I ran across a piece on the fall of the DBA (or part of a piece), and wondered if this is the time when the DBA is disappearing. I do know that plenty of organizations never formally adopted the DBA as a position, and plenty more have abandoned it. Not that there aren’t people managing databases, but they have moved into Database Engineer, SRE, or plain old sysadmin. They might even have another job but function as an accidental DBA.
The DBA role has often been a mix of many things. Certainly, this is a tactical, operations role that keeps systems running, dealing with performance, security, and availability. DBAs also fix quality issues in production, deploy code changes, and often advise developers on what works well and what doesn’t. They tend to be a bit of insurance against things going wrong as well as the scapegoat when anything does go wrong. I found the DBA role to be a constantly changing, never-ending grab-bag of challenges on a regular basis.
Those tasks don’t go away with a title change, nor with a move to the cloud, the adoption of NoSQL data stores, or the move to a DevOps style of software development. They might get handled by another role or team, but they still need to be dealt with. The DBA might need to change titles or groups, and they might need to learn how to use automation, GitOps, or some other new protocol for handling the work. As the article linked above mentions, they may need to tackle work at a higher level, not the manual, click, click repetitive process they might have followed in the past. The trend is often to work smarter, not harder.
As with any change, there will be people who succeed and do better in the future, as well as those that find their best days behind them. I find change often brings opportunities if I am open to them and make an effort to look for those opportunities. You might find your title changes and you can ask for more compensation or more interesting work as the role changes.
Embrace change, learn something new and find a way to make change work to your advantage. There is always a way to make this happen.
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I think you’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head. My perception of what you said is that you’re always going to need a “DBA” even if the title disappears. It may be that certain aspects of being a DBA disappear because of the advent of supposed “managed systems” but even those systems are going to need people that understand the sometimes extreme limitations there and know the work-arounds to keep the proverbial poo from hitting the fan in a timely manner. And there will always be a need to support the statement “Go see … they’ll be able to figure it out”.
As a bit of a sidebar, a good number of such people cut their teeth on this very site for becoming the “Go see” person. Thank you and RedGate for keeping this site and the awesome community that developed because of it.