The Ironic DBA—My First Year as a DBA [Part 2]

Welcome to part 2 of my series reviewing my first year as a DBA. If you missed the first post, you can read it here.

Moar Training!

Reflecting back to the earliest days (via re-reading my Dallas DBAs Slack channels from the beginning), it’s very easy to see just how far I’ve come in the last 12+ months. It’s already getting hard to remember the days when I was a Mac-only guy and trying to relearn my way around the Windows OS. I still get tripped up from time to time, but I’m a confident-enough Windows user that now my keyboard shortcut muscle memory defaults to Windows commands, which causes momentary confusion when I try to operate my iMac.

I ran my VM through it’s paces in those days, taking a bare install and getting SQL Server Developer Edition on there as fast as I could. I ran through installs, patching, instance creation, database creation, and a whole lot more. Doing all of this over and over again really helped solidify the basics and give me confidence to move on to more critical issues such as backups, restores, and integrity checks.

Those days were also something of a juggling act since, while the design business was steadily waning, there was often enough to keep me busy for several hours throughout a week. Also, when I wasn’t working on graphics or learning more about SQL Server, I was learning my way around Power BI. I’ve since pretty much dropped Power BI off my radar for now, but will likely take it back up again in the future when it makes sense.

One of the biggest frustrations I’ve had in self-guided learning is discovering that there’s a ton of simply erroneous information out there related to SQL Server. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a blog post or article to eventually find it was just wrong. I don’t know if these authors are just newbies like me, or if they wrote one-off posts from an “it worked on my machine” standpoint. Either way, winnowing out faulty sources was frustrating as an apprentice.

And don’t get me started on technical information that’s just grossly out of date…

Stay tuned for the last post in this new series where I’ll share my favorite and recommended SQL Server training resources.

Working in Prod

It was mid-July of 2019 that I got my first real taste of client production servers. We started out small, with me observing daily checks being performed. From there I began to RDP into client servers from home while Kevin watched over my shoulder virtually using Zoom screen sharing. (We were using Zoom before it was quarantine cool!) After about a week of this per client, Kevin felt secure in letting me fly solo, and before the end of the month I had two clients for whom I performed daily checks.

Not bad for an apprentice DBA with less than two months of experience.

Now granted, there have been very few critical discoveries during my time on these clients, and no major emergencies that I can recall. Most days it’s pretty basic and somewhat tedious stuff. My daily reports often look something like this:

Manage Engine:
No issues found.

No significant waits or blocks.

No new job failures.

All backups are current.

Login failures for 'sa' are still ongoing (known issue).
4 deadlocks in the last four days.
No new errors found.

And while such reports seem boring, they’re a product of something very important. Most of the time, Kevin has whipped a client’s servers into shape before handing them over to me for daily checks. That means we have clients with SQL Server instances that are by-and-large humming along without any problems. This means I’m now on the front lines in detecting issues before they become major problems.

Keeping a daily record of simple things like hard drive space, waits and blocks, job failures, and error log output helps us know when things just aren’t running like they should. Like a canary in the coal mine, we can often give our clients a heads up long before an issue with their servers becomes painful.

Honestly, serving our clients and helping ensure their data is safe so that they can concentrate on operating their business successfully is extremely gratifying.

Follow me on Twitter at @SQLandMTB, and if you’re into mountain bikes come over and check out my site NTX Trails.

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