I've been consulting now for well over a year, it's been a fantastic experience so far; I've had the pleasure of meeting and working with some truly incredible people and it's also been amazing to be helping organisations get the most from their SQL Server platforms.
The last 12 months have been extremely interesting considering the current technical shift towards a seemingly endless list of new platforms and capabilities. For many organisations this shift has fundamentally changed how they do things (or going to do things) and many are going through their own journey of digital transformation understanding these new technologies and how to leverage them to improve their existing processes.
Right at the centre is data, nowadays considered to be a companies greatest asset, so how we use data or to be more exact how we extract more value from it is a frequent aim of these transformation projects. As a result the data professional roles within an organisation have changed too and many teams and individuals are having to broaden their technical skill set to design, deliver and support these new capabilities.
There is no truer example of this than the role of DBA but yet the question still remains on which direction(s) they should be focusing their future on? By that I mean development; which skills should they be learning, what certification, what products, platforms etc? It's easy to see why it's confusing; there are lots and lots of new technologies available to us but that also means there is no consistent path for administrators to set out on.
It was easier in the not so distant past; the DBA role tended to come in two distinct flavours; development or operational, but now the line between the two has became far less apparent and in many cases non-existent. The DBA role has without question become much more rounded containing core elements from both "sides" but it goes beyond that. Modern approaches to database administration have reduced the footprint of the operational side of the role so a more DevOps orientated DBA is an essential part of the roadmap, for organisations and individuals alike.
This shared roadmap is actually an integral component of an evolving data platform. I've worked with many different organisations at different stages of development but a key component in each has always been a collaborative working practice between data professionals and I'd say the success of a platform depends on it. Over the past year I've worked alongside many different teams; architects, DBA's, developers, release analysts, change and testing specialists, when working together they all have a great influence of the effectiveness of a data solution.
It might not fully answer this common question of what next for DBA's, there's a lot of factors involved, not least your personal career aspirations but it does show how when looking for your next phase of self development the paths that you need to take could be very close to your current role.
Your skills as a DBA will always be of paramount importance towards availability, security and performance, but by widening your technical scope by working much more closely with those around you not only improves you as an data professional but also the overall effectiveness your data platform. The starting point is to seek out these opportunities; start building relationships, start knowledge sharing and developing new ideas and different ways of working.
In many ways the data platform is a reflection of the people tasked with shaping it. If we choose not to broaden ourselves, learn new ideas then at some point we come to a standstill, especially in this rapidly evolving technical landscape. If that happens a data platform stops growing, not in terms of data quantity but most certainly in terms of both capability and perhaps most critical of all, value.
This puts a big emphasis on self-development but we've always had that, it's nothing new. The key is to seek out those opportunities, start close and work with teams that you will probably already have a working relationship with. As these relationships grow so does the collaborative skill set and as a result business processes improve and technical solutions get faster and more productive.
This also cuts down reactive measures, less time fire fighting means more time delivering enhancements and of course, more learning. Any learning process shouldn't have a cut off point, the more we broaden our horizons the more the effective we become and in turn, our products, our services and our platforms keep on evolving.
This is the true nature of a technical platform and we as data professionals play such an important part not just in the support or development of them but towards shaping their growth, effectiveness and their value. Perhaps the key to all of this is realising the value of our own development alongside it.