I’m a little late to the party here, but Grant Fritchey had an interesting post about DBAs being auto-naysayers.  Let me preface this by saying that I agree with Fritchey and I believe he would agree with me.  Our difference here is more in tone than content.

I believe that protecting the data is a data professional’s most important job.  These are people who have specialized in methods of data storage and access which most developers want to ignore, and I like developers who freely admit that they don’t want to deal with this stuff; it lets them specialize in other techniques and technologies and work with me to figure out the best way to collect and retrieve what they need when they need it.

There are three important words in the paragraph above:  “work with me.”  In other words, data professionals need to work with UI professionals and web service professionals and guts-programming professionals and all other kinds of professionals to build products for which customers are willing to pay.  Protecting the data is vital within the constraint that the company needs to be able to deliver features and functionality that customers want.

Putting this in monetary terms, good ideas debit your psychic account, and saying “No” to people credits your account.  If you run out of cash in your psychic account, people stop listening to you and start trying to go around you.  What this means is not that you need to be a doormat.  Instead, I draw three conclusions from this:

  1. Build up your psychic account.  You do this by making processes faster, getting difficult reports out, and generally getting off your lazy butt and doing work.  Show that you’re improving your code base, delivering products, and not just acting like an anchor.  Show that you can work with developers, with operations, with management.
  2. Say “No” when you really mean it.  People who are not data professionals (should) look to you for advice and understanding.  They will often have naive or incorrect understandings of how things work.  Sometimes, these ideas are terrible.  Shoot them down.
  3. Try to have an alternative when you say “No” to someone.  That psychic credit isn’t nearly as steep when you say “No, we can’t do X because of reasons A, B, and C.  Instead, we can do Y, which will get you the same result, but will reduce database load by 40% and prevent this from blocking ETL process Z.”  You don’t always need an alternative, but it certainly helps.

It’s easy to fall back on “No” as the automatic answer, and that’s generally the wrong answer.


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