datacenter1Most readers of this blog are likely to be familiar with the term accidental DBA. It is meant to describe someone that ended up in the role of database administration by pure chance. They simply happened to be in the right place at the right time (or right place at the wrong time). I even wrote a book about my experience and others have written books as well to help those who find themselves falling into the role of a DBA.

In my case the conversation went something like this: “Hey, you’ve done a database restore once before, how would you like to be the new DBA since everyone else just quit?” I answered “Of course!” and have not looked back.

Over time as the accidental DBAs skills grow sharper they get asked to do a little bit more in other areas. Sometimes this is a simple question similar to hey-what-do-you-know-about [something]? With Microsoft SQL Server you get a bundle of products that all have similar names: SQL Server, SQL Server Reporting Services, SQL Server Analysis Services, SQL Server Integration Services, etc. Over time the questions and answers went something like this:

“Hey, what do you know about SSRS? We need help with some reports.”
“I don’t know much about them, to be honest.”
“You don’t? Aren’t you the DBA?”

Well, yeah, I was the DBA. Since I kept getting those types of questions I started to think that I really did need to know everything. But of course you cannot know everything about everything; only a fool would pretend to be an expert in everything. Eventually I was able to focus on learning just the core engine. I learned enough to earn my MCM in SQL Server as well. I like to tell people that my MCM means I know a fair amount of detail for about 20% of the entire product line. I wish I were joking, but I’m not.

There is a lot more to learn. Each and every day new products come to market that allow someone like me the opportunity to learn something new. I won’t get to the level of depth for much of them, but I will learn about them. The reason why is simple: because I’m asked. The question goes something like hey-you-know-about-data-what-do-you-think-we-should-do-about [something]?

As a data professional I see this as a natural progression in our careers. I fell into the role of a DBA because I was someone that could adapt and learn new things fairly quickly. I would get new things tossed my way for the same reason. These days the questions I get have to do with architecture decisions. Should we use Azure, or some other host? Do I need a “big data” solution? How best can I mash these three different data sets together and perform some analysis quickly enough to make a business decision?

If that describes what is happening to you then you are what I call the “Accidental Architect”.

You didn’t apply for the role, but you get asked the questions. Your experience and insight is valued. People want to know what your vision is for the next 18 months. They ask you about roadmaps, they ask about insights, they ask about anything that relates to data in some way.

It’s a wonderful time to be in technology.

It’s a wonderful time to get together to connect, share, and learn about data.