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What steps should I take to prepare to enter the field of a Database Administrator?

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6 answers

Alok’s Answer

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Let me try to answer your question by asking more questions and going on answering them:

<FUN Mode ON>

What are Databases? They are the place where data primarily resides.

What data resides in there? Its any data. It could be right from your School/College library listings to the amount of money your Doctor has in his bank account is data. So is the number of goods inventory in your nearest retail store to the number of times you have visited your Friends FB/Insta page. Its all data!

What does an Database Administrator do? Administers Data! Yes, that simple but dont quote me on it yet! Administering is not simple. It requires you to handle several complex scenarios

What are the complexities? An Database Admin (DB-admin) needs to ensure that data is complete (not lost or partial), quickly accessible (don't like it when you have to wait for a long time in the self-billing queue, do you?), highly available (what if the computer where you project is saved locally refuses to turn up? Think if that happens to the money in your account!) and restorable in case of emergencies.

How can you prepare to be a DB-admin?

<FUN Mode OFF>

Begin with the basics. Your course curriculum should cover you here. If you secure a passing grade, you should be good.

Devil is in the details: Any robust Database is designed to maintain ACID (search around). This basically means that in severe cases, the DB is designed to keep your losses to a bare minimum. Spend some time understanding how EXACTLY this works. My suggestion is to go with the good old Oracle Database, to understand how exactly it works (architecture, way data resides and moves about in disks and memory). You can choose any DB of your liking. Remember, the main idea is to get a clear DB-technology agnostic understanding of why it happens (and not just what happens). Once you have a strong clear understanding, learning other DB technologies is just a matter to some tweaks and a no-sweat task. I speak of this from my experience.

Familiarize yourself with the main tasks of a DB-admin: Understand the concepts of High-availability, Disaster Recovery, Parsing, Nodes, Backups, Restore, Point-in-Time recovery, redundancy etc. Then understand how the technology of your DB achieves this.

Finally, nothing beats good old hard work. Try to work on an actual database. Not on a test one or one you setup at home on your local machine. Try to secure an internship or project that has a database that is actually being used (however small the scale). With such a scenario you will not just learn how to operate on a database but understand the criticality of the simplest of tasks that go with it.

Remember, Every Enterprise has a large and a complex setup of databases to ensure very High availability and rely on DB-admin & Technology to keep the business running.

Remember: Data is the new Gold! You aim to be a custodian of Gold.

Good luck!

Alok recommends the following next steps:

  • Basic understanding of what databases are. Can rely of school/college curriculum
  • Learn one DB, properly. Give it highest quality time. This is the foundation on which everything else will rely.
  • Familiarize with the implementation scenarios
  • Try projects or Hands-On
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Sergey A.’s Answer

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At some point I was the supervisor of a new guy who was a junior system admin / database administrator / ... He was relatively unqualified and had spent much of his previous life doing hard menial work, but the CEO wanted to give him a chance. From that experience I can say, the most important thing is your enthusiasm and willingness to learn. If you come and tell people that you will do whatever it takes to learn, they will often give you a chance.

Database administration, system administration, network engineering, while difficult, are not nearly as difficult as certain kinds of software engineering. It is possible to learn it bit by bit, how to use the terminal, how to use various command-line tools, how to write SQL, etc. Furthermore, there is a wide range of people who need a little help with all of those, from other self-learners to local arts nonprofits to cash-strapped startups that might give you a chance. So there are and probably will be opportunities to practice and get better, which is not true in many other fields: people won't let you drive a truck, play a violin or design a spaceship if you aren't already at least somewhat proficient in it.

Lastly, regarding whether DBA is going somewhere, even if it does, there will be other tasks that will take its place. Databases, computer systems, and networks are not going anywhere, so there will be work. You do have to keep in mind the distinction between commercial databases such as Oracle and open-source such as Postgresql, as you'll end up working at different types of companies (companies using commercial databases tend to be larger and more bureaucratic, but also more secure). The difference is not that great, and you can master both, but as you start by specializing in one, keep that distinction in mind.

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Nicholas’s Answer

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The most important things in the IT field are certifications and expierence. Most administaror roles require at least sec+ , and the more certifications you can get the better, start studying now and try to knock out those. There are a lot of schools that will take certifications and give you college credit for them. The same colleges often tailor their classes around those certs so as you take class they also get you ready for those tests, but usually still require outside studying. Other good certs to get are any cisco and linux certs. Also if you can get an entry level position and work your way up that is usually a great avenue, companies prefer to hire within themselves so if you work entry level as you grow knowledge and skill, and get those certs you can move up fairly quickly. If you have more specific questions feel free to reach out.

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Doug’s Answer

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Hi Tyler,

I would also take a step back and pay attention to the way the industry is evolving. I worked at 2 different database companies and the industry is evolving from a state where companies would buy their own computers, install the databases, and maintain them (this is where Database Administrators came in). Rather, companies are migrating their own databases to the cloud (AWS, Microsoft Azure, etc.). This is being driven by the desire to reduce the cost that companies have to incur to store and query for information. Database Administration is being made far simpler, so the trend is to remove the need for humans to maintain databases (see https://www.oracle.com/database/autonomous-database.html as an example). Additionally, alternative models for storing information and querying that information are evolving rapidly (look at https://cloud.google.com/bigquery as an example). So, in short, I would do some research and consider other types of jobs in the technology industry (software engineer, data scientist, etc.).

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Arun Kumar’s Answer

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I would like few comments. Data Security is most important aspect. Also it is important to understand the compliance/regulatory requirements as well. In Many of the countries in Asia, Europe do not allow (particularly Finance and government sector) data to leave the borders. Please spend additional efforts on that as well.

Also prepare to understand the infrastructure (on-prem, off-prem) where data resides, is accessed etc.
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Doug’s Answer

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I mainly agree with what Doug said. I think the DBA position will be around for quite some time, but I don't see it growing as much as others. Data engineer and Data scientist are hot and growing. That said, if you really want to be a DBA, someone is going to need to keep the lights on for quite some time.
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