Episode 192: The DBA is Dead! Long Live the DBA!

Episode 192: The DBA is Dead! Long Live the DBA!

Episode 192: The DBA is Dead! Long Live the DBA! 560 420 Carlos L Chacon

What is the future of the DBA and what technologies should I be focused on? In this episode, we attempt to look into the crystal ball and give our take on the future of work for the data platform professional. We focus our conversation around two listener-provided questions about the best way to stay educated in an ever-changing landscape. The DBA is dead. Long live the DBA. Join the discussion.

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“Education is on you. It’s ultimately your responsibility. You have to look out for number one, because no one else is going to look out for you in the end of it.”

Kevin Feasel
Episode 192: The DBA is Dead! Long Live the DBA!
  • Carlos:             Compañeros! Welcome to another edition of the SQL Data Partners Podcast. This is Episode 192. My name is Carlos L Chacon, your host, and I am joined today by Eugene Meidinger.

    Eugene:           Howdy.

    Carlos:             And Kevin Feasel.

    Kevin:              Hello.

    Carlos:             Who is about to fire his travel agent.

    Kevin:              Seriously.

    Carlos:             So, if you have a good one, he might be in the market.

    Kevin:              I mean, I’ll probably just rehire the guy because he’s cheap.

    Carlos:             Yeah, well, there is that.

    Kevin:              Maybe I’ll just have my wife do the travel– no, no, I don’t want to do that, because she’ll be like, “here’s a five-week visit to somewhere else.”

    Carlos:             Oh man. Okay, so in today’s episode, compañeros, we are going to tackle something that you have surely seen on the internets before. “The DBA is dead, long live the DBA.” We’re getting some listener questions looking for some guidance on what to do. And so, what we want to do today is tackle some of the types of things that we should be learning, where you know, we’re going to get out our crystal ball and prognosticate on where we think the future of some of these things are going, and then take these questions and hopefully provide some interesting responses, or things to consider. Or you can just take this and throw it away. One of the two options. But before we get into that, as always, compañeros, we do have a couple of shout-outs. One from Garland MacNeill. So, on Twitter, we appreciate– so SQLCyclist looked for regular SQL/Data Platform podcasts and who was the best, and our good friend Mala rises to the occasion and says that our podcast is one of the best that she regularly listens to. So, thank you, Mala, for defending us on the Twittersverse.

    Kevin:              Definitely in the top 20 or 30 SQL podcasts.

    Eugene:           Absolutely.

    Carlos:             That’s right. When there’s only a handful of data platform podcasts, we are definitely Top 30 material. Okay, so the show notes for today’s episode will be at sqldatapartners.com/dbaeducation or sqldatapartners.com/192. Now, I will say, so I guess, circling back, before we jump in here, on Mala, I know that iTunes is being used less and less, at least from our metrics, we can see a lot of you are listening or coming from different places. One of the things, before we get into the episode, I will ask, is that the next time you’re by your computer, cause I know that you may be walking the dog, maybe in your car, on the way to work. The next time you’re by a computer, and you feel so inclined, if you would take a peek, wherever you get your podcasts from and give us a review, we would appreciate it. That does help us make it so that other people can find us and they don’t necessarily need to go to Twitter to ask the question. Okay, so we have a combination of two questions or two thoughts from listeners that we are going to put together. So, the first is James Dandridge from the UK and then Joseph Najamy. So, in Joseph’s case, Joseph has actually moved into a new role, so he has some new responsibilities he didn’t have in the past. James is looking around him and he’s saying, “oh gosh, there’s all these new technologies. I’m afraid that what I have been doing isn’t going to be relevant, soon, and I’m looking for some guidance.” And so, this is the context and we’ll go into a bit more detail, I think, as we walk through this. But this is the context in which these folks approached us and said, “hey, right, why don’t you guys talk about this and give us your take?” So, I think we’ve nominated Kevin to be our lead-off, here. And so compañeros, if you haven’t listened, we should say that Kevin has made a transition and he’s had several different roles. He’s now at that period in his life where he has worked for the same company, but in a couple different areas and has done things both from a DBA perspective, but then also into other places. And by his defense of F#, it makes me think that there’s some developer habits or histories there. So that’s my–

    Kevin:              Them’s fightin’ words.

    Carlos:             Yeah, my brief synopsis, there, on Kevin, and of course, you can help fill in the gaps there.

    Kevin:              Yeah, so before I get into this, I’m going to note that there are two ways that I can approach this. I can approach this in kind of a value-neutral, ‘let’s all understand things’ type of way. Or I can approach this as a professional wrestling, incendiary, Jerry Springer guest type of way. And my question is, which one do you guys want to hear? We should have had a reader survey or listener survey beforehand.

