About two years ago, I made the leap from working as a production DBA to working as a SQL Server expert for Quest Software. When I tell someone what I do for a living, they usually have the same reaction: “Wow, you’ve got a really cool job.” It has its ups and downs, but it definitely beats being a production DBA, and I never would have thought I’d end up in a job like this.
Recently Tom LaRock (Blog – @SQLRockstar) made the same jump. He left a database management position and went to work for Confio. I’m proud of Tom because ever since I’ve known him, I’ve told him that he’d be great for a job like mine. He liked doing presentations, blog posts, and helping the community – so why not work towards getting a full time job doing that stuff? He set goals for himself, worked hard at building the right relationships, and next thing you know, he’s livin’ the dream too.
But I know what you’re thinking – jobs like this happen to other people. They happen to people with deep industry connections, people who get elected to the PASS Board, people who know the secret handshake. Companies don’t just go out and post a job description that says something like:
Engaging directly with technical professionals from Microsoft’s top 50 Global ISV partners. Travel is required.
Mentoring and training ISV Performance Engineering and Development staff to ensure quality technical adoption of SQL Server technologies
Developing training content for ISV partner Sales professionals.
Community championship – driving best practices through blogs, discussion forums and key conferences.
Engaging directly with customers of our ISV partners. This includes using our MTC assets to prove SQL capabilities and direct on location customer QA and problem solving.
Training System Integrators, ISV Technical Staff and key implementers.
This position is ideally based in Redmond and requires some domestic and international travel.
Yes, that’s a real job description at Microsoft.
Dress Blog for the Job You Want
Career books remind us that we need to dress for the job we want. If we aim to be CIOs, then we need to come to work wearing a suit so that the executives see us in the right light. If we look like DBAs, then executives believe that’s our chosen route in life, and that’s the end of the line for us.
Today, there’s a new guideline: build the web presence for the job you want. The first impression is made long before you step foot in someone’s office. People search the web for you to check out whether you’re qualified. Ideally, they approach you for the job before you even know there’s a job available – both Tom and I got our positions by working directly with companies before they’d even posted a job, and I know other expert DBAs doing that same thing as we speak.
When you see a job posting like the Microsoft one, it’s too late to start building your brand online. You need to start now to invest in your future career. More and more companies are hiring for evangelist positions – not just big companies, but small ones too. Two or three years from now, I can’t imagine an IT company of any sort (hardware, software, or services) competing without a credible community champion. Lots of these positions will be open, and companies will fight over the (very) few visible people with strong online presences and a history of community involvement.
Start building your history today:
- Blog once per week
- Embrace IT communities on Twitter and Facebook
- Get involved in answering questions on #SQLhelp, StackOverflow, and ServerFault
- Do at least one user group presentation per quarter
- Think hard about my post “Rock Stars, Normal People, and You”
None of this is hard – it just takes free time – but trust me, it pays off. You never know when a job like this will become available, and when it does, you want to be ready to click “Apply.” It worked for me, it worked for Tom, and now it’s going to work for someone who reads that Microsoft job description.
Brent, great post, as usual. It does bring to mind web presence.
Our project was canceled, so my day is Friday. Besides looking for other teams that need a little help here and there, i have to think about how to position myself. But words are just that. Where am i online?
I don’t have a SQL Blog. Maybe i should.
Thanx for the post.
While I don’t blog that much, I do have a pretty good online presence. I feel like I have spent the past 5 years, starting with my first article published in SQLServerCentral, getting ready for my new job as a Technology Specialist for Microsoft. It really is establishing your brand and connecting with the community!
Congratulations on all you have accomplished, Brent!
Opportunities do come up for the prepared: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/grahamk/archive/2010/06/22/the-sql-server-support-team-in-stockholm-is-hiring.aspx
Always enjoy your stuff Brent.
I’ve seen a lot of DBA’s “idle” in their first proper position, then “rev” it up with a golden opportunity, ultimately shaping them into better DBA’s. It’s almost as if they turn into a new type of person, suddenly have the courage to present, blog and better themselves.
Career change can be attitude change as well, suddenly you feel worthy of being who you were meant to be.
This reminds me of this podcast about Systematic Career Documentation. Blogging is a form of documenting your accomplishments.
Hi Master Brent,
First time for me to post a comment on your blog though I’ve already been reading it since I’ve known about it. I like your quote, “Start building your history today.” I think I’ll include it in my next presentation. Let me add another personal quote that I came up with over the years: “The future is only as bright as you see it.” It takes vision to see what other don’t and that determines whether or not you’ll have a brighter future, more so a better job.
There are three kinds of people in this world – those who read about history, those who wished they were part of history and those who make history. It’s for us to decide where we fall in these categories. In my experience, I’ve chosen to become one of those who make history and, thanks to Kevin Kline, managed to gather the courage to post some of those stories online
Ha! Thanks, Edwin. Another friend of mine likes to say there’s 3 kinds of people – people who make things happen, people who watch things happen, and people who wonder what happened.
But what if I am not the kind of person that has the ability to do “user group presentations” (those that I have met personally know exactly what I mean). Do I have to force that to my system? Any substitution for this?
You can’t get a public-facing job without being able to face the public. If you’re scared of speaking in public, join Toastmasters. They’ve helped millions of people overcome their fear of public speaking.
People who know me very well know that I am an introvert and somebody who would not be comfortable being in front of a crowd. But I have learned throughout my experience that the great leaders of all time were people who are comfortable with public speaking. I have committed myself in continuous development in the area of public speaking ever since I have made that realization – more than 13 years ago. But that doesn’t mean I’m no longer afraid of speaking in front of a crowd. I channel my energies toward becoming a better presenter every time I do so. That replaces the fear.
Great post (once againb Brent )
Further to your points :
I haven’t interviewed for the last 3 positions I’ve filled. I use “positions” instead of job because the latest position is heading up my own consultancy in partnership with a partner (US based – I’m in SA) who’s supporting me.
And a good part of that is keeping good relationships, building your brand online, blogging to share your knowledge.
Marlon, I definitely agree with Brent on Toastmasters – I did some Toastmasters when I was starting out, and it definitely helps, it’s a friendly environment to overcome any fears you have of presenting.
I do believe you can only go so far without becoming a good public speaker – even if it’s not presenting to a user group (which is one of the *easiest* crowds to present to in my experience), it’ll be presenting your project to the end users, presenting your idea to the angel investors, presenting your latest initiative to the board….
It’s hard, but practise : you should be up in front of people speaking at least twice a month to not give enough time to build up fears again.
Thanks, Mark! And yep, the public speaking thing really does make a world of difference in your career. Even when it’s just a server outage, the DBA needs to be able to stand up in a roomful of people and sell their reasoning on why it’s down, what to do next, and whose fault it was.
Thnx 4 this, & I have read that: https://www.brentozar.com/archive/2013/06/sample-sql-server-dba-job-descriptions/
I had 11 interviews last two months, and in a couple of them I was asked: “What are the job responsibilities for a DBA?… describe each of them”, “What is the work break down structure for a DBA role?”,”Why do we need to heir a DBA?”, “list DBA roles and write three lines about each of them” or “what does the DBA do the whole day, month, year?”…etc.
And even after reading what I memorized from your link and other links on the internet, it didn’t seem that they were satisfied with what I was saying!
So would you plzzzzzzzzz write a post about: the WBS of a DBA, what his role is? what his duties are? … something comprehensive and convincing!
Bryan – I gotta be honest: if you’re applying for a job, and you don’t even know what the job does, then you probably shouldn’t be applying for that job.