DBA Call to Action: Get up and GO

Friday Sep 10th 2004 by James Koopmann

If you aren't moving you will never go anywhere. It is time to dust off your DBA shoes, and start thinking about your future.

If you aren't moving you will never go anywhere. It is time to dust off your DBA shoes, and start thinking about your future.

I am often questioned about how I became a DBA and the road I traveled. This can be a very valid question because there are many DBA-want-to-bees that just do not know where to start. In the early years, many positions just fell into my lap, as there was a boom in the industry. This last year has been extremely difficult and I thought I might share a bit with you. This article does not address how to become a DBA but instead talks a bit about the hardships of being a DBA in this un-easy tech world we live in. You see, it can be just as hard to maintain your status as a DBA as it was becoming a DBA. This article does not attempt to give you a laundry list of what to do but merely introduce you to some of the pitfalls I have encountered over the last year and possible ways to avoid them for yourself.

My last year in a nutshell

stock photography The fun started for me just over a year ago. I was working at a database performance company that I started with a friend of mine and it was failing miserably. The only good news was that I figured out early that after bringing in an upper management team, the company was not going the direction I had wished and I had decided to leave the company way before the 6-month notice came from the CEO that we were to close shop. Well the 6-month notice came and still no position and the doors closed on that establishment. I then had no choice but to hit the independent consulting world and this is when the fun really started. The first consulting company I joined ended up collapsing because the principle was caught not only lying to me about contracts and rates, but also stealing from the home office. Not wanting to go through that again, I went off and started my own company to consult thrshould you ough. I mended the torn relationship between the prior consulting firm and my last client and began consulting to them. This was a very stressful time but things were good now because I was in control of everything. Well, everything until Christmas came and the client broke the contract I had with them well into the next year as an early Christmas present to me. Being out of work now, I was hitting the job boards as hard as possible and talking to as many individuals and recruiters as would listen. I actually was able to get a few out of state interviews lined up, as things here in Colorado were very bad. I then worked these leads until I had two offers in hand. I was just about ready to take an east coast job with good pay, full relocation offer and bonuses, when a friend caught me by the coat tails and convinced me they had enough work to keep me busy here in Colorado and I would not have to move or have heavy travel. Long story short, I listened to this friend and got burned. After I fulfilled a two-month contract for them, I basically never heard from them again on any viable contract. Back to the boards again and I was then able to secure a full-time position as a Database Manager. After walking in the doors, they proceeded to tell me that the database manager position was closed but I could stay on as a production DBA. Fat chance! I just could not stay at a company that lied about an opportunity just to get you in the doors. I was off again searching the job boards until I secured my current position and this one seems to fit.

Lessons Learned

1.  Be happy

I know that many of you are out there looking for jobs. I know this because I have talked to a lot of you and many recruiters also over the last two years. The general message is that the jobs just are not out there, as we would like to see. Now I have heard many say that the economy is turning up and that the shortage of techies is creating a boom. Well, if this is true let me know because I have quite a few friends that are good DBAs but cannot find a job. Even though I only went un-employed for just over one month during this process I went through, it was hard to get those jobs and I was turned down for many reasons from too qualified to not knowing a particular Oracle option that for some reason I couldn't learn. You must keep an open and positive mind through all of this. Be willing to take jobs that you would not normally take. Above all, try to learn something from the experience. Even if you learn that your next job isn't going to be like the one you currently have, smile on your way to work, knowing that you are in fact better off.

2.  Diversify your skills

If you are employed, now is the time to take inventory. This is the only time you can actually do something about it because when you are job hunting there should be nothing else on your mind. When I was un-employed during the Christmas season and well through the end of January, some of the toughest times to get hired, people were telling me to just sit back and wait the season out. You cannot do this! There are still opportunities to diversify and build relationships that will last. You see, recruiters are also in a hole waiting for the holidays to end. What better time to take them out for coffee and let them see what type of skills you can bring to a client or potential employer. Diversification is something you want to think about when you are un-employed. Time is your enemy here and unless you have exhausted every avenue for looking for a job, then and only then should you start thinking about "playing" around with new skills. Trust me, there is always some other avenue out there for you to take.

3.  Contracts are meant to be broken

Throughout the full last year and in every job I took, someone broke some form of a contract I had with him or her. These ranged from actual written, verbal and electronic contracts. Please read every line of every correspondence with potential employers with a discriminating eye. Look for clauses that allow them to end the contract without any ramifications. Only if you are satisfied with the clauses should you sign on the dotted line. Most contracts are written in such a way for employers to get everything out of you, even after you leave the company, but still allow them to sever the contract at will. Try to get contracts to be written in such a way to have a mutual working relationship that you can also sever without penalty. I have found that companies are more and more willing to do this as employers are starting to think of full-time employees as contract labor and you should also go into the relationship with such an attitude.

4.  Get it in writing

Get as much in writing as you can. Do not just start working for someone even if they say a contract is on the way. I personally made this major mistake because I had a relationship with a company. Trust me; do not do this. You will end up regretting it in the future. I personally get caught being too trusting. If they will not come up with a contract, you should. Always have on hand a general letter of intent that mentions rate, salary and duration that you can quickly modify and get someone to sign. Business is business and you should not hang your hat with anyone unwilling to abide by common business practices.

5.  Friends can be hard to come by

Make sure that who you think are friends are truly friends. This is a hard judgment call. However, if you have never talked to an individual outside the umbrella of work, they are probably just great working relationships. Be careful not to follow just because you like someone.

6.  Do Something

This is the most important thing I learned through the process and is something I like to live by. If you are not doing something or attempting to go somewhere, you will not get where you want to go! A few of the jobs I have taken, I quickly noticed one thing from the companies that failed. They lacked the ability to make a decision to do something in fear of failing. What they did not recognize was that they were failing because they were doing nothing. It seems so easy but can be difficult to venture into unknown directions. If you find yourself with time on your hands, this is a good indication that you are falling into this trap.

All of this seems common sense after going through it. Nevertheless, it does not hurt to re-visit those items that should be continually on your mind when you are in a job or are un-employed and looking. Just because you need a job and someone wants to hire you, do not think for a minute that they have your best interests in mind. It is up to you to take the proper precautions and only take positions that you can live with. Also, remember my personal golden rule, if you are not going somewhere, you will end up nowhere.

» See All Articles by Columnist James Koopmann

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