    Eugene:           I want to hear that Hadoop is for Hadorks. I think you should go incendiary. Burn it all down.

    Kevin:              Burn it all– well, I’d kind of be going the other way, that, “no, no, you guys gotta put your big boy pants on and learn some stuff.”

    Eugene:           I don’t think anyone disagrees with that.

    Carlos:             Yeah.

    Eugene:           Way to be controversial, Kevin.

    Carlos:             Yeah, that is a fair point, I guess, to jump in, and that’s– well, one of the things that I responded back to both of these gentlemen, as we were talking is that ultimately the education process is your own, and you have to own  that.

    Kevin:              Absolutely.

    Carlos:             There are lots of different avenues that you can take, and the more that you can get ahead in terms of knowing where you want to go, the better off you’ll be, regardless of what it is you decide to do. If you just wait until you allow things to happen to you, that’s generally when bad things happen. But if you can be a bit more aggressive about it and of course we’re speaking somewhat to the choir compañeros, because those of you who listen to these podcasts, you are taking time to get yourself educated. But I also think that sometimes there’s a little more fear involved because it’s our livelihoods, right? Anyway, but I digress. I eschewed you, Kevin.

    Kevin:              That’s okay.

    Carlos:             Have you decided? I guess I was giving you a little cover to decide which.

    Kevin:              That’s alright. I think what I’m going to do is vacillate between the two so that I’ll start out by being all nice and academic and then, bam, go straight for the jugular.

    Carlos:             There we go.

    Kevin:              So, let’s flesh out the questions a little bit more, because I completely agree, education is on you. It’s ultimately your responsibility. You have to look out for number one, because no one else is going to look out for you in the end of it.

    Carlos:             That’s right.

    Kevin:              Your company may help you to the extent that you have people in the chain of command who are interested in helping you, but don’t assume that. Talk to them, hope that they’ll give you the money, they’ll give you the time. If they don’t, your education is still on you. If they do, your education is still on you. You know, they can send you to an event but that means you actually have to pay attention, it’s not like five vacation days. And yeah, I’ve known people who do that. They go out to a training and don’t actually care about it, because, hey, it’s three days off of work. That’s doing it wrong. So, the question, let’s get a rough idea here. Basically, James is asking about the emergence of a broad swath of new technologies. You have the Pokémon Technologies in the Hadoop space, the whole Hadoop ecosystem. We have, on the other side, the emergence of R and Python of data science techniques and a lot of interesting technologies in that space and as a database administrator who’s working with t-SQL and with PowerShell, the question becomes how do you diversify if your company is narrowly focused in on a particular swath. Is it worth diversifying and if so, how do you do it? And my initial thought on this is absolutely, it’s almost always worth diversifying. You can diversify at the margins. So, for example, you may not necessarily get your company to invest in a Hadoop cluster, but if you’re in Azure or in AWS, it might be worth prototyping a small Databricks cluster. So, you start up Databricks, you say, “hey give me $500 of cloud spend and let me try to solve a small problem.” You’re not going to have a big cluster. I mean, at $500, you’re probably talking about, “Let’s do an analysis one time or let’s run a very small job once a day.” But getting some ability to get familiar with the technologies at a relatively low risk. At the very beginning you may have to dump money in yourself. In the Databricks example go use Databricks Community Edition, since that is free. You don’t even have to use any money. If you have an MSDN subscription, you’ll get those Azure credits, use those things, spin up a cluster. A very small one, because if you spin up a big one you will run through your credits very quickly. I spent about $2,000 in Azure credits over the course of a week because I forgot that I left a Premium Databricks cluster on.

    Carlos:             Oops.

    Kevin:              Yep, so that happens. Don’t do that.

    Carlos:             Is that the real reason you went into analytics, so you could figure out how to hide that? I digress.

    Kevin:              In other places, we can learn at the margin. I was just reading a blog post from Randolph West this morning and Randolph asks and answers the question “should a DBA learn Kubernetes?” Randolph’s answer is, “well, yeah.” And you probably should take it in that tone, as well. Where if you’re going to start putting SQL Server on containers, even if it’s just in development environments, test environments, as a DBA you have to understand what your databases are sitting on. You at least have to understand, “how am I going to get to the metrics? How am I going to figure out if there is a networking issue, if there’s a problem underlying my SQL Server installation and communicate effectively with the people who do administer those containers at the end of the day?” It’s the same thing when we were dealing with virtualization. If a person came in and asked a decade ago, “well, should I learn anything about VMware?” The answer is, “yes, yes you should.” Because, again, if you have a SQL Server installation on VMware on Hyper-V and you have performance problems, those performance problems could be misconfiguration, and if you don’t know anything about the underlying technologies, you can’t go to the right person and say, “hey, I believe it’s misconfigured because of these reasons.” If you don’t know where to get those VM metrics to say, “oh look, the memory balloon driver is coming into effect on my SQL Server. That’s a really bad thing.” Or, “look you’ve over-provisioned this ESX host by 2x, so I’m fighting for CPU with a bunch of web servers. Yeah, of course my SQL Server is going to be slow.” If you don’t have that balance–

