This is part of a series of new job blog posts. You can find them all here.
As a DBA, the first six weeks on the job can be challenging and exciting. During this period, you are expected to learn about the company’s processes. You are also expected to understand the database systems in use and familiarize yourself with the tools and technologies required to perform your role effectively.
I’ve taken this DBA approach from the perspective of being fully in the cloud, specifically on Azure SQL Database. I know many people aren’t at that point yet, but you still need to perform similar tasks on databases on a VM.
Week 1 Summary – What Tools Do You Need?
Week 1 was a summary of commonly used DBA tools with simple explanations and links to get you started. You can’t get very far with DBA work without the right tools.
Week 2 Summary – Creating a Checklist
With your tools installed during Week 1, you can now list out the tasks you want to do in the coming weeks. Week 2 gives you guidelines around what to put in your checklist.
Week 3 Summary – Creating Alerts
In week 3, you will start working on our checklist from week 2. You will need alerts to ensure you know about issues with your databases.
Week 4 Summary – Set Up Auditing
In Week 4, you begin configuring auditing for your databases. Auditing is a key part of a DBA’s job. You want to know what is changing in your databases and determine if those changes may cause issues.
Week 5 Summary – Create Index Maintenance Scripts
In week 5, you will create index maintenance scripts. Indexes require stats updates. They also require reorganization or rebuilding to ensure SQL query results return quickly.
Week 6 Summary – Ozar sp_BlitzIndex
In week 6 we take index analysis a step further. By using sp_BlitzIndex, you can analyze index usage and get recommendations for indexes to add, drop, or merge.
Week 7 and Beyond
By now, you’re probably feeling more confident in your role and a bit more comfortable with the company’s culture. Over the past six weeks, you’ve learned the ins and outs of the database systems. You’ve implemented some best practices to keep them performing at their peak.
This week and beyond, you’ll tackle more challenging tasks, like designing and implementing new databases or upgrading existing ones. You’ll work closely with other team members, like developers and project managers, to ensure everything proceeds smoothly.
As you get more comfortable in your role, you’ll see ways to improve database systems. This could mean introducing new technologies or procedures to improve performance or efficiency. You’ll work with other team members and stakeholders to identify the most effective way forward and make any necessary changes.
Communication is still essential in week 7 and beyond. You’ll need to keep others informed of any issues or changes to the databases and provide updates on ongoing projects. You may even need to present technical information to non-technical stakeholders or collaborate with other IT teams to ensure successful project completion.
Checklist for the Future
What does this mean in terms of what I’m planning to do going forward? Looking through my week 2 checklist, I can see that I focused on the high-priority items first. These items for me were monitoring/alerting, auditing, and index maintenance. It’s still a work in progress, but there is substantial progress. Here’s my week 2 checklist status:
- Alerting/Monitoring – We are now receiving alerts for:
- DTU %
- Disk usage %
- Indexing – Analysis in progress
- Index maintenance – Stored procs added to dev/QA and executed manually for now. They will be added to UAT and prod soon. In addition, they will be scheduled to run across all environments in the near future.
- Auditing – Enabled in dev/QA/UAT and soon in prod.
- Finding Invalid/Broken Items – Stored proc setup in dev/QA
- Data retention and archiving
- Data types
- Perms review
- Vulnerability assessments
Additionally, I have some other significant items that came up in my first 6 weeks:
- Separating reporting traffic from transactional traffic – They both use transactional databases. This makes it challenging to properly tune indexes and get the most optimal performance for each type of traffic.
- Company-specific projects – I’m sure you will have things expected of you beyond the traditional DBA-type work to be done. I will balance those tasks with my DBA tasks. For example, I must set up masked columns and ensure the correct users can unmask them.
The first six weeks of a DBA job can be challenging and exciting. You’ll be introduced to the company’s culture. You’ll learn about the database systems you will manage, and familiarize yourself with the tools and technologies required to perform your role effectively. By the end of this period, you’ll have a clear understanding of your responsibilities and be well-positioned to make an impact in your role.
As a DBA, it’s essential to be proactive and take ownership of your work. This means identifying potential issues before they become critical. It also means implementing best practices to ensure databases are secure and reliable, and continuously looking for ways to improve processes and efficiency.
Communication is also critical in this role, as you’ll work with stakeholders across the organization. This includes other IT teams, business units, and vendors. You’ll need to be able to explain technical concepts to non-technical stakeholders and collaborate effectively with others to achieve common goals.
In addition to technical skills, a successful DBA requires soft skills such as time management, problem-solving, and attention to detail. You’ll juggle multiple tasks at once. It’s essential to prioritize and manage your time effectively to ensure critical tasks are completed on time.
I jokingly say that a DBA’s job is to be invisible, and there is some truth to that. If you are doing your part to keep your systems running smoothly, including keeping them highly available, performant, and secure, people may not notice you are there.