Michael J. Swart

December 10, 2013

“Make Sure That You Really Love Doing It”

Filed under: Miscelleaneous SQL — Michael J. Swart @ 5:00 am

John Sansom asked me to give one piece of advice to aspiring DBAs. I spent a lot of time thinking about what would be the best single piece of advice I could offer. Before I could settle on an answer, I came across something written by Robin Williams. I thought it was perfect. So I’m going to hijack his advice and use it to answer John.


Robin Williams was giving this advice to an aspiring actor during a recent AMA (ask-me-anything) on Reddit. I like this piece of advice for everyone in general and for actors specifically. I think it’s appropriate for actors because I understand show business can be such a fickle industry. It’s so important to love acting because the career can be – and will be – tough.

It reminds me of another more local saying. Not every kid can make the NHL.  Just as it is in show-biz, it’s very difficult to “make it to the top”. If you can make it to the NHL, you’re one of the fortunate ones. It’s seems to be such an exclusive vocation.

But the I.T. field is different in an interesting way. I was recently talking to a friend at work. “What are the chances of my daughter becoming Prime Minister. I figure they’re about one in thirty million.” My friend pointed out that not every Canadian tries to become Prime Minister, or even a politician. So the odds of someone trying to become Prime Minister and succeeding are significantly better. And here’s where the I.T. field is different. Anyone who wants to become a DBA becomes a DBA. Anyone who wants to become a rockstar DBA becomes a rockstar DBA. There’s no real secret. Talent helps. Hard work helps more. But mostly it’s putting in time. Putting in time is easier said than done. It’s putting in time and the commitment that goes with that.

So I believe Robin Williams’ advice still applies to you aspiring DBAs. If you love this field it makes the work fascinating. You start finding that problems become puzzles. All of a sudden, you’re not studying, you’re satisfying curiosity. This field provides a great scope for creativity (for the creative) and great scope for community (for you social creatures).


Like I mentioned, if you dedicate your career to the pursuit of becoming Prime Minister, your odds of succeeding become much much better than one in thirty million. On the other hand, for those of us who never even try, the odds are zero. So as an aspiring DBA, there will be plenty of opportunities for you to demonstrate that you want this, that you’re one of the few that want it badly enough. Learn about Randy Pausch’s Brick Walls

Now maybe you don’t love the field. Maybe your DBA job is simply a means to an end. Maybe your DBA job enables you spend time at what you do love. That’s fine. It just means that you need to have a strong work-ethic. The time commitment takes a bit more discipline.

You’ve chosen a great field. It will pay back what you put into it.

This post is just one part of a SQL Server community project by John Sansom. Download the free ebook DBA Jumpstart which contains more advice from other DBAs.


  1. “Now maybe you don’t love the field”.
    If a person doesn’t love what he(she) does, then it’s time to find a new field.

    Comment by Rayis — December 10, 2013 @ 1:48 pm

  2. Hi Rayis,
    Easier said than done I think. For example, finding a new field may come with a pay cut or a relocation or other considerations. Things that can make the choice difficult or impossible.

    Comment by Michael J. Swart — December 10, 2013 @ 1:54 pm

  3. Yes, I agree with you, there are always pros and cons involved in this type of decision. But I believe once THAT field is found then your performance, productivity and sense of your life fulfillment will boost non-proportionally. And I think a search for perfect field should never be stopped in order to really love it 🙂

    Comment by Rayis — December 10, 2013 @ 2:07 pm

  4. “All of a sudden, you’re not studying, you’re satisfying curiosity.”
    Very well said, I’ve recently tried to explain to someone why I love being a DBA and this truly sums it up!

    Comment by Andrew — January 16, 2014 @ 9:50 am

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