Category Archives: Pointless History

Starting my first DBA position

Coming up on Monday I’ll be starting my first day as a DBA. Not “A Developer who also does a lot of work with databases”, not “SQL Developer”, my official title will read “Database Administrator”. This is something that I’ve looked forward to for a long time. What do you say we throw out a quick flashback, eh?

Flashback: SQLBear in high school

I was never a super diligent student in high school. Don’t get me wrong, I loved knowledge; I just hated proving that I knew things. My father was a .NET developer in the Salt Lake Valley, and he would come home talking about the work he had done, and it always sounded so cool. He got to talk to computers and tell them what to do. I picked up some classes and learned to program, following in his footsteps. He got me a few teach yourself C# books and I made my hello world apps and such. It was all super neat.
Once I had a base level of proficiency (enough that he felt I could learn on the job) he actually picked up a side contract that he had heard about from a friend. A small microfinance company needed help upgrading their system from a solution built around Microsoft Access to SQL Server. The company also wanted a little recognition at the time, so they decided to go bleeding edge. SQL Server 2005 had just released and applications that used that database were being awarded the “SQL Server 2005 Front Runner” award. So now we had a deadline.
I am still not sure how accurate my father’s and my assessment of the situation was, but at the time it felt like we were running a race against invisible opponents. There were only so many awards that were to be given out, and we HAD to get one. We set off at a run, but we were running blind. My father was a C# developer, and I was… well, a high school student who just wanted to be like his dad. We built out a design, encompassing what existed in the previous system, and expanding on it as well. Creating audit logs, triggers to manage them… I feel like there was more, but this as nearly 10 years ago now, and I was drowning in knowledge at the time.
We didn’t just have the database to build though, we also had to import data from the old system, as well as provide automated installs for them. So we built out some simple applications in C#, one that would port the data from access to our new SQL Server database (we had no idea that SSIS existed, or really any ETL tool that might have done the work for us), and another application that would allow clients to load up a file that would update their systems.
In the end, we managed it. We slid in under the wire and the client received the Front Runner award. It felt good. This was my first REAL work. More than that though, I really enjoyed getting to work with the database. Looking back on it now, what we did was super simple. And honestly, the database would probably embarrass me if I were to look at it today. But it was my first SQL Server experience, and I wanted more…

Back to today…

Just thinking about those days… I’m just terribly embarrassed of myself. Wildly unprofessional, no focus, no drive. I guess that’s just about any high school student, but I could have done more. After that I went to college, majored in computer science and began my hunt for the job I knew I wanted. Got a job as a Java Developer (I’m not sure how I got that one… I’ve never really known Java) where they used me to fix some ETL issues a client was having on SQL Server 2000. It was diagnosing that issue that I first learned about Specifically, his post DBA 101: Using perfmon for SQL performance tuning. I’ve been an avid reader of his blog ever since. It’s actually one of the key reasons I’m writing this. Mostly to document my learning, but if someone else learns something from my writing, all the better.
After that, I really just scrounged whatever job I could that would get me close to a database. Software Engineer for a large mining corporation, SSRS developer for a trucking corporation, Business Analyst for a small education SaaS company, SSIS developer for a construction material supplier. And now, finally, it’s paying off. On Monday I’ll be starting my first job as a DBA. I’m a little bit scared, but who isn’t when they’re starting a new adventure?