    Carlos:             And I think one of the conundrums that we experience, and you’ve already listed, I mean, a half-dozen technologies there, is what technology should I learn? And I think part of the challenge is the sheer quantity of things that are available. And even now, I mean, we just had the episode on SQL Server 2019, the number of pieces that are now inside of SQL Server, it can be a little daunting in terms of where to start.

    Kevin:              Absolutely. And this is a time where I would say, if you grew up going to a library and just loved wandering around and looking for random books and hope that you would land on something really nice, this is a wonderful time for you, because there is a broad space and there is a lot of uncertainty in the classic sense of the term. And I think that’s a good thing, because it gives you a wide variety. It’s basically, what do you want to learn about? Do you want to learn more about the infrastructure side of containerization? Do you want to learn more about devops? Would you prefer instead to learn more about analytics or about processing non-relational data? These are the sorts of questions that you get to ask yourself and regardless of how you answer, as long as you answer ‘yes’ to at least one of those, you have an avenue of attack. You don’t have to learn all of these things all at once.

    Carlos:             So, I’m actually going a little bit, maybe– I don’t know if broader is right word, I’ve actually considered answering some less technical questions, first. And I know we’ve discussed this, Eugene and I have– we sat down, we drank some Kool-Aid at one point, and we got this entrepreneurial bug in our minds. And I know, Kevin, we’ve talked about this and you’re like, “that bug has not entered my system.” And I think even before you get to the technology pieces, some of the things that you may want to ask is, what kind of job, really, do I want to do? Obviously, there’s– I mean, entrepreneurship is a whole different ball of wax, and maybe we’ll just table that for a moment. But sure, the technology can help influence some of those pieces, i.e. I might need to get better at Excel or Power BI, some of the statistics stuff we’ve talked about, if I want to go do analytics. I mean there’s definitely some correlations there, but I think part of the questions that I ‘d be asking for these folks is, “well, what kind of work have I enjoyed doing? Have I been in the organization long enough to decide, hey, this is what I enjoy doing and this what I definitely don’t enjoy doing. Are there groups or fun problems that I enjoy solving? Do I want to stay with this company, or do I think that I want to go do something else?” The Millennials get made fun of quite a bit, however they have this innate– I don’t know, the idea of giving back, or being purposeful, so this idea of, “okay, well, I want to do something that is beyond just a livelihood.” So, these are also, again, it really has nothing to do with technology, but it can help guide or help me focus in the avenues I need to go. Does that make sense?

    Kevin:              It does make sense. It makes a lot of sense, asking yourself, “yeah, what do I want to be when I grow up?” Yeah, that’s a reasonable question.

    Carlos:             That’s right. And that answer can change. I mean, I’m 43, and I’m still answering that question, in a sense of what is it that I want to do? I don’t think you ever necessarily answer that question all the way, but you can answer it in terms of maybe five year blocks or something.

    Kevin:              Sure, I’ve changed my mind quite a few times on this sort of thing and been around for enough years that I’ve had several job titles and I’ve wanted each one of those at the time. So yeah, the answer you have for today may not be the same one as tomorrow. You may find out that, “oh wow, I actually do like being a developer, it’s just I didn’t like being a Java developer.” So, by the way don’t go into the Hadoop world, then. But you may find out that, “yeah, actually I really like this part of the world. So, maybe working with Docker files, maybe working with some of the meta language around it really excites you, or you learn about Python and just start going wild. Or you find out that, “no, I just have no taste for any sort of scripting language or programming languages at all.” In which case, there may be a problem in your medium to long-term future, because, you’re going to have to know that stuff.

    Carlos:             Yeah, at least a little bit. Eugene, I’d like to get your take in here. I know you’ve worked for a couple of different industries. You also made the decision to going to kind of focus on Power BI. One of the things that I’ve been impressed about with you, is your decision to say, “okay, while yes, I have to pay my mortgage, this is the type of work that I’m interested in. This is how I want to make a living,” and then that has then guided some of your decisions. So, I’m kind of interested to maybe get your take and some of your experiences here.

    Eugene:           Yeah, well, you know it’s interesting, you mentioned the whole entrepreneurial thing and I was talking to a colleague about this a couple days ago is that entrepreneurs get paid to have a higher risk tolerance.

    Carlos:             Right, right.

