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XDBA 2012 follow up

I’ve just returned from Summit 2012 where I was officially recognized as the Exceptional DBA of 2012.  The love I felt from my peers and the community at large was almost overwhelming – in the very best way 🙂
Several times I had folks ask me what I did to win this award, so here are my answers to the XDBA 2012 interview questions for the world to see.


Hey look! that has my name on it!


Q1 of 5: Briefly describe your job history as a DBA.

I am a self trained, home grown DBA. I’ve been with the same company for the last 14 years, starting out on the sales floor and moved quickly into IT. Within months I moved from my position as the ‘help desk girl’ to administrating business critical systems. When our company migrated from our legacy VMS system to a SQL Server based ERP I stepped up to be a backup resource for our lonely DBA. When he left the company I took over as the solo DBA and I’ve happily been in that position for the last 6 years


Q2 of 5: What has been your biggest accomplishment so far in their DBA career?

I feel like I have several accomplishments in my DBA career, but the one I’m most proud of to date is that I’ve managed to maintain the availability and performance the company needs out of our Dynamics GP databases as we’ve grown as a business. We are one of the largest installs of GP in the US, have a highly customized database and have a high (for GP) daily transaction rate. Despite that I’ve kept it running well for the last 6 years.

I am also very proud of my community involvement. Over the last three years I have become quite involved in the PASS family as the virtual chapter leader of WIT, an officer on the board for my local PASS chapter, offering assistance on #SQLHELP and speaking at SQL Saturdays.


Q3 of 5: What is the biggest mistake you have made as a DBA, and how did you deal with it?

To date the biggest mistake I’ve made as a DBA was a total rookie mistake! I was in the midst of preparing a test server for use. In our shop that includes a full restore of production databases followed by cleaning up database users and a handful of other configurations that reside in the databases. This is a process I’ve done so many times I could almost do it in my sleep, have completely documented and scripted. It was a busy day in the office I share with the rest of the Operations team and I was distracted. I finished the restore and before I could start the script to drop users from the databases I was called to handle a quick issue on production.

I took care of the prod issue and then opened my cleanup script and hit F5. It took all of 30 seconds for my phone to start ringing – I had dropped all users from production at 2pm on a Tuesday!

Needless to say it didn’t take long for me to figure out what I had done, and I asked my teammates to handle the phone and questions while I fixed the issue. Fortunately I had just restored the previous nights backup so I had the users listed out on my test system and was able to move them over to prod using scripts I had saved from a previous migration. I think it took less than 10 minutes to get us back up and running.

Once I made sure the business was functional again I set out to modify my cleanup scripts to prevent this from happening again. I added a simple bit of T-SQL to the beginning of all of my scripts for setting up a test system that checks the instance name. If that instance name is our production system the script fails.

My last task for that day was to write up what had happened, how I modified my process to prevent it from happening, and what the business impact was and send that out to the leadership team at my company.


Q4 of 5: What SQL Server community activities have you participated in?

I am a sometimes blogger at meredithryan.worpress.com, have a few articles over at sswug.com, and participate on #SQLHELP as time permits. I also try to get to at least 4 SQL Saturdays in the southwest US a year either as a speaker or attendee. I have been attending the PASS Summit every year since 2003, and for the last three years have been the chapter leader of the WIT VC. For the last year I have been on the board of my local PASS chapter in Albuquerque, as the Communications Officer and Vice President and plan on continuing in that role for as long as they will have me.


Q5 of 5: Finally, why do you think you should win the Exceptional DBA Award?

I’ve spent the last 6 years trying very hard to balance the needs of my business with best practices for SQL Server and ensure the safety and reliability of our databases. This hasn’t always been easy, and has taken some creativity on my part and my coworkers parts, but I think I’ve done a top notch job of it. I don’t always get to follow best practices with my databases, and some of the processes and practices we have in place would make other DBA’s cringe, (some of them make me cringe too), but I know for a fact that every decision I’ve made has been to give the business what it needs to maintain growth, and in turn meet the needs of our customers.

I am by no means an expert in SQL Server, but I go out of my way to pick up the skills the business needs me to have, and to admit when I don’t know something. Once I identify that knowledge gap I either go learn what I need to learn or help find the appropriate resource to fill it.

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