Communicate Your Actions

Don’t be afraid to tell people what you are doing, and how long it is going to take. Most of the work a DBA does is behind the scenes, away from the end user. But your manager will want to know a few details about what it is you are doing. So, make sure you can communicate to you manager what you are doing, why it will be a benefit to the company, and how long you expect it to take. And be prepared to answer the question “what will you do if…” with regards to whatever plan you lay out for your manager. If you can’t think of 2-3 reasons why something may go wrong then you haven’t put enough thought into your planned course of actions.

Typically new DBAs are concerned that people will think they are not competent because (1) they aren’t doing something fast enough or (2) they did something ‘wrong’. One day as a new DBA I was asked to rename a database. I went through the process of taking a backup of the database, restoring it as a new database, and renaming the data and log files to match the new database name. Being slightly obsessive-compulsive, I wanted to make sure the names of the physical files on disk always matched the name of the database, that way I could quickly scan a server directory and see which database’s had the most space allocated on disk. I communicated my actions to the end user and was greeted with this response:

“Why didn’t you just use sp_rename_db instead?”

I was floored. First, I didn’t know that system procedure existed. Second, I didn’t think that person would care how I got something done, just that I got it done. Third, I was now concerned that I was being seen as someone who didn’t know what they were doing, when in fact I did know what I was doing.

But the communication was important. Eventually I got past the worrying about what people thought of how I was getting my tasks done. That just came with some confidence. In time I found value in doing my best to communicate my actions to the point I often over-communicated. To me it just made the most sense, I wanted people to know what was happening, and why.

Especially my manager.

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