Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Experts are Sharp

You know I was thinking just this morning about the last round of interviewing I did to find a new DBA at work.  And that of course got me thinking about some of the interviews I’ve done in the past.  There are a few that really stick out.  The ones that are sticking out right away are the ones who didn’t know anything and claimed that they had so much experience and were so good that they didn’t have to be bothered with memorizing every little thing anymore.

This astounds me because all the experts I know are really sharp and on top of their game.  So what these guys are telling me is that they’re so good they don’t have to demonstrate even the most basic knowledge of SQL because they’ve transcended above that?  If that’s the case then my mother’s 100x the DBA any of us will ever be because she doesn’t know the first thing about it.

I remember this one guy especially.  He claimed both on his resume and in person to be an expert in query tuning.  He said, I’ve never found anyone who’s my equal at tuning queries.  So armed with that bit of knowledge I set about quizzing him with the basics.  I mean after all, you have to just get the basics out of the way, right?  I asked him if he had ever worked with exec plans.  He said of course, you don’t tune queries without them.  I said, that’s what I think, but i just wanted to make sure we were on the same page.  And I then asked him how expert his knowledge was of exec plans.  He said he was a very deep expert and didn’t know anyone with his knowledge.  Wow, now I’m getting a little nervous, right?

So I started with the basics.  What’s the difference between an index scan and an index seek?  Well, I’m not sure the exact difference, but I know you want to get rid of one of them.  OK, which one?  I can’t remember.  Um, ok.

So what’s a bookmark lookup (this was back when SQL2K was stull ubiquitous)?  I’ve seen it before, but I’m not sure what it does.

We went back and forth like that a couple more times and I finally broke down and told him that there was no evidence that he had ever tuned a query because he didn’t even have basic knowledge of exec plans.  I asked him what he was basing his claim of being an expert on.  That’s when he let me have it.  Look, I’m an enterprise DBA and I don’t have to know every piddling definition you dig up out of BOL.  Maybe someday when you’re at the level I am you’ll understand.

Um… ok, I’d say we’re done, huh? 

So like I said, I was thinking about that this morning and while I can’t keep up with everything, and nobody can, I like to think that I’ve got a lot of the basics covered.  And the real experts certainly know their stuff.  Go ahead and see how many people would follow her if you asked Kalen how big a SQL page is and she couldn’t answer.  And how many people do you think would follow Paul Tripp if he couldn’t tell you what DBCC CheckDB() was for? 

It just doesn’t hold water.  So for those of you out there thinking you’re all the Pooh, go test yourself and see how much knowledge you really have.  You may find out you’re not as hot as you thought.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Bad Guys

Here I am on a conf call while shooting bad guys with my baby boy.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Valid Opinions

A friend of mine was in a meeting yesterday and he called me right after because he was upset. Apparently he and someone else had conflicting opinions about how to do something that neither one of them had ever done before... so they were both essentially guessing.

He was mostly upset because he said the other guy's opinion was just as valid as his and so far it's brought the group to a standstill while they figure this out.

I told him that there's no way that both opinions are equally valid. In some instances that may be the case, but in this one, I happen to know who the other guy is and I know that when it comes to SQL brains he definitely got the short end of the stick. So I'm saying it out-right: not all opinions are equally valid. My mother-in-law likes to put her 2-cents in when we're sitting around talking computers. She doesn't know the 1st thing about it, but she likes to give her opinion anyway. So when I ask Jen's brother something, his answer is worth more to me than her mother's. The same holds true here right? Because someone is in a group and was invited to a meeting that doesn't mean that they have equal say in things.

Here's another really good example... let's say that there's a weird recovery scenario or even corruption scenario that you come across. And you come up to me and Paul Tripp at a conference and ask us what our opinions are. I'd say that Paul's opinion in this case is worth far more than mine. Sure, I'm a qualified DBA and I've been around the block more than a few times, but Paul WROTE CheckDB so I think he carries a little more weight than I do. Even if it's something neither of us has heard of before, I'd still take his guess over mine.

So no, I'm not one of those who believes that everyone's say is as equally important as everyone else's. Hell, I don't even believe that everyone should even have a say. Some people are just not qualified to give opinions on a topic. In a restaurant you don't see the dishwasher getting a say in what specials go on the board, and in a dojo you don't see white belts chiming in on black belt promotions. So why is it that everyone in IT thinks they deserve an equal say just because they were invited to the meeting?

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Sean McCown
I am a Contributing Editor for InfoWorld Magazine, and a frequent contributor to as well as I live with my wife and 3 kids, and have practiced and taught Kenpo for 22yrs now.
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