What Do You Do When Your Employer Doesn’t Want to Support Your DBA Career?

At the 2009 PASS Community Summit, I have gotten the opportunity to talk to many DBAs, and to find out about what it is like to work for their organizations. In my book, How to Become an Exceptional DBA, and in many of my presentations, I highly recommend DBAs get as much training as they can so that they can stay at the top of their game; and to also get involved in the SQL Server Community as much as possible, such as posting in forums, speaking at user group meetings, writing articles, blogging, or whatever most interests them. I feel these two activities, among many others, can help enhance one’s career.

Today, at the PASS Summit, I had two discussions with DBAs that left me a little sad. One DBA, who was really interested in sharing his knowledge of SQL Server with others, told me that his company banned him from doing anything outside of work, including speaking at his user’s group, participating in forums, or getting involved with the SQL Server Community at all. The company was afraid of any potential liability they may have if one of their employees might say or do anything politically incorrect.

In another conversation, a DBA told me that they had the opportunity for three days of free SQL Server training, but the DBA’s organization would not let the DBA off from work to attend it. The DBA even offered to take the time off without pay, but the organization still said no. The DBA was told that if they made an exception, that other employees of the company would also want to follow suit and take off days without pay for training, and that would be a problem for the organization.

This is a terrible attitude for employers to have. Organizations need to support their employees in their career development, not hinder it. Unfortunately, these DBAs have no choice but to cooperate, or to look for another job. In fact, each of these DBAs told me that they were looking for a new job, and I wish them the best of luck.

If there is any lesson to be learned from these two DBA’s experience, is that when you are interviewing for a new job, be sure you find out what the organization’s policies are for training and career development. If you discover an organization won’t support your career, then  you need to keep on looking, until you find an organization that believes in cultivating its employees.

If you have had a similar negative experience with an organization that doesn’t support its employees, please share your story with us (anonymously, of course).

6 thoughts on “What Do You Do When Your Employer Doesn’t Want to Support Your DBA Career?

  1. Brad,

    Interesting post. I too am in the same situation with my employer. They will not allocate any funds to training for IT, considering all of us (not just DBA’s) simply as non-revenue producing overhead. I cannot even admit to opening up a book or attending an online webcast during what they deem to be the company’s time (8am-5pm).

    My direct manager opposes the unwritten policies verbally in one-on-one’s with me, but refuses to pursue any changes in policy in fear of her job security.

    Sadly, there are are more employers out there than many would believe. Simply considering IT as overhead who deserve no “special treatment” which is what they consider training to be.

  2. I’d also like to point out that a DBA needs to make sure those “policies” are in writing and are not promises made during the negotiating process.

    Managers often “forget” about those promises after you’ve accepted the position if they are not in writing.

  3. Brad,

    Nice article and I agree with you on several points. Unfortunitely I am in a similar situation right now. We were required to submit training we wanted to attend but some how never seem to have it approved. I do my best to learn something new every day. Even if it is only reading blogs and following the #sqlpass Tweets. Something is better than nothing at all😉

    I also agree you need to ask questions about training during interviews. Hopefully the new employer will hold true to what they tell you. I don’t mean to sound cynical but that has happened to me the past two jobs. Say one thing and do another. All the more reason to do what you can on your own.


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  5. 🙂 It is strange how organisations/Clients, expect the best from their employees yet do little to encourage this.(with reference to training) what I find even more interesting though, is despite organisations having written policies, the policy can be conveniently waived!

    Somehow DBA’s are seen as part of the machines, they administer, like a server that needs to be available 24×7
    with minimal or no downtimes.

  6. I think one of our jobs as DBA is to slowly educate an organization’s management of our importance. This is not an easy job, but one that can be done. One way to start is to put together a monthly or quarterly “scorecard” about the accomplishments of the DBA team, and share it with all those concerned.

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