Art of the DBA Rotating Header Image

December 13th, 2011:

Getting ready for 2012 (the year, not the version)

So with the new year just around the corner, I wanted to take a bit to take what I have gotten out of 2011 and use it to figure out where I’m going in 2012. While not to bore you with the details, 2011 was an explosion of career development, with the following highlights:

  • Regular user group attendance
  • Blogging (if somewhat ireggularly)
  • 6 Presentations given (3 at local user group meetings, 2 at SQL Saturdays, 1 internal)
  • Attending the PASS Summit
  • New job!

This has been good stuff and very fulfilling, but it’s felt a little about throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. While that works for a bit, it can wear you out quickly, so now it’s time for me to sit down and refine my focus a little more. After giving it some thought, I’ve found three general things (for lack of a better description) that I want to emphasize in the next year to drive my career even more than what I’ve done in the past year. I’m going to break these posts up over the next two weeks so that I’m not writing a novel, but I’m really excited about this next phase of my career that the new year will bring.


When I went to the Summit, I sat in on a session with some “big names” talking about becoming a linchpin at your job. There was lots of great material out of the session, but the thing that really kind of stuck with me was something Kevin Kline talked about, and that’s what adjectives you want to be used when others talk about you. I’ve been thinking about this ever since, trying to decide what I want those to be. It’s hard, because we want to be all sorts of great things, but the cliché holds true: You can’t be all things to all people.

So now that I’ve had almost two months to think about it, I’ve come up with four words that describe want I want to be. Some of these already describe me, but some I need to work on. But in no particular order:

  • Smart – This is the easy one and something we all want to be. However, this just isn’t about knowing stuff, but also about knowing how to do stuff. A comment I’ve heard about me at work is that if someone comes to me with a problem and I don’t know it, I know how to get the answer. People know they can rely on me to answer their questions and help them with their problems.
  • Creative – It’s one thing to know stuff, it’s another thing to do something with it. Sure, we can all create log backups, design replication strategies, or performance tune queries, but not everything fits in the magic flowchart of all answers. Almost every company does something different, and as data professionals our challenge is to take the various bits of knowledge we have and craft them into elegant, repeatable solutions.
  • Reliable – I want my co-workers and customers to know that they can depend on me. This is a little different than being the go-to-guy or “Mr. Fixit”, as I don’t want to be the superhero that people always look for to save them from their data problems. As Tom LaRock describes in his book, I want to be Mr. Right, not Mr. Right Now. (If this doesn’t make sense, read his book. Really.)
  • Professional – This is one that I feel like I struggle with. I want to improve how the people around me see me from a professional sense. For many years, I was that guy who just wanted to sit at his desk and write code, to be left alone by the outside world. That’s a very career limiting goal, honestly. If you dress and act like you want to be left alone and not noticed, you will be left alone and not noticed. I do want my managers to notice me, I want my coworkers and customers to respect me, I want to rise above. This quantifies into a lot of little things, like dressing a little nicer, making sure I show up to meetings on time, taking on some additional projects.

These adjectives, more or less, form the core principles for my career. No matter what, this is who I want to be. Everything else in my career will build on this, and while I’ll be far from the perfect DBA, those around me will know what the can expect from me and what kind of resource I will be.

Watch for part two in a couple of days!