I was talking with some people after a user group meeting and over the course of conversation, I was asked what I do. I said my official job title was Senior Database Architect. It then turned to why my blog is called “Deb the DBA” if I’m a database architect. Perhaps “Data by Deb” would be a better name? It’s not the first time the “DBA” part of the blog title has gotten attention. But all of this definitely got me thinking…
As I write this post, my title is no longer a Senior Database Architect. I’m about to start a new job with the title of Senior Database Developer. My title the last time I switched jobs was Senior Database Administrator.
As I think about my previous job duties, they’ve been the same for the most part. In many ways, the only thing that changed was how well I knew what I was doing as I was learning on the job. While I’ve had to help out with production issues – set up database maintenance plans, restore backups, troubleshoot performance issues and other tasks that are considered “administrative,” I’ve never really worked full time on the operational side of database work. I’ve always been on the development side of things – creating tables, trying to understand the data, making sure tables were normalized and had proper indexes and constraints, writing stored procedures and functions, creating deployment and migration scripts, etc. I believe it is important to understand how the database performs in production so you can understand how you design and implement the changes properly and vice versa. But I just prefer working on the design and development side of databases.
When I started out as a database professional, I always thought the general career path progression was Junior Database Administrator -> Database Administrator -> Senior Database Administrator -> Database Architect -> Senior Database Architect. I never assumed there was a difference in titles whether you only supported production databases or were in charge of all things database as part of a development team. I just thought that a DBA on a development team just had slightly different responsibilities than those who supported production where a development DBA may just be writing more stored procedures than a production DBA, or something along those lines. I guess I never thought about it beyond that. It never really mattered to me what the “A” in DBA stood for as long as I felt the work I was doing was moving me towards my goal.
But with all of the changes that are going on in our industry, I wonder if these job titles really fit any more. The general career path isn’t the same as it was when I got started. Lately there have been a lot of conversations about where this field is going so I don’t want to get into that part of this discussion here. So what does all of this change mean for the job titles? Do we just need to make them more descriptive? Should we assume job titles are going to continue to change along with our responsibilities? Do we have a good idea of how we need to redefine our careers? Do we even know what a standard career path looks like anymore? It’s almost enough to create a database professional existential crisis.
I clearly don’t have any answers to this yet. I do think that for those looking for new positions, it means that you may need to be more open to looking at titles that don’t fit exactly what you think you’re looking for. And you also need to be prepared for job duties that don’t entirely line up with what you expect based on the job title. And this goes for everyone currently in a position where the duties may no longer align with the title.
But it shouldn’t be just about the title. In the end, it’s about making sure we’re doing what we want to be doing and we have a chance to grow and get to where we want to be if we’re not there yet. That should be our goal anyway, right?
And as for titles, can we just have “Deb the DBA” stand for “Deb the Database Bad A$$”?