Having posted part 3 a few comments have shown up in my in-box, and a few thoughts have come to mind that I really wish I’d included in this particular article. So I think I’ll share them now.
First, I wish I’d addressed the concern with complexity a bit more directly. In the story of the DBA who took the complex backup spaghetti code and replaced it with equally complex backup spaghetti code, I totally didn’t point out the issue of complexity. Reducing complexity should be one of your key drivers when it comes to “refactoring” your existing DBA code (backup, monitoring, etc…). Reducing complexity reduces likely failures and that gets back to the core of the whole point of what we are shooting for, freeing up your time so that you can pursue more worthwhile ventures than tracing down that annoying bit of code that keeps failing.
Another comment has been made about something I’ll call DBA approachability. I’ll address it in the future, but I’ll say now that I agree one hundred percent with this opinion. I think being approachable fits in with priority #5, which is communication. A lot of our DBA crankiness comes from the fact that we are usually busy trying to deal with the implications of priorities #1 through #4 not really being mature. Not automated. Not self service. We have a list of tasks to do (x number of databases to restore, 5 emails from developers asking for help, my boss wants my status report and now you are asking me what I think of flashback database? Stand in the back of the line buddy). When #1 through #4 are out of wack, so are we and so is our ability to communicate efficiently, and we find we are stressed and over loaded. We really can't do our job effectively.
Then…. There are those folks who just don’t have a nice disposition. I once worked in a place, I’ll call it the Entire Massive Political Insight Realignment Engagement Institute (or the EMPIRE Institute). At the EMPIRE institutes DBA shop everything was a mess. Everyone was running around like a droid with his head cut off. It was pandemonium. In one of the various DBA shops there was myself, Ben and Sidious (who’s mother apparently loved Star Wars)). In spite of the Craziness, Ben was the nicest guy you would ever meet. He could be taking on five storm troopers, three wookies and a sand worm and still give you a warm smile, sit down with you are talk about your problem and help you find a solution. He'd pour you a cup of hot chocolate, offer your a doughnut and listen to your problems. If you had a suggestion to offer, he'd listen to that too.
Then there was Sidious. Just walking by his cubicle you could feel the ice coldness of his being. Somewhere in the background, you could hear the dark voices singing the song of lament and danger. When you poked your head in, he would turn in his chair, and the hideous look on his face made it clear, you were not wanted.
“What is it you want, young Freeman?”, he would ask. Clearly he had no respect for me what-so-ever. The problem is, he had no respect for anyone, he had no time for anyone other than his apprentice somewhere in the shadows lurking (ok…. So I’m making some of this up, but it’s based on a true story, I promise! ). He just sits there, in his throne chair, watching over his empire lest anyone rebel and try to seize power.
“Um…. They asked me to create some tablespaces, schemas and other object like things. I need the DBA keys please”, I responded.
Sidious, on the right arm of the chair, pointed to the piece of paper that contained the passwords I desired. He looked at me, “You want these, don’t you?”
“Um, yeah…. Your manager told me he told you to give them to me.”
Sidious looks at me, “No one manages the dark side of the force but me young one.”
“But your manager….”
“I said NO ONE Manages the dark side of the force but ME young one.”
The point of all this was Sidious thought he owned the world. I was given a directive to do certain things because Sidious didn’t know HOW to do them, was screwing things up and I was there to fix those screw ups. Sidious was hell bent on showing me who was in charge. He was hell bent on making sure my life was miserable. He was hopeful that I would become his minion and bow to his demands. Kindly but firmly I resisted the temptations of the dark side. The temptation to tell him to take a hike down a long nuclear chamber, the temptation to cut him down with my Skywalker 1000 side-arm. However, I had weapons that he could not contend with. I had the force at my back (in the form of management three levels deep), I had persistence and I had a kind but firm, I'm not going to take this blue lightning light crap from you brother, you are messing with the wrong guy.
After the ensuing battle between myself and Sidious, ending at the manager’s office at least three times, I finally pried the passwords from his cold, tired, 600 year old hands. While there were words had (mostly by Sidious and management), hearts broken (mostly the near-retirement age women sitting in the area who were subjected to Sidious and his words and actions) and a few cubicles burned with his evil blue lightning like electrical powers, I managed to keep my cool.
Really, I did.
The point of all of this really is that even if we have to say no, there are ways of telling people no that are positive, and there are ways of telling people no that cause mass rebellion, planets to be destroyed, and general hostility throughout the galaxy. How you communicate tells allot about who you are, the kind of person you are, and has some direct impacts on the organization.
I mean it, I did keep my cool! Really!
I’ll put it this way. Why do we have developers using crap (I'm sorry, highly developed software) like hibernate to build schemas? It’s because they don’t want to come talk to us about the problems they are having with provisioning development environments, or we are not responsive to their needs, or we are not providing help and education with schema design and have not had the time or the inclination to teach them, to communicate with them. The same holds true for the desire to have constraints be present in source code rather than the database, etc…etc….etc….
So the bottom line is, a self-assessment is required, and probably on a regular basis. The basic question is this, are you really accessible? Is your countenance that of Ben or Sidious? Based on that answer, how does that impact the organization and how does it make your life easier or harder. Tough questions, tough answers and even tougher solutions sometimes. Or maybe not. Sometimes the solution is just learning to smile, say a kind word or two, remove the F-Bombs from your vocabulary and …. When you have time, you might attend to that face of yours. Sidious really needed some massive plastic surgery… I heard it was an old battle wound during the dark days but wow…. He was so shriveled up, and those eyes were so eerie…. Like they just looked through you.
All joking aside…. We will address communication in the next installment. Being nice, being personable, being trusted are all part of that equation.
And I really did keep my cool...