T-SQL Tuesday #150 – Your First Technical Job

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Welcome to T-SQL Tuesday 150. This month, Kenneth Fisher (Blog | Twitter) asked us about our first technical job.

I’ve talked before about my first technical job for what feels like too many posts. So I will go back even further to my first job that required domain-specific knowledge.

Today, I will about being a DBA and being a beach lifeguard. Well, I’m going to attempt to anyway.

Are there any similarities between the two?

Pre-conceived notions

First up, we have the notion that comes with the jobs. 

Baywatch deeply colours the picture that springs to mind when thinking of lifeguards.

Athletic supermodels and super hunks, slow-motion springing across the beach, rescue buoy in hand, ready to save lives!

Have you ever tried to run across beaches in Ireland? 

90% of them are sharp stones! I’ve heard that the same percentage of statistics are made up, but I think you can get the picture. 

It’s not so much sprinting across the beach as speed limping while being pelted with rain.

Ideas of DBA-ness, while not as universal as lifeguarding, also had the same gallant imagery for me. 

Dreams of the heroic DBA, toiling at the keyboard, magically reviving downed servers, recovering data from corrupted DBs against all odds.
A sage wizard in the corner who can safely navigate the waters of performance traps.

Romantic ideas, eh? 

I’ve since re-defined that. Not so much a wizard as it is a cinema usher.

Rushing around, trying to have things in the proper place before the next deadline.
Cleaning up after people have thoroughly enjoyed themselves. 
Attempting to keep a low profile while keeping things moving along. 
Trying not to gorge on food while you work…no? Just me?

Oddly though, I enjoy(ed) both. 

Lifeguarding, even with its rocks and rain and day-long stretches of staring at an empty sea, and DBA work, even with its constant shift of intense workloads and tight deadlines.

What about the differences though?


There is a defined method to becoming a lifeguard, and certifications are required.

There are practical tests, and there are renewals. There are exams on nearly everything! 
Actually not everything; they don’t test if you can run on stones.

These certs are required – “ no cert-y, no lifeguard-y “, a former teacher used to say. 

He was friendly, but I don’t think his poetry career ever really took off.

Once you were certified, though, that was it. All done until your next renewal or CPR techniques got updated.

DBAs, not so much. 

It’s all on you.

This job is the only one I know of where we have a phrase for someone who “fell” into the role. Either due to proximity to the server or from mistakenly looking up when a manager mentions the word “database”.

There are shops where you can get by just ensuring that backups get taken – maybe restoring the odd backup to get data from a deleted table.

There are also places where the constant thrum of projects and daily work and new technologies will have you sprinting to keep up.

Sure, there are certifications out there, but they change as much as the underlying technology changes. 

There is no ” definition of done ” despite people creating videos, lectures, and courses about it. You learn and learn and continue learning until people stop producing new technologies.

Take a guess what happens then? Here’s a hint, it rhymes with “a mother mew fecknowledgy”…

Sorry, he was an influential teacher….

So now for the million dollar question: which job do I like best?

It depends.

Author: Shane O'Neill

DBA, T-SQL and PowerShell admirer, Food, Coffee, Whiskey (not necessarily in that order)...

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