The Ironic DBA—Starting a New and Unexpected Career?

Hey there! I’m Jeff, the latest apprentice at Dallas DBAs and a new contributor to the blog. If all goes well, I’ll be around for a long time and we’ll all get to know each other better.

Who am I and what’s my story? I’ll try to be as brief as possible. Kevin and I have known each other for over 15 years, though we really didn’t start getting to know each other really well until about six years ago. When we first met, I’d been hired as the new music minister at his church, serving there for exactly 10 years to the day. Due to vocal troubles and a few other issues, I “retired” and essentially went home to work side by side with my wife in her established graphic/web design business. (I’m even the WordPress dev behind this very site).

About the same time, Kevin and I (along with our families) grew closer in friendship because we decided to intentionally stay in close contact. Our kids were close friends and we wanted to keep that connection going. Little did we know what would bloom from our decision to get together and play cards almost every week for the last several years.

During that time I’ve heard Kevin tell dozens (maybe hundreds) of stories and anecdotes about both cycling and database administration. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the name Brent Ozar!) A couple of years ago I gave in to my curiosity and asked Kevin to help me get started mountain biking. Since that day I’ve become completely addicted to riding my bike on dirt trails, and even on pavement from time to time. I’ve gotten so into the pastime that I even started my own website, NTX Trails—the most comprehensive source for mountain bike trail information and locations in North Texas.

The last couple of years in the freelance graphic design and WordPress development field have been tough. There’s more and more (global) competition out there so it’s become increasingly hard to land enough regular work. I even dabbled with adding photography to my portfolio over the last year and a half, a move which didn’t bump the income needle at all.

That’s when Kevin impacted my life significantly again. He’s offered to train me to become the best DBA I can be—as quickly as can be—without skipping any important steps along the way. I felt like it was an offer I couldn’t and shouldn’t refuse, so here I am jumping in with both feet.

So, unlike many of you who are Accidental DBAs, I’m more like an Ironic DBA (in training).


  1. I’ve always been more of an “artsy” type. My original college degree is in music, and I spent over 20 years in music ministry if you count both my volunteer and vocational experience. On top of that, once I left music full time I became a designer—and as I mentioned, a photographer—both very visual fields. Even in my WordPress development phase I excelled at the design part and dreaded the development part (backend, PHP coding, etc.).
  2. I’m a Mac user for life. I’ve literally been using Macs since the original 1984 model. Though I’m familiar with Windows, it’s been about 17 years or more since I’ve interacted with a Windows box on a semi-regular basis. At one point in my life I was a school computer teacher, and my classroom lab was 50% PC/50% Mac—way back on Windows 2000. I often threw out regular Windows vs Mac jokes such as, “Computers are just like air conditioners. They stop working properly if you open Windows.” Yeah, I was that guy.

Those two points alone make it strange that I would ever consider SQL Server DBA as a potential career, especially as I’m nearing 50 years of age. But the truth is I really enjoy learning new things and challenging myself, and that’s one of the beautiful things I see in the DBA world. Just this morning while training with Kevin he made mention of concepts that I’ll learn and be responsible for understanding “6 months from now,” or “1 year from now” and even “2 years from now.”

That’s very interesting to me to see such depth in the field so that there’s no way it can get stale or boring unless I just give up and decide I’ve learned all I want to know. Not to mention the continual updates and advances in technology that will necessitate always keeping my learning hat firmly planted on my head.

Plus, I’ve come to be convinced that I can excel at become a DBA if I work for it. Not only will I have Kevin to guide me and correct my mistakes, but the job is essentially about troubleshooting. I’ve always been the “IT guy” pretty much by default everywhere I’ve worked in the past. Mainly because I was the resident geek—especially in the ministry environments—but also because I’ve never been afraid to poke around with stuff on a computer in an attempt to troubleshoot a problem for a coworker.

I’m also very entrepreneurial in the sense that I’m a self-starter, need zero supervision to do my work, have handled customer service and satisfaction on my own for years, and am willing to put in whatever work is necessary to get stuff done.

So far I’m really enjoying the experience and training, but admittedly I’m only a little over a week into the process. Obviously, it will be a while before the newness wears off and I’m sure there will be hard days. I feel like I’m drinking from a firehose most days learning about systems and processes that are almost completely new to me, but I like the challenge. One of the hardest parts so far is just getting re-familiarized with how Windows operates. I’ve got about 35 years of Mac-centric muscle memory to overcome here!

Thus far I’ve worked with installing instances, updating instances to the latest SPs and CUs, learning about the different file types involved in a SQL Server environment, identifying the differences in the different recovery models, and getting started with understanding backups and restores. I’ve even started playing around with Power BI in my spare time. I’m sure there’s more I’ve learned that I’m forgetting, but time and repetition with make it all more clear.

There’s even more back story than this to share, but I’ve gone on too long already. I’ll share tidbits here and there as time goes on and as they’re relevant to what I’m learning about at the time.

I hope you’ll stick it out with me as I reinvent myself again in middle age. It should be a fun adventure. I’ll even talk about bikes from time to time too!

You can follow me on Twitter at @SQLandMTB.

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