DBA Call to Action: Get up and GO

If you aren’t moving you will never go anywhere. It is time
to dust off your DBA shoes, and start thinking about your future.

I am often questioned about how I became a DBA and the road
I traveled. This can be a very valid question because there are many
DBA-want-to-bees that just do not know where to start. In the early years, many
positions just fell into my lap, as there was a boom in the industry. This last
year has been extremely difficult and I thought I might share a bit with you. This
article does not address how to become a DBA but instead talks a bit about the
hardships of being a DBA in this un-easy tech world we live in. You see, it can
be just as hard to maintain your status as a DBA as it was becoming a DBA. This
article does not attempt to give you a laundry list of what to do but merely
introduce you to some of the pitfalls I have encountered over the last year and
possible ways to avoid them for yourself.

My last year in a nutshell


stock photography

The fun started for me just over a year ago. I was working
at a database performance company that I started with a friend of mine and it
was failing miserably. The only good news was that I figured out early that
after bringing in an upper management team, the company was not going the
direction I had wished and I had decided to leave the company way before the
6-month notice came from the CEO that we were to close shop. Well the 6-month
notice came and still no position and the doors closed on that establishment. I
then had no choice but to hit the independent consulting world and this is when
the fun really started. The first consulting company I joined ended up
collapsing because the principle was caught not only lying to me about
contracts and rates, but also stealing from the home office. Not wanting to go
through that again, I went off and started my own company to consult thrshould
you ough. I mended the torn relationship between the prior consulting firm and my
last client and began consulting to them. This was a very stressful time but
things were good now because I was in control of everything. Well, everything
until Christmas came and the client broke the contract I had with them well
into the next year as an early Christmas present to me. Being out of work now,
I was hitting the job boards as hard as possible and talking to as many
individuals and recruiters as would listen. I actually was able to get a few
out of state interviews lined up, as things here in Colorado were very bad. I
then worked these leads until I had two offers in hand. I was just about ready
to take an east coast job with good pay, full relocation offer and bonuses,
when a friend caught me by the coat tails and convinced me they had enough work
to keep me busy here in Colorado and I would not have to move or have heavy
travel. Long story short, I listened to this friend and got burned. After I
fulfilled a two-month contract for them, I basically never heard from them
again on any viable contract. Back to the boards again and I was then able to
secure a full-time position as a Database Manager. After walking in the doors,
they proceeded to tell me that the database manager position was closed but I
could stay on as a production DBA. Fat chance! I just could not stay at a
company that lied about an opportunity just to get you in the doors. I was off
again searching the job boards until I secured my current position and this one
seems to fit.

Lessons Learned

1.  Be
happy

I know that many of you are out
there looking for jobs. I know this because I have talked to a lot of you and many
recruiters also over the last two years. The general message is that the jobs
just are not out there, as we would like to see. Now I have heard many say that
the economy is turning up and that the shortage of techies is creating a boom.
Well, if this is true let me know because I have quite a few friends that are
good DBAs but cannot find a job. Even though I only went un-employed for just
over one month during this process I went through, it was hard to get those
jobs and I was turned down for many reasons from too qualified to not knowing a
particular Oracle option that for some reason I couldn’t learn. You must keep
an open and positive mind through all of this. Be willing to take jobs that you
would not normally take. Above all, try to learn something from the experience.
Even if you learn that your next job isn’t going to be like the one you
currently have, smile on your way to work, knowing that you are in fact better
off.

2.  Diversify
your skills

If you are employed, now is the
time to take inventory. This is the only time you can actually do something
about it because when you are job hunting there should be nothing else on your
mind. When I was un-employed during the Christmas season and well through the
end of January, some of the toughest times to get hired, people were telling me
to just sit back and wait the season out. You cannot do this! There are still
opportunities to diversify and build relationships that will last. You see,
recruiters are also in a hole waiting for the holidays to end. What better time
to take them out for coffee and let them see what type of skills you can bring
to a client or potential employer. Diversification is something you want to
think about when you are un-employed. Time is your enemy here and unless you
have exhausted every avenue for looking for a job, then and only then should
you start thinking about "playing" around with new skills. Trust me,
there is always some other avenue out there for you to take.

3.  Contracts
are meant to be broken

Throughout the full last year and
in every job I took, someone broke some form of a contract I had with him or
her. These ranged from actual written, verbal and electronic contracts. Please
read every line of every correspondence with potential employers with a
discriminating eye. Look for clauses that allow them to end the contract
without any ramifications. Only if you are satisfied with the clauses should
you sign on the dotted line. Most contracts are written in such a way for
employers to get everything out of you, even after you leave the company, but
still allow them to sever the contract at will. Try to get contracts to be
written in such a way to have a mutual working relationship that you can also
sever without penalty. I have found that companies are more and more willing to
do this as employers are starting to think of full-time employees as contract
labor and you should also go into the relationship with such an attitude.

4.  Get
it in writing

Get as much in writing as you can. Do
not just start working for someone even if they say a contract is on the way. I
personally made this major mistake because I had a relationship with a company.
Trust me; do not do this. You will end up regretting it in the future. I
personally get caught being too trusting. If they will not come up with a
contract, you should. Always have on hand a general letter of intent that
mentions rate, salary and duration that you can quickly modify and get someone
to sign. Business is business and you should not hang your hat with anyone
unwilling to abide by common business practices.

5.  Friends
can be hard to come by

Make sure that who you think are
friends are truly friends. This is a hard judgment call. However, if you have
never talked to an individual outside the umbrella of work, they are probably
just great working relationships. Be careful not to follow just because you
like someone.

6.  Do
Something

This is the most important thing I
learned through the process and is something I like to live by. If you are not
doing something or attempting to go somewhere, you will not get where you want
to go! A few of the jobs I have taken, I quickly noticed one thing from the
companies that failed. They lacked the ability to make a decision to do
something in fear of failing. What they did not recognize was that they were
failing because they were doing nothing. It seems so easy but can be difficult
to venture into unknown directions. If you find yourself with time on your hands,
this is a good indication that you are falling into this trap.

All of this seems common sense after going through it. Nevertheless,
it does not hurt to re-visit those items that should be continually on your
mind when you are in a job or are un-employed and looking. Just because you
need a job and someone wants to hire you, do not think for a minute that they
have your best interests in mind. It is up to you to take the proper
precautions and only take positions that you can live with. Also, remember my
personal golden rule, if you are not going somewhere, you will end up nowhere.

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James Koopmann

James Koopmann
James Koopmann
James Koopmann has fourteen years of database design, development and performance tuning experience. In addition, he has extensive database administration experience in Oracle and other relational databases in production environments, specializing in performance tuning of database engines and SQL based applications. Koopmann is an accomplished author with several technical papers in various Oracle related publications such as Oracle Magazine, Oracle Professional and SQL>UPDATE_RMOUG. He is a featured author and database expert for DatabaseJournal, a member of the editorial review committee for Select Journal (The Magazine for the International Oracle Users Group), an Oracle Certified Professional DBA and noted speaker at local Oracle User Groups around the country.

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