Oracle Cab for Cutie

Last month I was in a taxi chatting on the cell phone about a software developer who had recently joined my team, as well as the data analyst position I’d just filled.  As soon as I hung up the phone, the following transpired…

Cab driver: “I am an Oracle DBA.”

Me:  That’s great! We use SQL Server.

Cab driver: (sadly) “Oh.” (pause) “You don’t need a DBA for that.”

With this I had to wonder how common this perception is among database workers who don’t have hands-on experience with SQL Server.  Is there a substantial number of employees and managers in IT positions who believe you just install SQL Server, then leave it alone?  I can only imagine the disappointment of an organization that doesn’t budget for a DBA when adopting SQL Server!  How many developers/analysts/sysadmins became an “accidental DBA” because of this belief?

About Noel McKinney

Noel McKinney is the administrator of noelmckinney.com
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13 Responses to Oracle Cab for Cutie

  1. He must have been a really bad, or insulated, Oracle DBA to think that. If he took the time to learn Microsoft SQL server, he might not be driving a taxi.

    I’m really sick of all the ignorant hating of other platforms. If your database is big enough, you need a DBA. That even goes for MySQL and NoSQL. Of course some database servers have more options to tune than others, but data is king.

    • With that “data is king” comment, you just became one of my favorite people! You are correct about MySQL, I used to administer MySQL databases and I wasn’t sitting around watching screens. Of course, we were running it because we were cheap, thus the hardware was equally cheap and unreliable.

  2. Brent Ozar says:

    My brain just exploded. An Oracle DBA driving a cab?!?!?

  3. Rebecca says:

    Interesting story. At my last job, we had people in IT who thought that we, SQL Server DBAs, just sat around and watched databases all day. We were floored by that because we were extremely busy doing way more than just watching databases. 🙂 So we then took it on ourselves to better communicate and show them what we did day to day.

    We were also shocked by the number of people in IT who would install SQL Server for some application without telling us, come to us when they had problems, and then look shocked when we asked if they had backups of the databases. It was umm… interesting, to say the least. 🙂

    • I imagine all types of administrators (network admins, SAN admins) deal with that perception that you are just watching screens all day. Much of the time, if nothing is going wrong it means the admins are doing their job, not that they have nothing to do.

  4. Chuck Rummel says:

    I think you’re probably on to something there, especially in smaller shops where the “it’s MSFT, how hard can it be” mentality might start. It’s one think when it’s a workgroup setting, where people probably work with Office that was preinstalled on their pc when they bought it, and think that’s all there is to it. But as you grow you realize you need an “I.T. person” to handle everything (from AD to Exchange to SQL and Sharepoint, so you end up with accidental everything administrators) and the myth perpetuates.

    For me, I think the more curious part of this story is why the cab driver was an Oracle DBA – or better put, why an Oracle DBA would become a cab driver. Maybe you didn’t have enough time for him to tell you, but I’m guessing there’s a long story behind that.

    • I was once in an Oracle 8i class (probably 10 years ago) where the instructor said that SQL Server was like Access but could handle more data. So your idea about the generalization of Microsoft software fits.

      As far as why an Oracle DBA becomes a cab driver, it can be fun to romanticize it. Maybe he’s working on the great American novel and being a DBA took time away from that?

  5. Bob Pusateri says:

    As terrible as it is, I would have been very tempted to make a comment about not needing a DBA to drive a cab either…

  6. Jeff Smith says:

    Sadly, this is way more common than you might suspect. I like Bob’s response, but I wouldn’t have had the guts to say it either 🙂 It is easy to be prejudiced against something you have little to no exposure to. I think it might be a defense mechanism as well. There’s also the fact that the Oracle DBA probably in most cases is able to demand a higher salary than a SQL one, or at least that used to be true. It probably makes some folks feel pretty big in their britches.

    One of my more interesting cab ride had a very similar vein, I was in Orange County, and my cabbie told me he was a C#/.NET developer, but could make way more money driving people from the airport to their IT clients and the like.

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