How Can You Talk To People That Are Not There?

At a recent SQL Saturday event I was asked by a member of the audience about how to communicate with people who are not in your office. The question struck me as odd. Not because it is not a common scenario, but because I had not thought about the context. See, the question had to do with a help desk, or call center, that was miles away. So if this woman had a question for the DBA team she needed to open a ticket, the ticket would get resolved eventually and this woman would never actually get to speak to a person.

Like I said, not an uncommon way of routing tickets, but I had never quite considered the human impact before. So, how does one go about making contact to people that are so very disconnected?

I really don’t know. Everything I can think of relies on help from someone else, and I usually like to tell people things that they can do for themselves. As much as I recognize the need for others to help us along in life, I also know that some things are best done yourself. And communication is one of those things. Nevertheless, here is some advice for anyone in a similar situation.

Send an email introduction – Do your best to strike up a dialogue outside of the proper ticket-creation process. This is not an easy thing by any means, but it is a good first step. Just be sure that any time you need something actually done you still follow the ticket-creation process. In your email just tell the DBA that you have a quick question, say it is for an exam, say it is for some extra learning, say it is whatever you want it to be. Just make sure that the DBA knows you are not trying to do anything outside of the normal process of having requests done. If you get lucky you can strike up a dialogue and get some help. And don’t be offended if the DBA doesn’t answer your question but instead points you to places where you can find the answer. And also don’t be offended if they don’t respond back right away.

It would help if you knew of a friendly enough DBA to send your email to in the first place. For that you’ll need…

Help from others – Ask around if anyone knows any of the DBAs. You might get lucky. If not, ask your manager how to approach the problem. Perhaps they can arrange for a meeting at some point, even a video conference might be enough to break the ice. But it is important that you let your manager know that you are trying to communicate, and why. If you get your manager to support you then you could put pressure on your company at some level to bring everyone together in an effort to increase communication and productivity.

This is not an easy problem to solve. It will take time and patience. And even if the DBAs at your company seem unreachable then feel free to lean on the DBAs in the PASS community, we are always willing to talk to anyone!

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