The exceptional DBA

I was listening to a podcast the other day, and it got me thinking. What is it that makes an exceptional DBA?

In no particular order, some of the things that I think make an exceptional DBA are


We all know that IT is a fast changing industry. There’s no doubt that one has to keep learning just to keep up. An exceptional DBA should be constantly learning, always looking for new challenges, new and better ways of doing things. They should also seek to broaden their knowledge. Specialisation is great, but having at least a basic understanding of development practices, architectural principles or system administration can be extremely useful.


Database administration’s a demanding job. Long hours. Odd hours. Unexpected crises (aside – can you have an expected crisis?). Arrogant developers. Pushy project managers. So on and so on.
Some people take the DBA role because they were forced into it. Some take it because it pays well (in some countries, anyway). Some take it because they love it.


The best DBAs are, perhaps counter-intuitively, the ones that have the least to do. They fix problems before they become noticeable. They have monitoring routines in place that pick up potential issues before they become crises. It a disaster does strike, they can resolve things quickly, because they know what they are doing. Possibly they’ve practised disaster-recovery scenarios before the disaster hits.

Attention to detail

When working on data that could be worth millions of Rands, it doesn’t pay to be careless. Double-checking of work, careful testing, use of checklists.


From offering training and assistance to developers to attending early project meetings, the best DBAs don’t just concern themselves with the systems that they are responsible for, but they get involved. This may also be involvement in the wider community, from forums to user groups.
Those are just a few of my thoughts. I’m interested in seeing if anyone disagrees, or thinks that I’ve missed something (or missed the point entirely)


  1. Inus

    The dude in Forest Gump that had no legs (LT Dan) declared war on God to make peace with life… So the DBA must also have the ability to be at war with the servers and still tread lightly on human emotions… At the time the system is down and not working all the involved people wonder if thy will still have a job it this does not go away…

    This to me is a component some overlook – Balance – Work Hard but make time for Fun.

  2. Brett

    Agreed. Also, a good DBA should also have a strong sense of Responsibility, which entails good ethics, integrity and honesty.

  3. Gail

    Oh, certainly. I’d say most administrators should, whether it’s system admin, domain admin, database admin, …

    They’re trusted too much and with too much privileged access to allow otherwise.

  4. Inus

    So this weekend I created 32 files for temdb and file 22 had the wrong name… My point? Attention to detail – the damage that can be done with a small error in a script is huge.

    And then, the ability to remain calm and recover the server can also make it on the top 10 list

  5. me

    hey you did not just call us “arrogant developers” 🙂

  6. Gail

    Not you specifically. Just to that small, but annoying group of developers, to which I’m sure none of my readers belong, that believe the world revolves around them and that anyone who disagrees with them is wrong.



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