Brent says: “How many people are in the on-call rotation with me, and can I give them each a technical test?”
Once you get out of the on-call rotation, it’s really hard to go back to the electronic tether. I’d be willing to do it, but only if there are other sharp people to share the burden with me. The questions on the test wouldn’t be trivia – I would just want to hear more about their troubleshooting process, learn what actions they were comfortable taking, and know that I could trust them to make situations better rather than worse.
Bonus points if they have a good change control process that avoids random changes to production servers, thereby ruining my drinking night because some yo-yo wanted to deploy a new version of their non-critical app and suddenly adds an N+1 bug that knocks out services to unrelated apps.
Erik says: “What’s the oldest version I’d have to support, and what are your upgrade plans?”
Back when I started working here, SQL Server 2014 was still pretty new. It also didn’t have what I’d call anything “groundbreaking” in it. There were some okay new doodads, but I didn’t point in awe like “THIS WILL SOLVE SO MANY PROBLEMS”.
That’s not true for SQL Server 2016, and oh-my-dear-sweet-Robert-Smith-wig, it is ever not true for SQL Server vNext. The stuff in those two releases is heart and mind changing. Like, I think people will actually hate Microsoft less because of what they’re doing these days. Maybe. As long as they leave the Start menu alone.
Knowing what’s available in newer versions makes supporting and troubleshooting (especially performance troubleshooting) older versions downright annoying for FTEs.
Tara says: “How often does the on-call DBA get called during his/her week of on-call duty? What is the most common thing that the on-call DBA gets called for in the middle of the night? Which monitoring tools do you have in place?”
Like most production DBAs at large companies, I’ve been through horrific on-call weeks where you don’t get much sleep. As long as the bad weeks don’t happen too often, you can manage it. When every week is a bad week, you may start looking for a new job.
I’ve been in on-call rotations where there are a few hundred SQL Servers. It was rare to not get called at least once while you were sleeping during your on-call week. Most of the late night calls were due to disk space issues. Most of those should have been handled during the day. It’s imperative that the production DBAs be proactive to limit the on-call work. The on-call team needs to have enough time in their day to do proactive work. If they don’t have extra time, then the team is not sufficiently staffed.
Monitoring tools are a critical component of production environments. If I get woken up at 3am for a performance issue, I want to have monitoring data that I can look at to help solve the problem quickly so that I can go back to bed. Even if your company can’t afford a really nice monitoring tool, you can create your own. At the very least, log current activity to a table with sp_WhoIsActive. There are lots of other free tools.
Richie says: “Who would I be reporting to, and what level of interaction would my manager have with the team that I’m on?”
Actually, that’s not true. My first question would be “Why in the hell am I taking a DBA job?” If you are unaware I’m the only developer on the team (official title: dataveloper) so for me taking a DBA job would be a bit out of my comfort zone. So let’s change DBA to developer.
The most important factor for me taking a new gig is who would I be working for. The manager literally defines success for their employees. If you get a good one, they’ll create an environment that encourages your success. If you get a bad one, they’ll give you unrealistic deadlines, change the definition of success, and blame you for their failures.
Modern corporate software development is also team undertaking. I may have one of the few jobs where I’m working on software all by my lonesome. The success of a project isn’t defined by your individual contributions but the completion of the team goals. I’ve been with some companies where my manager had no interaction or control over the team/project that I was a part of. When that happens the manager is getting information about your performance second hand without understanding the full circumstances. Like a child’s finger painting, the performance review becomes an ambiguous, inaccurate mess.
In the end get a manager that you can trust. I’ve worked fourteen hour days for two straight months for a manager that I trusted. I’ve also had a manager that I refused to be in a room alone with him. I think that’s why it was so easy to join Brent Ozar Unlimited. I’ve known Brent for a long time and knew I could trust him. I knew he would be honest with me and let me know when there was a problem. I knew he would create the environment for my success. Please don’t tell him that I said any of this. He’d probably have me walk over hot coals if he knew.
What about you? What would your first question about the job or company be?