    Eugene:           I mean you and I had that kind of conversation about some potential projects and things where it’s like the whole entrepreneurial thing is a different risk/reward trade-off. Whereas, if I wasn’t willing to tolerate risk, I would go back to regular W-2 kind of job. So, certainly for me, I made the leap into independent consulting and some of this other stuff because I wanted more flexibility. I wasn’t happy with the job that I had. But I think it’s interesting, because a lot of this stuff, to me, sounds like either uncertainty or anxiety. You know, it’s like, “okay here’s the world that I was comfortable in and now it’s changing and now there’s all these 50 different technologies and that sort of thing.” But I think it’s helpful to look at these kind of segments of learning, because I’m running into a lot of these same issues. Like, I decided to specialize in Power BI because in my opinion, people get paid more for specialization. You’re not going to pay a lot for like the high school graduate who spent 1 hour in 50 different technologies, or 10 hours in 50 different technologies, compared to, “okay we’ve got a Power BI problem. We’re going to pay for someone who’s spent a thousand hours learning Power BI.”

    Kevin:              Eugene has never met consultants. They get paid a lot of money to know a tiny bit about a lot of things but put it in a PowerPoint slide.

    Eugene:           That’s like Azure data platform architects or whatever, right?

    Kevin:              Well, it’s more of the person you pay hundreds of dollars an hour to fly in and then give a PowerPoint presentation, fake a few answers, and then basically where I want to go in life.

    Eugene:           I believe the term is ‘thought leader’. That’s what you want to be.

    Kevin:              Oh yes, yes, yes, visionary.

    Eugene:           But it’s interesting because with some of the content creation thing, I am forced into some of this generalization kind of stuff, or this learning stuff that these people are talking about. Like, my next course is going to be on Azure Event Hubs. And a month ago I knew nothing about Azure Event Hubs, and it definitely falls under this big data, streaming data kind of area. I mean it’s squarely in data engineering. And so, the way that I think about it is, two things. One, this is kind of a specialization/generalization trade-off. And the problem that people are running into is that whenever you know that your bread and butter is going to be SQL Server, than you can go really deep and specialized and you’re going to get guaranteed returns on that. Right?

    Carlos:             Right.

    Eugene:           And what seems to be happening with a lot of this space, especially the data engineering space is a flattening, a forced generalization. And so, the downside with a forced generalization is you’re going to spend more wasted time, just by necessity, because you’re going to need to learn about these 20 different technologies and probably only use like 8 or 10.

    Kevin:              Yep, many will be replaced.

    Eugene:           So, you really need to be prepared to make shallow investments in a bunch of places. And that’s uncomfortable and that hurts a little bit to be like, “oh, I spent, you know, five hours learning Cassandra, and nobody uses that anymore.” I don’t know if that’s true or not, but whatever.

    Carlos:             I’m not using it anymore, how about that?

    Kevin:              Let’s edit that and put in Riak.

    Eugene:           Riak. Noted.

    Kevin:              Poor Riak.

    Eugene:           So bearing that in mind, and then the experiences that I’m running into now, I think the smart thing to do is to do enough learning that you can understand why somebody reinvented the wheel with this stuff, and then have enough trust in yourself and a lab environment that’s mature enough that you can learn the rest when you need it. So, for example with Azure Event Hubs, if someone were to ask me to do consulting on Azure Event Hubs today, like if Carlos came around and he’s like, “hey we got a project,” I’d be like, “oh crap.” You know, as a consultant, I wouldn’t say no, but I wouldn’t feel particularly comfortable or confident that I could deliver on that, so I’d be doing a lot of learning. But I do feel comfortable now understanding why it exists. I mean I’m hoping that the first clip of my course is going to be kind of ‘why don’t we just use a relational database?’ and there’s a bunch of reasons. I won’t go into it like the weeds with it, but a lot of it has to do with the speed and the scalability and all these things. And so, like Kevin said, it feels like all these different Pokémon names and what I find to be helpful in this kind of area is, okay I need to spend like 2 to 10 hours understanding, “okay why was this invented? What problem, what pain point was this solving that existing technologies didn’t solve?” And then once I get to that level, I have enough experience with learning new technologies that I’m comfortable saying, okay if I need to become an expert on this tomorrow, like again, if Carlos comes in like, “we got a biggun’,” then I know I can do the guided learning and the labs and that kind of stuff to get me from that 10 hours to a hundred hours, so to speak.

    Carlos:             Right. So again, I feel like we’re going back to the idea of what is it that I want to do? So, how can you act without being acted on? We’ve kind thrown out some ideas of get to know as much as you can. One of the things I think we kind of hinted around it, I mean you kind of talked about why they’re reinventing the wheel. So, an interesting thing, and again, as I look at it now from this side of having a business is “why is your company in business?” What problems is it trying to solve, and can you help solve that problem?

