Get Your Head Right

From time to time we all have these epiphanies that bring us back around to where we should be. I had one yesterday and thought I'd share it with you guys in case any of you are in the same funk I was in. In short, we all tend to take ourselves too seriously and start getting really upset with our company and our jobs. It's easy to do. So yesterday I took a step back and realized I was going it, and just called

From time to time we all have these epiphanies that bring us back around to where we should be. I had one yesterday and thought I'd share it with you guys in case any of you are in the same funk I was in. In short, we all tend to take ourselves too seriously and start getting really upset with our company and our jobs. It's easy to do. So yesterday I took a step back and realized I was going it, and just called a dead stop.

Here's the situation. As DBAs we quite often have a global vision for our systems and it's not always shared by others in our company. We make recommendations that don't get taken, we advise on standards are are ignored, and we give good solid methodologies that aren't even considered. So tell me again... why am I here? You don't listen to hardly anything I say, yet you're paying me a pretty good salary to give you this advice. so tell me again... why am I here?

It's easy to get offended by stuff like this. But this all goes back to what I was saying in a post a few months ago about why you're here. You're not here to do a good job, nor are you here to make your systems run well, or even to be a good DBA. You're here to do what the company wants you to do. Does that always align with what you feel they should be doing? No. Does that mean that you should be listened to? Not necessarily. What it does mean is that it's not your business and all you can do is advise. Give your advice when you're asked for it, and then ultimately let them make the decisions. Hey, if they wanna pay you 90K to sit there 10hrs/wk and babysit some manual process that impedes other work... well, that's their choice. Again, you're not there to do the best job you can, you're there to do what they want you to do. Would you be able to be more effective if you were allowed to automate the process? Absolutely! For some reason though, they see fit to deny your request for the very simple thing it would take to make that happen. And believe me, I get it... sometimes it just doesn't make sense. What you're asking for is free, takes very little effort, and wouldn't really effect anybody but you, and they still won't let you do it. It makes absolutely NO sense. And those are the things that can just eat you up inside. So take a step back, and remember my famous words... it's not your business. They clearly think that your time is better spent doing stuff manually. It's their call.

The problem is that you can only go so far with stuff like this. You can only babysit so many manual processes before that's basically all you're doing. The catch is that the company still wants you to produce, and watch systems, and be available for other things. Sometimes the big guys up top don't have a firm grasp on what time actually is, and that there's a limited supply of it. Something tells me that they'd change their minds about a lot of this stuff if they had to babysit something like that all the time, yet were still expected to do their normal duties that justified their positions. I have a feeling that their attitudes about automation would change drastically. So when this all blows up, and it will because like I said, they still expect you to produce. What you need to do is go to your boss and give him your list of daily tasks, and your projects and ask him to prioritize them for you. Look, there are only so many hrs in the day, and I refuse to work 90hrs/wk to support manual processes and then be productive as well. And since something has to give, I need you to tell me what priority you want these in. Everything's important, but I don't have the company's insight into their business, so someone else needs to make this call. So basically, either one of two things needs to happen; they either need to allow you to do what needs to be done to free your time, or they need to buy another DBA to help you. Period. Because working 90hrs/wk isn't the answer, and you know what? In my experience putting in all that extra time never buys you anything. It doesn't get you a bigger bonus, it doesn't get you a bigger raise, and it certainly doesn't secure your position. Companies today will still throw you away with no notice for someone cheaper. It happens all the time. Companies don't appreciate their employees anymore, but that's another soapbox.

Now, I know what you're thinking. But Sean, I don't want to spend my time doing manual tasks. I'd rather be doing real DBA work and not that tedious stuff. Well, you're right. And you have a decision to make now don't you? If the job isn't going to be as technically fulfilling as you'd hoped, then you need to decide whether it's time to move on. If you can't be happy with the direction that they want you to go, then your goals clearly aren't aligned, and it's time to start thinking about a change. I don't care what other factors you have in your scenario, it's really just that simple. Paul Simon said it best... you gotta slip out the back, Jack... make a new plan, Stan.

And if you decide that leaving is the best thing for you, then ok. But set yourself up to succeed. Don't complain about your job. Don't spend your days whining to your co-workers. Just quietly do what needs to be done, and look for something else in the background. If something happens and you need to keep this job for longer than you like, then you want to still be in good standing with them. Don't give them a reason to fire you because you thought you'd be out of there soon and started pissing people off. Be cool and handle your business.

This all mirrors something that's going on right now with a friend of mine. He made a recommendation to his company that would save them an initial $13mill, and an on-going $300K/ea to expand the solution as the project grew. In the end they decided to go with the expensive solution even though his was FREE and actually provided more options than the expensive one. He blew it off still wondering why they'd choose to spend all that extra money when they could get a better solution for free. Now here we are a couple months later, and he just had his performance review. He got an excellent score; he showed it to me. But when he got his raise, they only gave him 3%. And against my advice, he's been working his ass off to support some manual processes he asked them to let him automate, but they won't let him. And it's not that they won't let him automate them. They don't care how he does his job. What they won't do is give him what he needs to automate it. Again, another free solution that would take 5mins to implement, but they won't allow it. They don't give reasons, they just say no. OK, back to the point... so he's been doing all this extra stuff and his raise was 3%. So he asked his boss why his raise was so low. He was told that they just didn't have the budget for more. He then asked his boss why it is that they have the budget for a $13mill solution when they had a free one in front of them, but they didn't have the money to pay their people. He didn't get an answer. So my friend clearly has a choice to make. It's clear to me that the company doesn't value him. I've worked with him before, and I think he's one of the better DBAs I've ever worked with. He'd be an excellent addition to any company, and I only wish I could hire him. And I'm sure his boss values him quite a bit, but his boss doesn't make that budget. It's the company. Anyway, that's another post entirely, and I'm sure I'll get back around to that topic pretty soon.

So I know I've jumped around quite a bit here, and maybe even babbled some, so I'll recap to be succinct about my point.

You're not being paid to be good at your job. You're being paid to do what the company wants you to do. So if you find yourself getting too emotional about them not taking your advice or about them making you support things you don't feel you should, take a step back and remember it's not your business. Treat it like a contracting gig. You give advice, and they either follow it or they don't. It makes no difference to you. When things start to get too hairy and you can't get your work done because there's just too much on your plate, then take it to your boss and have him set the priorities. That's his job, not yours. And when things start to get too bad and your goals just don't align with the company's anymore, then continue to do your job. Do a good job, and don't complain. Then look for another gig in the background. Take your time finding it, and pick something that will give you what you're looking for.

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