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What is a DBA ?
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Underwater in Fiji A DBA is a Database Administrator, and this is the most common job that you find a database specialist doing.
There are Development DBAs and Production DBAs.
A Development DBA usually works closely with a team of developers and gets more involved in design decisions, giving advice on performance and writing good SQL.
That can be satisfying at a human level because you are part of a team and you share the satisfaction of the team's accomplishments.
A Production DBA (on the other hand) is responsible for maintaining Databases within an organisation, so it is a very difficult and demanding job. He or she, often gets involved when all the design decisions have been made, and has simply to keep things up and running.
Therefore, of course, it is also a rewarding job, both financially and in terms of job satisfaction. But it's a more 'lonely' job than being a Development DBA.

I have many years experience of working as a Production DBA, maintaining live Databases in Investment Banks, such as J.P.Morgan and Salomon Smith Barney.
Those were some of the most demanding and high-pressure years in my professional career.

I knew that if the phone rang, nobody was calling to ask about my health, or to say that everything was OK.
If they called, it meant they had a problem, and they wanted it fixed immediately, and they did not care what else you were doing.
Of course, sometimes the phone would ring at home when I was in bed at 3.00 in the morning, so I would have to get up, switch on my PC, login remotely and fix the problem.
This usually meant bringing the Database Servers down and then up again.
After I while I got to be able to do this without becoming fully awake so I could to go back to bed and back to sleep again, and get paid for it !!!
To enjoy being a DBA, and to do it properly, you need to like technical responsibility.
You need to enjoy the feeling that 'this is my territory' and to take sole responsibility for a technically-demanding role.
Oddly enough, it's easy to find out whether you would be a good DBA.
These are the Steps you follow :-
  1. Buy a book,(see elsewhere on this Site),
    If you buy a book with an evaluation copy of a DBMS then the next Step is made a whole lot easier.
    Hint : Look for a book called SQL Reference, by Groff and Weinberg, which has copies of all three - Oracle,IBM's DB2 and Microsoft's SQL Server on the CD-ROM that comes with the book.
  2. Get Oracle, DB2 or SQL Server on a PC using NT.
  3. Start doing DBA tasks, going through your chosen 'Step-by-Step' book,
    (such as SAMS Teach Yourself DB2 in 21 days, or Oracle 8i on NT in 24 hours).
  4. If you find it boring then give it up.
  5. If you don't like the prospect of always being at the end of a phone 'Help Line', then give it up.
  6. Else, get started as a DBA by doing daily tasks on your Database at home, and prepare for an interview.
Surprisingly enough, it's easy to find work - either a permanent job or a contract.
There is a great demand, which is likely to remain so for the next few years.
Microsoft SQL Server is easier to get started with, because everything is Windows-driven.
It doesn't pay so well, but you might be able to get an interesting role combining DBA with Development work, because being a DBA doesn't take so much time.
Being a DBA in a development environment is much less stressful, and is a natural progression as you begin to experience 'burn-out' in a production environment.
Oracle has a steeper learning-curve, because it is geared towards the Command Line, (except for TOAD), but it pays better.
IBM's DB2 is somewhere in between.
Certification will help you get a job, but (like a degree - see below) because of the demand,
Certification is not always mandatory if you have experience as a DBA.

Can you get a job as an Oracle DBA with Certification but no experience ?
If you get Certified as an Oracle DBA but don't have any experience, it can be difficult to find a job.
I have heard about people who have been able to do it, but I've also been told that it is very difficult.
It obviously helps if you have a background as an Oracle developer, and if you have no other Oracle
experience, then it's certainly going to be difficult.
It is very difficult to get a job as a Production DBA without hands-on experience, and it's hard to find openings for Junior DBAs.
It is easier to find a job as a Development DBA, then if you really wanted to, you could move into a slot as a Production DBA.
To do this, you should offer experience in PL/SQL, advising developers on writing efficient SQL, creating Data Sets and sample data which is the kind of thing which developers often ask for.

So if you have any experiences that you would like to share and help other people trying to plan what to do, please let us know.
Personally, I think Microsoft Certification process is just another example of how Microsoft tries to increase their revenue stream, and I've heard that many of the questions asked in the Certification exams are not the kind of questions which come up as part of the job.
I've also met many people who have obtained Microsoft Certification but then never use it.
Neither Certification nor Degrees are necessary if you know your stuff, but they will definitely help to prove commitment and competence if you are trying to change careers.

Oracle has recently introduced a qualification of Internet Database Operator, which offers the cheapest path to Certification, at a relatively modest(for Oracle Education) cost of one 4-day Course and a Certification Examination.
This qualification will look good on your CV but it will not help you get a job because it only teaches you how to install Oracle Products and get them to work,(although that's a valuable skill but it is not enough on its own).
It also teaches you some basics about SQL in Oracle.
One option is to sign up as an Oracle Partner, which gives you 5 days free training and then use the training to get Certification as an Internet Database Operator.
There is a very useful set of Oracle 8i Documentation available online (Courtesy Ars Digita and Philip Greenspun) which will help you learn a lot about how Oracle works.

The announcement of Oracle 9i means that the water has just become muddier because it means that a great deal of the current lengthy training may be unnecessary.
9i is moving much closer to point-and-click and away from command-line administration,
although there will be plenty of Oracle 8i installations for a long time to come.
Check out the Oracle 9i Partner Accelerator Kit for an overview, and see how Oracle expects you to administer a Database using Oracle Enterprise Manager.
Then finally, look at Oracle's new Wizard for creating a Database for Data Warehousing.
All of these new features mean that Oracle is moving towards to a point-and-click approach for many common DBA tasks.
This will make the work of an Oracle DBA work much more like it is for IBM's DB2 and Microsft SQL Server.
This means that many 'Command Line' skills being taught will become obsolete in the future.

Oracle - another Career Option -
As well as DBA work,a very attractive Career Option involves PL/SQL, which is Oracle's Procedural Language.
PL/SQL includes and extends SQL, and is primarily intended for developers who work close
to the Database, rather than close to the User.
Working with PL/SQL often includes some DBA work, for example, in data extraction and migration from a Database.
It is therefore much more of a development job and offers design challenges and is more creative than 100% DBA work.

Here's a typical Help Wanted Ad to give you a feeling for the skills required -
"PL/SQL Developer With DBA Skills"
Multinational Multimedia organisation requires an experienced PL/SQL Developer who also has had DBA exposure, with good Unix Shell Scripting skills. Working on a systems migration project, you will have proven technical ability and excellent interpersonal skills.
An ability to be able to write PL/SQL packages & procedures, create database load scripts and set-up development databases is essential.
The position will demand some DBA support (approximately 20% of the role) however the support will be of a wholly ad-hoc nature.
Working within an Oracle 7, 8 & v8i environment, associated experience is essential,as is solid commercial experience with PL/SQL.

As for Qualifications, it's always good to have at least a Bachelor's degree, but because of the demand, that's not always necessary. Subsequently, you need to keep up-to-date with new versions of your chosen RDBMS(s).
Beware, that if you talk a good interview, but don't deliver, you will get found out very quickly, and then you'll be on the road again.

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