    Kevin:              Wow, that’s a real downer.

    Carlos:             Now, if you’re interested in that, and you’re like, “okay I feel comfortable doing that,” then you’re probably in the right place and you can probably find a home, assuming that you enjoy your co-workers and the leadership of the organization, things like that. If you are not, then regardless of what you’re doing now, the future might hold something different for you. And so then how can you go about finding that next step?

    Eugene:           Well, and it might be good to talk to somebody who’s in that particular field. Like obviously one of the listeners is being forced into data engineering. But it’s useful to talk to somebody who actually does it, particularly if you’re thinking about going into data science, because data science sounds really, really cool, and then you talk to someone and literally like 80 to 90% of the work is data cleansing. Only a very tiny amount is that, cool, like you have a chalkboard filled with equations and you get an answer of like who’s going to win the next election or something. And so there’s a lot more drudgery than you might expect.

    Carlos:             Yeah, so then in addition to the technology, how can I increase my network? So, both of these guys, at least from their pictures– so I’ve actually met Joseph in person. I haven’t had the opportunity to meet James. One day, James, I’ll make it to the UK. But both young guys, they look like they could be even, you know, late 20s, maybe early 30s, and so I think they kind of have their whole lives in front of them. So, one of the other things I think we’re asking is, how can I increase my network so that I have folks that I can reach out to, and be like, “hey what do you think about this”?

    Kevin:              Yeah, and easiest way there is, if there’s a user group in your area, start going to user group meetings, if you’re not already. There may be a SQL Server chapter, there’s probably a .Net chapter somewhere around there. You’ll find other groups. I’m in an area where we have an enormous number of groups all on Meetup. Meetup’s a good way to find these organizations, by the way. And you can pick from among dozens of different groups that meet each month and start talking to people. As much as I hate the idea of talking to people, because that involves like talking to people.

    Carlos:             You’ve got to do it.

    Kevin:              In the end, it’s probably worth it.

    Carlos:             You’ve got to do it, that’s right.

    Kevin:              I try my best not to, but yeah, at the end it’s probably worth it.

    Carlos:             Sure. Now your organization is large enough, so how long have you been with ChannelAdvisor, Kevin?

    Kevin:              I’ve been there since December 30th of 2013.

    Carlos:             Okay, so not as long as I’d thought, but we’re looking at 7– well.

    Kevin:              It’s the longest I’ve ever been at a job in my life. That’s a long time.

    Carlos:             That’s a long time, okay.

    Eugene:           At my last job, I used to be able to keep track of how long I was dating based on how long I had a job but that got all messed up when I quit.

    Carlos:             Yikes. Okay, so you mentioned not talking to people, but I know you’ve changed positions at ChannelAdvisor, right?

    Kevin:              Yeah.

    Carlos:             So, what about the networking, so intra-company networking?

    Kevin:              That’s important, as well. Try to make as few people bitterly angry at you as possible on a regular basis. So, limit it to a relatively small list of people. No more than 10% of the company.

    Carlos:             Yeah, the people that everyone’s already mad at, it’s probably okay if they’re mad at you, but. So, the book How to Win Friends and Influence People pops into my mind, here, right?

    Kevin:              Yeah, yeah and if you hit somebody with that book, it hurts just like any other book.

    Eugene:           I don’t know, it’s pretty light, to my recollection. It’s not going to do a lot of harm.

    Carlos:             Yikes.

    Kevin:              Doesn’t leave bruises, that’s a plus.

    Carlos:             Yeah, so I think this is a tough one. You know, for me, again, it’s strange but hosting the podcast has been a great way to get to know people.

    Kevin:              Just no more than 30 of you go and start your own podcast, because we want to be a top 30 podcast.

    Carlos:             Yeah, there is that. Or go do it on something else, right? But having something like that, I mean, let’s see, I guess the simplest way, I mean we talked about user groups already. I don’t know, simplest is not the right word. A well-trodden path, how about that? A well-trodden path is to start presenting.

    Kevin:              That is a really good way. Yeah, as much as I joke about not talking to people, and by the way is not a joke, it’s real, presenting definitely opens up doors. It gets you talking to people in a way that is a lot easier than, “I just walked into a group full of people, I have no idea who they are, and I’m supposed to start talking to them?”

    Carlos:             That’s right.

    Kevin:              But yeah, back to work. Work is also really good example. I joke about it but if you have good people that you work with, even if they’re not necessarily doing the same thing, it’s good to talk to these people, to share ideas. Especially if they’re not doing the same thing, because they’re probably going out and learning something else and you may pick up something and, “oh, maybe I should look at this thing here, instead of what I had thought I was supposed to look at.”

