What Does a Good DBA Look Like?


Developers want to work with them.

And yes, I wore that hat well.
The Classic ASP Developer Hat

Sysadmins and SAN admins want to help them.

Managers want to hire them.

DBAs want to join them.

Who are they?  They’re the Incredible DBA Team – the group of database administrators with an awesome reputation in their company.  When they walk into a meeting, project managers breathe a sigh of relief and customers know the job is going to get done, no matter what.

Today, I’ve got a simple assignment for you in the comments.  Write a testimonial for the Incredible DBA Team from the point of view of a non-DBA.  Put your developer, sysadmin, manager, or end user hat on and write the quote from their point of view.  I’ll start:

“Every time I bring one of my slow queries to them, they’re able to explain it to me in friendly terms without making me feel stupid.  I actually want to bring them my slow code.” – Dan the Developer

Your turn – what’s your testimonial for The Incredible DBA Team?  And how does it make you think about your job differently?

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21 Comments. Leave new

  • “I’m not afraid to ask them questions because I know they’ll give me a helpful answer in a friendly tone. Those jerks at my last job would always be salivating with sarcasm the second I knocked on their cube wall.”

  • Once I had to connect to a SQL Server instance using a SQL Server login, but it failed to connect, so I call my super hero DBA who explain to me that first of all, I need to configure SQL Server to accept both, SQL Server authentication and Windows authentication. I felt so blessed that he works with me. 🙂

  • Brandon Moser
    May 1, 2012 9:34 am

    A DBA who understands which tool is right for the job and can explain why. Also, one who has a passion for learning and improvement. Too many technologists become comfortable in their knowledge and forget to try new things.

  • Jeffry Altamar Thalliens
    May 1, 2012 9:46 am

    A DBA who has the ability to explain in a friendly manner no matter the person he/she is talking to, would find the way to explain using the right words based on the problem, in fact they are those people where we can get the correct information even if they don´t know the answer, they will try to get one for us, they are always trying to learn something new to share with the others.

  • With 20+ years of experience, he took the time to teach me T-SQL when I was fresh out of school and didn’t even know what a server was (while somehow also managing multiple db clusters for 3 different companies). Because of that I was later able to take on the roles of data-migrations manager, SSIS developer, app developer, and jr dba. His early investment in me ensured my ability to add value to the company, and he could trust my work as he knew where I got my education.

  • A dynamic team of individuals that can be presented with an issue that may not necessarily be sql related, but they are willing to look into it and either give some help or point you in the right direction.

  • John Hennesey
    May 1, 2012 10:48 am

    I was the t sql developer, he was the Dba. Even when our opinions didn’t line up I knew he would listen to me and explain why my belief was wrong. And he was willing to learn from others – and readily admit it when he was wrong. What made him so good was he respected people and they felt it. He taught. He learned. All while under tremendous stress. That takes someone really smart, secure in their abilities, and able to place their ego on the shelf to focus on the task at hand. When you work with someone like this you will never forget the experience (and miss it!).

    • Kannan Thirugnanam
      May 15, 2012 1:06 pm

      The pleasure was mine to work with fantastic people like John and others in the team.

  • “Since we hired her, we’ve met our SLAs every year. She’s familiar with every corner of our systems and has a great attention to detail. It’s all thanks to her. I don’t just think so, I know it because of her top notch communications skills. She always keeps us in the loop.”
    ~ Howard J. Smith III, CIO

    “She raises potential database issues (with priorities and suggestions) with enough time to allows us to address concerns before end users notice any problems.”
    ~ Billy D. Kidd, Operations

    “She’s taught us how to be better developers and her enthusiasm is catching. In fact one of our team members made an internal transfer last month and is our new Junior DBA!”
    ~ Joe Q. Smith, Developement

    Fun topic Brent! Putting yourself in someone elses place is never a useless exercise.

  • Jesse Reich
    May 2, 2012 1:32 am

    “Our DBA team published a complete data dictionary and accompanying ERD diagrams. With over 500 tables, this makes development a thousand times easier and we use the documents as a training tool for our new developers.”

  • To me a DBA team anticipates their customer’s many needs and is also expert in fire fighting not just SQL Server specific issues, but also general issues with Windows, SAN, AD, and more. Mentoring and approachability are also extremely important to “gel” with the rest of the IT organization.

  • “He/she actually reads thru the upcoming activity matrix and analyzes the sequence of events and whether or not the appropriate team members are tasked accurately so that the change control will flow smoothly and complete successfully in a timely manner.”

  • Hollywoodsql
    May 2, 2012 10:52 am

    A good DBA does take anything personal, he/she know they are the smartest person in the room.

  • Marios Philippopoulos
    October 12, 2013 9:01 am

    The comments posted here are great, but what many people do not seem to understand or take into account in this thread is that DBAs are also people with deadlines, pressures and a life outside of the office. Just do the math: calculate the rough ratio of number of DBAs in most companies divided by the number of people (developers, analysts etc.) who dabble with SQL on a daily basis. If 10% of these people were to have a sql-related question/issue in a given day, there would not be enough hours in a day to address them all.

    This is by no means an excuse to be rude to one’s coworkers, but people should not feel entitled to be seeking DBA help on every single issue, unless they have been unable to find the resolution themselves first. And that means making the effort to do that analysis before contacting the DBA team. The problem is that due to a general lack of proper project planning and the pervasive mentality of “I want it now!” culture – at least in N. America – people usually do not have that kind of patience.

    Respect goes both ways.
    Non-DBAs need to respect DBAs as a valuable – and expensive – resource too.

  • The incredible DBA knows the boundaries of the job.

    She is hired to keep the databases working and stable, but not by denying users to make use of it.

    She knows the balance between “if it ain’t broken don’t try to fix it” and “good is the enemy of awesome”

    She is user friendly and want to help the users of the database to get what they need.

    She understands that her job is to keep the system stable and well performing, not to become the accidental developer cause “monitoring and keeping thing stable is boring”

    She is lazy in a good sense. She setup monitoring and automation so that she is irreplaceable.

    She listen to Brent, and to Kimberly and many other valued database bloggers.

    She understands that she is not the reason we have a database to begin with.

  • Sorry typical mistake I make all the time.

    Should have said “so is not irreplaceable “

  • Humbly, he carries a big stick to make sure the dev teams follow process to ensure the data remains secure and protected. He diligently and proactively monitors DB performance and is a master of automation. He is the DBA the other DBAs look to. He eagerly works with others to help them write better queries and improve techniques. Serves others without seeking credit – often unrecognized and behind the scenes.

    You know who you are – Thank You!

  • BlueCollarCritic
    September 8, 2023 3:39 pm

    “Developers want to work with them”

    Brent – from personal experience working at a software company I can tell you this statement is not always true. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing (most of the devs at the company were from India) but the devs at the company I worked at not only did not care to work with a DBA but they didn’t even have any respect for teh role believing that anyone can be a DBA by reading the “DBA in 24 hours or less” book and that’s not a joke as I personally saw the book one day laying around teh developer area.


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