A Wide Variation in Skill

I was helping someone recently clear up some confusion about the encryption structure of their TDE databases. This individual wasn’t sure about how the various keys were used, which ones needed to be backed up, and which keys needed to be restored. As this was an online discussion, anyone could read the posts and add their own thoughts. There was a point where one person chimed in that the process was really easy and anyone should be able to complete it.

I do think that working with TDE is easy, but I also think that its easy for me because I have experience and practice with the technology. There are nuances to undestanding how the piece fit together and what needs to happen in order to ensure your system operates smoothly during both deployment and in disaster recovery situations. Since mistakes can result in lost data, I understand why people might feel intimidated or nervous, but once they practice a few skills and gain knowledge, I find they get the confidence to proceed.

Their fear is often because of ignorance, which is understandable. All of us have things to learn, especially in technology where the rate of change is quite high. Before we learn something, or even while we’re trying to understand concepts, various tasks might seem quite difficult, or even complex. These might be simple tasks, such as restoring a certificate or sending a set of objects through a Powershell pipeline or writing a unit test.

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean everyone can. Just because one person finds a task easy doesn’t mean others won’t find it complex. The knowledge that each of us gathers over time isn’t consistent or easily mapped. We all learn different skills at different times, in varying orders and to fluctuating depths. One of the very frustrating things about technology is that there isn’t a defined path for a particular technology, or even job. Someone that begins working with SQL Server might learn T-SQL first, or backups, and not get to the user/role/GRANT security model for some time. Even then someone might easily add logins and users to roles, granting permissions, but being unaware of the difference between REVOKE and DENY, or be confused by the WITH GRANT option.

I am not excusing the inability of someone to be competent at their job, but I do think that ignorance deserves some understanding and tolerance. While you might be annoyed that someone doesn’t know how to take a COPY_ONLY backup, I would hope you would treat them as a colleague that needs to learn a new skill and not chastise them if this isn’t something they’ve every dealth with before. If they can’t learn this skill and make mistakes over and over, then that’s a different situation and perhaps they aren’t competent. We should understand ignorance once or twice, but after that the person might need to find a new job.

I see plenty of people that are constantly working to improve their skills and get better at their jobs. I also see plenty of people content to continue their career with the same level of knowledge they’ve had for a long time, unable or unwilling to change and produce better code or faster systems. I also see plenty of skilled individuals treat both groups of people with the same level of scorn, contempt, or shame. I saw a comment posted recently about how Linux supporters will often mock people using Windows and then deride the same people for asking questions when they switch to Linux. I would hope that our SQL community would treat others better than that.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

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About way0utwest

Editor, SQLServerCentral
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2 Responses to A Wide Variation in Skill

  1. pianorayk says:

    Steve, this is exactly why I am such a stickler for documentation, and why my SQL Saturday talks have been geared as such. Documentation helps close the knowledge gaps, and will help the reader learn more about the task at hand, as well as (hopefully) gain confidence.


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