    Carlos:             Sure. Now I’m sure that lots of different managers have lots of different experiences, but particularly, let’s assume you’ve gone through the employment review process and you feel like you’re in a good position with your boss, you have a trusting relationship there, that person might be– I’m not saying it’s the only person, but that person might be someone to start bouncing some of those ideas off of. Or at least saying, “hey, what do you see–”

    Kevin:              Yeah, yeah, you’re absolutely right.

    Carlos:             “What what’s the next step here? What do you think I should do? This is what I’m kind of interested in. Do you have any thoughts there?”

    Kevin:              Right, this is a big part of how I ended up as a database administrator, starting as a web developer, just because the opportunity was available, there was a need for it, and I said I’m interested in this and getting further in, and then got the support of my management and was able to move into that role.

    Carlos:             Yep. So, we haven’t talked about certifications that I want to do. We’ve had episodes on that, but in terms of certifications for growth, if you will. I guess thoughts, there?

    Kevin:              Short answer, no with an ‘if’. Long answer, yes with a ‘but’.

    Carlos:             Okay, I think we’re the same opinion there.

    Kevin:              Yes. Honestly, I think the only valid reason to get certifications is for personal growth, with very rare exceptions. Alright, if you’re an MCM, that means something. But for pretty much everything else, as long as you’re not having to check that box someplace, I would get a cert just as a way of telling myself, “yeah I did this. I know this thing, and cool.” But that’s about the only reason I can think of that certifications actually matter, especially once you have more than a year or two in an industry.

    Carlos:             Sure.

    Eugene:           I think if you have no idea where to start, they make a nice default path. It may not be an ideal path, but at least it’s somewhere to get started.

    Kevin:              Oh yeah, yeah, and following up on that, you don’t have to get the certification; look at the stuff that they’re quizzing you on and just start reading up on that.

    Carlos:             Yeah, so my challenge there is that like the mindset is, I’m studying for a certification, passing the certification kind of becomes a priority rather than learning.

    Kevin:              Yeah, unless you do what we were just saying, and say, “okay well, here’s the list of 30 things that they want you to know about for the certification. Let me just go through and learn these things on my own. Not even take the exam.

    Carlos:             Yeah, so I guess that’s where you and Eugene are a little different. I cannot do that. Particularly like as you start telling people. I know we were just talking about office networking. I remember talking with somebody and he’s like, “I can’t tell anyone that I’m studying for a certification, because then all of a sudden there’s all these expectations and then all this other stuff.” So that’s another challenge I guess I see. But I concede the point in that, yes, it gives you a way to start. Because I guess I don’t mind talking to people as much, I would prefer to go out and find a friend who could help me there, rather than going through those certifications, because it just seems to be a like, “oh here’s everything,” rather than actually being helpful, if that makes sense.

    Kevin:              Yeah, yeah, now, I want to circle back to James’s very specific question that we kind of have skipped over, mostly on purpose, which is specific technologies to choose. And the problem, and the reason why we skipped over it is, it’s hard to say that without knowing the person.

    Carlos:             Sure.

    Eugene:           Yeah, yeah.

    Kevin:              But, I would say, let’s say you’re a classic SQL Server database administrator, you don’t do much in the way of development, you’ve got some PowerShell scripts, maybe you’ve checked out DBATools, you kind of understand how to write a PowerShell script, but you’re not an app developer, you’re not a database developer. In that case, I would highly recommend digging into containers, Kubernetes, getting more into that infrastructure side. Also, something I don’t want to gloss over, because we have glossed over it so far, and that is, SQL Server is an enormous ecosystem of its own. It has a huge surface area. Eugene did hit that tangentially and now I’m going to hit it very deeply, and that is I bet you you don’t know everything in SQL Server. I can say that with confidence for everybody on the planet. Like Conor Cunningham may be an exception, Bob Ward may be an exception, but no, no, you know what? I’ll bet you there are things that neither of those guys know. The combination of those two guys, maybe they know all of them, but there’s something in this product that you haven’t tried. There’s something in there which may be worth investigating. So, if you are typically on the administrative side and you’ve already plumbed the depths of security of internals, of how everything works there, and you haven’t tried, say, memory-optimized tables, in-memory OLTP, or PolyBase, or ML Services, or even within the product itself, investigating the types of DMVs that are available. Basically, making your skills more relevant within your space also applies as learning. It doesn’t have to be external things; it can be strictly internal. And in James’s case, James was wondering mostly about trying to work with the Hadoop ecosystem, HDFS, and also NoSQL-style technologies, I will go back to PolyBase as a really good way of tying it all together, especially in SQL Server 2019. So, being able to try to nudge the company toward 2019, with some of the use cases around new functionality in that system also opens the doors to later on, “oh well, let’s store some data in Azure Blob Storage.” “Okay, we’ve got some data in Azure Blob Storage, well, hey there’s this Mongo system that’s lying around on our network and we have to have app developers tie this data together. Oh, let’s integrate it in here.”

