What’s Your Area of Expertise?

I ran across a great quote that made me laugh, but also struck me as being quite true. The quote is from Scott Curie’s post on the PASS Summit Speaker’s Contract and goes like this: “You would laugh at a lawyer who tried to build their own data warehouse, so why would you try to write your own legal agreement?” Having used lawyers for a few contracts, I am well aware that I’m not remotely qualified to putting together a detailed contract. I know if I need a business agreement, I need to either use a lawyer, or make it really simple. “I’ll cut your grass and you’ll give me $25” is probably the last well written contract I wrote.

We all have strengths and useful skills, things we are really good at performing. We often improve those skills over time and may develop some level of expertise in our field. However, even if we were the best T-SQL coder in the world, or the hands-down, acknowledged world-renowned expert on replication, that wouldn’t mean that we necessarily had any skill in some other area of the SQL Server platform, such as Integration Services. We might know something, we could learn, and certainly be competent quickly, but would a company that had a mission critical, multi-TB import or export of data want us to patch their ETL process today? Probably not.

Usually when we have a problem with a specific technology, we want someone that knows that technology well to guide us or do the work. The same thing is true in business. If an inventory specialist questions the way some system works, or a financial guru wonders about the calculations in an application, we should defer to them and ensure that we can explain how the code works, double checking the accuracy. After all, specifications could contain bugs as easily as code, and an expert in the end user of software might have a better idea of whether a system is working properly than the developer.

We should remember that when we venture outside of our own area of specialization. Many technology professionals are quite intelligent, but they aren’t going to be experts in all problem domains, and they shouldn’t present themselves as such.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

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