As a DBA, what do I need to learn next?


Arup Nanda did a talk on Big Data as part of the OTN APAC Tour and one of the points he made was DBAs need to get involved in all this new tech or they will get left behind and be out of a job. Someone came up to me and asked me my opinion, basically saying, “What do I need to learn next?” That’s a very difficult question to answer for a number of reasons.

The DBA job continues to evolve and you need to evolve with it. A few years ago I was able to be an Oracle database specialist. Now I need to look after SQL Server and MySQL as well. I’m also expected to know about assorted application server and web server products, as well as operating systems etc. You can’t be a specialist at everything, so as a DBA we are now forced to be generalists. What’s more, most companies don’t really want a specialist anymore. They want someone that can turn their hand to anything. The role will almost certainly include some of these big data pieces as we move forward.

Do a bit of Googling and you will see the Hadoop ecosystem is huge. There are loads of pieces from loads of projects and they are all changing rapidly. The chances are, what you learned 2 years ago has been almost completely replaced now. This is often the case when something “new” comes to the forefront. Over time things evolve, some projects win and some projects lose. Eventually things stabilise and life gets a little easier. This is not to say you shouldn’t get involved now, but just remember it is a moving target. Everything you learn about it will be useful, but not necessarily exactly what you need for your next project.

I’m not a big data guy, so my opinion is rather uneducated, but following on from the previous points, it seems to me there is no such thing as a “big data expert”. You probably need to be a “big data generalist”, that doesn’t know everything about any of the pieces, but knows enough about each of them to string them together to do something useful. This is an important skill in itself.

As for me personally, my website is a reflection of one part of my work life. The Oracle bit. I have an ever growing to-do list that is mostly made up of Oracle stuff, but also includes big data, docker, IoT and …

It’s difficult enough to keep on top of the stuff you need for your day job, not to mention the new stuff needed to position yourself for the future. So when you ask me, “What do I need to learn next?”, I will probably answer, “When you find out, can you please tell me?” 🙂



Author: Tim...

DBA, Developer, Author, Trainer.

3 thoughts on “As a DBA, what do I need to learn next?”

  1. Hi Tim,
    well, it seems that the Oracle bussiness is getting weaker indeed. After we honed our Oracle skills for years that is bad news. The point is that I want to be really, really good in what I am doing. It takes years. Do I want to be a newbie in MS Sql, Postgres or MySql? Not really. Does not sound exciting. Well, Oracle will be around for a while and there will be less young guys starting with Oracle. Thus, there might be enough work over the years to come. Who knows…
    On the other hand lagging the current technology does not sound good either.
    Well, I don’t know. I do not have a good answer here.

  2. The time seems nigh for any monolithic database server.

    Whilst there will always be sites in 20 years running Oracle RDBMS, twin pronged changes from the cloud and microservices architecture spells, in my opinion, an acceleration in the ever-decreasing realm of the single “big” RDBMS to the benefit of silos of mysql, aurora, postgres, nosql, etc, etc and in all likelihood a mix of these across a system.

    However, there will also be scenarios requiring not general skills but clear thinking and deep understanding or troubleshooting. But in between those odd occasions, these are the things I’m trying to focus on:

  3. I am in agreement with Lothar Flatz’s comment – Oracle RDBMS market is dwindling slowly not sure the reasons behind it – perhaps money saving or perhaps current generation of developers being more familiar with non-Oracle. It seems the current general requirements for DBA is to know multiple database technologies – he/she doesn’t need to be expert, just get things done. The newer technologies are also either developer centric or is a black box in that you are limited in what you can do, so you cannot hone skills by deep study. That’s just my opinion, anyways.

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