    Carlos:             Sure. So, this goes back, I feel like the conversation that we had, so Episode 186. This is kind of Trent’s question. Again, the challenge with leading with technology is that you don’t know what the business is actually going to need. Particularly if that’s what you want to learn, that you want to learn technology, that makes sense, but finding problems to solve; if you can create the relationships, I guess we talked about talking with other people in the company. Go find somebody who doesn’t work in IT and ask them what problems or challenges they’re having, particularly around data. So, the marketing folks, sales, finance, whoever that might be, if you could help figure out or get some of those problems, now you have a problem to solve and that makes learning the technology much easier, because you’re trying to solve this problem, rather than kind of just learning it for learning’s sake.

    Kevin:              This is true.

    Carlos:             So again, this, to me, goes always back to the ‘what is it that I want to do and how am I going to solve the problem?” But admittedly, that’s very– like entrepreneurship has kind of engrained that into my brain.

    Kevin:              Yeah, intrapreneurship and that dangling of the phrase. But yeah, that’s absolutely the case and has a nice benefit that regardless of how much you learn about new technologies, new products, you do make yourself more marketable, because you’re the person who’s going to stick around with the company regardless of, “oh, well, we’re pivoting from SQL Server to something else.” Or, we don’t I need as many database administrators because we’re going to automate most of those tasks.” You’re the one who gets to stay, not the person who’s hiding in the basement trying to avoid human contact and automatically saying no to everybody’s requests.

    Carlos:             That’s right, that’s right.

    Kevin:              In fairness, I was never in the basement.

    Carlos:             But you had a red stapler.

    Kevin:              Sadly, no. Those were more expensive than the regular Swinglines, so.

    Carlos:             Yeah, I mean, another piece here to that, in terms of education, is just continuing to ask questions. I mean, I know that it’s easier said than done, but if you can be curious about something, it makes it much easier to approach.

    Kevin:              Yeah. Now Joseph has a slightly different specific question, which is, we talked about the connections, we talked about, “how do I get to know people, especially if I’m kind of alone at my company?” and there are tactics and techniques around that, but–

    Carlos:             Yes, and I apologize, Joseph, I meant to have you on this program today and that didn’t quite happen. Maybe some other time we’ll get you on.

    Kevin:              That’s okay, I just would have talked over Joseph the whole time, anyhow. This is a passionate topic. So, understanding what, I guess, level of how do I learn this topic and also what can I expect from a company that’s dumping me into a new position?” Well, if the company is moving you into that position and they don’t have anybody in that position already, the answer is that you might be able to negotiate some extra training that you wouldn’t normally get, especially if your boss is a human instead of a demon. So, you probably get a bit more training with that. If you enjoy that sort of training, then you have a nice time ahead of you there. Make those connections to the outside world, join some groups, also don’t ignore the connections you have inside the company. Again, you may be the only data engineer, but you’re probably not the only person who moves data from one place to another. And you’re probably not the only person who uses data, and there’s probably somebody at the other end who’s going to use your data. Those are people that you want to know. You’ll learn from some, you’ll get a better understanding of what’s expected of you from others, and as the process goes along it, gets a lot less daunting, a lot less scary. But in fairness, there’s a new product out everyday, so it will always be somewhat scary.

    Carlos:             Eugene, last thoughts?

    Eugene:           Yeah, I think the big thing, like I said is thinking about learning in segments. You know, like that first hour, the first 10 hours, the first 100, and the first 1000. I think so often we expect to treat it like SQL Server where we have that thousand hours, but really, a lot of times if you can get that first 10 hours and you’ve done like one demo and you understand why this tool exists, then at that point you can have enough self-confidence that you can learn more of that as you need it. I think that’s a big help.

    Carlos:             Yeah.

    Kevin:              I totally agree.

    Carlos:             Yeah, yeah. My closing thought is that– so we talked a little bit about anxiety here, and I know that I never thought of myself as super anxious until I got into owning my own company and actually having people work for me. And so, I think one, don’t feel like you’re alone. And all three of us have expressed some anxiety in terms of “what are we going to do” or “what’s going to happen”. It’s tough because we don’t know that. If we can find problems to solve, find people that we enjoy working with or connecting with. You know, compañeros, we’re glad that you’re tuning in here, that you’re connecting. Admittedly, I don’t get out to as many events as I was in the past, but if you can connect with other folks, it doesn’t necessarily resolve the anxiety of not knowing, but it does give you a few more options in the event that you need some help.

