Rise of the DBA and Data Integrator

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I’m a DBA (Data Base Administrator) and am worried about my job. My company said that they will be including cloud-based applications as part of their system strategy moving forward. Should I start looking for a new job or stick it out and see what happens?

First, thanks for your question. Without more specific details about your situation, it’s hard to give you a definitive answer to such an important question. That said, I can give you some general thoughts and advice that you may find of value. I’ll start with the potential downside of your company’s decision to move toward a cloud-based strategy, then, describe the various potential opportunities that could come your way.

The biggest risk for you is that if your job is totally related to a single large software application and that application moves to the cloud, then your job will be at risk unless the company has another internal position/system where they think you can provide value. Being on the data side, however, you will most likely be one of the last to go because:

• Data will have to be converted to the new system
• Daily data transfer procedures will have to be written to move data to and from your company’s internal systems and the cloud-based application
• An internal data warehouse may need to be created to provide in-firewall reporting, ad hoc queries and/or data analytics.

The good news for you if any of the above activities are needed, as the DBA on the system, you are the natural selection to design and build this new database and/or software.

Now for even better news. The advent of cloud computing has, in my opinion, greatly enhanced the already important role of DBA capabilities within the company. A cloud-based strategy, if implemented properly, can certainly provide great value in regard to lower IT costs, expanded functionality, and increased operational ease. Simultaneously however, it causes a splintering of the company’s data model because cloud-based vendors hosts their own data and use their own proprietary database schema.

This splintering of the production corporate data model is often counteracted with a company-based data warehouse that acts as the central hub for all corporate data. The design, construction, and ongoing management of this evolving data architecture must be performed by people like you, namely DBAs and data architects.

The trick for you, as your company moves toward a cloud-based model, is to position yourself as having knowledge and abilities beyond the system that you are currently supporting, particularly in the areas of data warehousing, data integration, data architecture. To move toward this persona and professional brand, consider doing the following:

• Try to gain an understanding of your company’s overall dataflow. This can be done via the combination of asking questions and reading documentation.
• Learning more about how your company works from a business and process flow perspective. The rationale for this suggestion is that a company’s business flow and data flow, almost by definition, must be consistent. Therefore, the more you learn about one, the more you will understand the other.
• Assuming it is allowed by your company, begin to participate in LinkedIn and other discussion boards on topics related to data warehousing, data integration and data architecture. This participation will help you expand your knowledge in these areas and simultaneously begin to enhance your credentials and professional brand in these areas.
• Do personal research on the three topics discussed above to enhance your knowledge in these areas. Great free sources of information include YouTube, MOOC based classes, vendor white papers, and free webinars.
• If you feel politically comfortable doing so, begin mentioning to others that you just read a great white paper on data warehousing, or took an interesting MOOC class on data architecture, etc. The advantage of discussing this newfound knowledge with others is that it will slowly enhance your professional brand to include your interest, knowledge, and competency in these areas.

The goal and benefit of doing the above suggestions is twofold; first, it helps position you for other DBA type positions within your company, second, if the worst happens and you do lose your job, you are well positioned to find a new one.

If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at
eric@ManagerMechanics.com
or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.

Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to build your professional brand.

Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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