Next Door to Derpton - When Your Fellow DBA is a Danger to Databases (Dear SQL DBA)

What do you do when your fellow DBA is a ticking time-bomb of bad decisions, waiting to explode your production environment?

Note: This is a “listen-able” video. You can also listen to this as a podcast - learn how at littlekendra.com/dearsqldba.

Here’s Today’s Question

What do I do with a co-worker (who claims to have 20 years being a DBA) who puts all the production databases into Simple recovery mode?

Sincerely,

Next Door to Derpton

This is a Tough One…

In this case, we’re assuming that SIMPLE recovery model isn’t appropriate for all those databases— and that losing all the data since the last full (or full + diff) backup might be big trouble for the business.

It’s a difficult situation when one of your peers makes decisions that you feel risk the availability and safety of the data. Going deeper, it’s tough being on a team with someone who you feel doesn’t have the knowledge and skills to do their job.

Especially if they might make more money than you do.

You Need Protection, and Change Management is that Protection

The biggest problem is that your data may be at risk. You need to stabilize the configuration of your environment, and make sure that changes to the configuration go through a good review and approval process.

This may sound like a drag, but it protects you as well. We all have those times where something that seems like a good idea backfires on us.

If you don’t have Change Management, you need to become its champion. There are a lot of ways you can champion this for the sake of good process, and management typically loves it.

If you do have Change Management, your mission is to make sure it’s being used well, and that when changes go wrong, you’re finding root cause.

Be Careful Spinning the Wheel of Blame

Should you tell your boss that your coworker doesn’t know their transaction log from their tempdb

Usually, no.

If peer review is a part of your work system, it’s OK to be honest during that peer review framework. Make sure you’re being constructive.

In that case, pretend it was you: you’d want to know the extent of where you needed to improve, but you wouldn’t want your nose rubbed in it.

If your boss asks you what your impression is of your coworker’s skills in a private conversation, think through specific changes that have gone wrong and mention those incidents. Request that your boss keep your comments confidential.

Outside of private conversations with the team manager, change the subject. You’re a team. Team dynamics that turn against one team member are bad for the whole team.

If your team is having problems because of misconfigurations and changes that have gone wrong, look through those changes and make recommendations to processes to fix those.

  • Better change review
  • Better adherence to using change control
  • Improving documentation on how to do things  / breaking down “knowledge silos”

It’s also OK to be honest about areas where you believe your team needs more training, but talk generally about the team.

It takes really hard work to stay positive and keep it from getting personal in this situation, but it’s absolutely the best thing you can do.

It’s bad to have a coworker who lacks skills and may put your environment at risk. It’s even worse to have them believe you’re out to get them!

What if Your Coworker Regularly Goes Off the Ranch and Doesn’t Use Change Control?

Don’t cover for them.

Ask them about it first to make sure there wasn’t an emergency change request you’re unaware of for the change, but be honest about what happened when you’re asked.

In other words, treat them as an equal and a grown-up.

Sometimes in this situation, people sugar coat things or cover for the person who makes mistakes. You need to treat them as an adult though.

If you made mistakes, you would own up to what happened and work to not do it again, right? It’s just about respectfully allowing others to own their actions.

Mindset: Focus on Building Your Own Skills

It’s hard to stay positive in this situation. Your mindset is critical to navigating this successfully without having it drag you down.

As you grow your own skills, you’re likely to work with Junior DBAs more and more.

You’ll need to build strong processes, documentation, and change control to help them succeed.

After working with a peer with those issues, leading Junior DBAs will seem easy, so this is awesome training for a senior level position!

As often as you can, focus on your own learning and your ability to build resilient processes that help people make the right choices (and allow every change to get review and input). Because after all, that’s good for you at 3 am when the pager goes off, too.