great community like this, it’s hard to not compare yourself to the “faces” of the community. I definitely think I’m a Junior DBA from the knowledge I possess, but I definitely think I’m farther along than I give myself credit. Sometimes we are our own worst critic.

    Thanks for this great post.

  • Very, very well said! My “awakening” came from interviewing applicants for DBA or developer openings within our company. Realizing just where my skills and knowledge stacked up against the masses, I finally began to understand that I HAVE learned a lot over the years, and I DO have a lot to offer in return.

  • this is kind of cool to see this. I think it was Chris (above) once who told me that the difference between a dba and a *senior* dba is that a dba knows how to fix something. a senior dba has broken it, and fixed it. (Chris, feel free to correct me if I’ve got that a touch off). I think, by that definition, I’m definitely no longer a *junior* dba. :)
    I’ve interviewed several folks and come to some of the same conclusions Josh and Tracy came to.
    Well written – thanks!

  • Oh great, you just told every idiot I’ve ever interviewed that he’s really much better than he thinks he is. Really though, I get where you’re coming from, and I’ve actually talked about this on the show. I’ve got a phrase I use for this. “Don’t confuse your mentor with your mirror.” It’s a phrase I made up about a yr ago which basically means have your mentors, but don’t compare yourself to them. Compare yourself to your present or former self, or others of your same caliber.

    However, I think that enough DBAs don’t take an honest assessment of where they are. They compare themselves with absolutely nothing at all and proclaim that they’re experts. So while you’re telling yourself you’re not a Jr, have something concrete to back that up with. The amount of time you’ve been doing SQL is the only thing you can’t use as a measure. Time means nothing. The only thing that counts is what you’re actually able to do.

  • Scott Murray

    Do you still need volunteers for SQL Rally.

  • Always junior

    I’ve seen a problem when people realize they’re not junior anymore. They relax and stop learning. The earlier insight that they could be “something” – is gone.

    As for your ‘bear quote’: When the guy with the running shoes has utrun the bear, he stops running…

    I always compare myself with those mvp’s and mcm’s. But that does not make me inferior. It makes me work harder because I have a goal to run to. Not a bear to run from.

  • rupertsland

    I really enjoyed reading this article. A few years ago I essentially created my position as a DBA at a local environmental consulting company here in Canada. My background education is in biology (with a M.Sc.), if you can believe it. After identifying a need for a database system for a large client, there was no one other than myself who had the combination of biology, an excellent understanding of relational databases, a desire to learn SQL Server, and a clear understanding of the needs of the client, who could design, implement and maintain an environmental database. In the city where I live, there are not many DBA’s to talk to or meet, and certainly very few if any meetings. My office won’t fund any trips to SQL events. So I take part in webinars to learn more, as much as I can. I also paid out of my own pocket SQL training videos and books, and even tried the certification exam (which I failed, but will try again later). I too felt “inferior” as a junior/rooky DBA. Do I really know anything? Yes, of course I do. And I’m trying to learn more. Sometimes it is a struggle to do everything – there’s no onsite IT staff, and no other DBA’s or DB staff. I probably know more than I realize. Confidence increases with increasing experience and knowledge.

  • Scott: Yes, absolutely. Will you please email me at david.stein.jr {at} gmail {dot} com?

    rupertsland: I have a bachelors degree in Biology, Math, and Chemistry. :) I found my way into this career anyway.

  • Rupert – interesting routes we take to get here, huh? I have a master’s degree in photojournalism. Comment on any of my articles on my blog if you’re curious. There’s links there that will take you to some photography adventures.

    Take care,

    Tom

  • Very nice explanation, David! I like these things when professional people share their experience how they are involved their self in the community, in this case SQL Sever Community. I’m on my way exactly as you have described here, soon I will speak in two our local and region conferences. I will blog about them later, but when I compare my position today with just few years ago I can see myself in your explanation that you gave us here.

    @DugiDBA

  • sqlgirl

    Such an appreciated post. This topic has been on my mind for a few weeks after a former manager asked me was I sure that I was still a junior dba. After putting much thought into this, and attending SQL Saturday Atlanta this weekend AND reading this article, I am reassured that I am so beyond junior at this point. I believe part of the problem is that there are so many different definitions of dba levels that it’s hard to classify yourself. I took a new job last November and I am the only DBA in the shop. So there’s no one there to really compare my skills to. But after looking at the our current server configurations and state, I do feel further along than the last dba that had been there for > 3 years; that has boosted the confidence that I have in my skills. Thanks for the post!

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