The Loneliness of the On Call DBA

There are lots of great things about being a SQL Server DBA. You get to play with lots of cool software; get the chance to spend someone else’s money on hardware; constantly be in a position to learn new things; and be a member of an awesome community.

With the good always has to come a little bit of bad. I’ve been a production DBA for over 10 years now. That means for over 10 years I’ve been on call at various times. Way back when it used to be a case of carrying a pager everywhere and that pager get swapped between team members. Now the NOC has my cell number and I can be called at any point. I also get emails on my phone day and night. Work loves it when you’re in constant contact (no really, they do).

The toughest thing about being a DBA has to be those long late nights when you are dealing with a production issue. The feeling of loneliness is pretty intense when the house is quiet and you are sitting in front of a monitor, it’s bright light burning into your tired bleary eyes and making them burn. The only noises are the faint sounds of sleeping from another part of the house, the clicking of your keyboard as you type in the database restore commands and the low humming from the refrigerator.

This weekend I had to deal with a long brutal outage. I ended up working through the night and most of the next day. It is what I get paid for however; so while I didn’t exactly have a smile on my face I did walk away at the end with the satisfaction of knowing that I had done a good job. I was able to get everything back online as it should be and that the business functioning at 100% again.

When I first started working with SQL Server as a DBA I thought it was just a job, I didn’t know it would be a way of life. Truly, being a DBA is a job that you live. If you’re a DBA, live it well my friends.

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