    Kevin:              Yeah, and my final, final words. Go back to the episode we had with Sean McCown. Sean had outstanding device: take an hour a day, that’s your learning time, that’s your ‘you time’. Take that time to learn about a bunch of stuff. Be that you when you were in the library 8 years old and there was this wide world of books all around. Unless you’re too young for libraries, in which case, too bad. But, there’s this world just around you and you have no clue about any of it. Just go grab something. It doesn’t matter if it’s going to be something that ultimately is useful to you. Look at Apache Airflow. Yeah, you may never use Airflow. It’s a good technology, by the way; it’s actually worth looking at. But spend an hour or two, look at it, play with a demo. Go to Katacoda.com and start playing with some of the technologies and stuff that’s on there, because what’s nice about there is, they’ll spin up Docker containers with all the stuff pre-installed, pre-configured and walk you through some demos. So, now you can learn about some technology without the 10 hours of infrastructure investment.

    Carlos:             Right, of actually trying to get the container working right.

    Kevin:              Yeah, or trying to get everything installed, all the pieces connected, the right versions of different things. So, it’s useful if you want to learn a bit about TensorFlow because that way you don’t have to install the CUDA drivers on your machine and spend 12 hours searching forums trying to understand why I’m getting this weird error. Actually happened. Yeah, it happens. So, spend that time, just pick something. You will eventually find something that really speaks to you or that solves a really important business problem. In that case, that’s where you know it’s time to dive in. But embrace the uncertainty, embrace the process of search and you’ll do a lot better than someone who is going to be so risk-averse that they don’t ever want to leave the bubble.

    Carlos:             So, on our show notes for today, so at sqldatapartners.com/dbaeducation, we’re going to post a couple of links, places that we might go to get started with things. Obviously, things like the Microsoft Virtual Academy, there’s training. We’ll see if we can figure out how to add a link to Eugene’s Pluralsight courses. The Fine Side of Curated SQL. Other things that if Google has failed you, for whatever reason, these are other places that you might get started. I think that’s going to do it for today, compañeros. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the conversation. If you have other take, let us know. We’d be interested in that. I’d love for a few more folks to use the voice recording option at sqldatapartners.com/podcast. If you go there, you can record a little segment. Let us know what you think. Do you have other options or other considerations for folks? We’d be happy to get that feedback as well. And if you want to connect with us on social media you can do so. Eugene?

    Eugene:           Yeah, you can find me @sqlgene on Twitter and like Carlos said, if you want to learn about Power BI and soon Azure Event Hubs, you can find me on pluralsight.com.

    Kevin:              And Distributing Excel Workbooks.

    Eugene:           Oh gosh, that course is doing so poorly. It’s just bad. It’s real bad.

    Kevin:              I don’t know why; you keep talking about it on this podcast.

    Eugene:           Right? I am a master promoter, for sure.

    Carlos:             Apparently, the SQL compañeros don’t want to know about Excel Distributed Workbooks. I don’t–

    Eugene:           It’s in one of their learning paths. It’s the last course. Like, my course on On-premises Data Gateways gets like three times the views than this thing, but they can’t all be winners.

    Carlos:             Maybe. Kevin?

    Kevin:              I have written my details inside several books in your local library. Go ahead and find them.

    Carlos: That’s right, like the golden ticket. And you can reach out to me, compañeros. I am on LinkedIn at Carlos L Chacon. So, if you made it this far, we actually do have one other request for you today. If you know of an organization that is using QuickBooks Online and wants to get some visualizations, we’d love to chat with you. Eugene and I have actually put together some visualizations and we’re looking for some feedback, for some input. So, this would be very low pressure, low key, but we’d like to show these, ask some questions and get some insights or get some feedback. So, if you know someone or know of a small business owner that is using QuickBooks Online and would like some better insights into their environment, please hit us up. Okay, compañeros, thanks again for tuning in, and we’ll see you on the SQL Trail.

Listen to Learn

00:38     Intro to the team and topic
01:54     Compañero Shout-Outs
02:52     Please give us a review wherever you get your podcasts
03:30     Two related questions from listeners about DBA Education
06:54     Your education is your responsibility to control
09:49     You can learn at the margins
12:56     Start by asking yourself what you enjoy doing
16:07     Eugene’s thoughts on going the independent consultant route
18:55     There’s a trend toward forced generalization
22:18     Expand your personal network and ask people for their thoughts and experiences
26:15     Other good ideas: start presenting, talk to your manager about your interests
28:16     Thoughts on certifications…reasons to do/not do them
30:38     James’s question of which technologies to choose
35:46     Joseph’s question of who to meet people when you work alone
37:37     Last thoughts from Eugene, Carlos and Kevin
41:03     Closing Thoughts

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