For several years now I have been an Oracle database dude who eavesdropped on the SQL community. I hoped to pick up the lingo and become savvy enough that I could say “Yes, I do SQL Server.”

If I’m being honest, then I must admit I have largely failed. Yes, I understand what people are talking about, I can read the blogs and get what they are saying. But as Robert Heinlein coined in one of my all-time favorite books, I do not grok SQL Server.

Why is that? It’s because I have not spent time on the front lines actually working with the technology. By front lines, I mean a production environment. My bacon is not on the line.

To be even more honest, it’s been since 2001 that I have carried a pager for Oracle. There is no substitute for that pager time. I would be loathe to hire someone to be the primary DBA for SQL or Oracle who’s primary experience was on paper. Certifications don’t get you jobs, experience gets you jobs.

In the last year I have tried to get my hands dirty with SQL Server: installing R2 when it came out, doing more than just the basic AdventureWorks database, trying to get a real handle on maintenance plans and backups, figuring out WHY angels lose their wings when you run a SHRINK operation, attending a SQL Saturday event in Raleigh, and even migrating data from Oracle. But, this is occurred in my private instance, and no one cares if I blow anything up, or if the system becomes unreliable.

For now I will have to be happy with just being “OK” with SQL. I can speak intelligently with a SQL pro, but don’t confuse me for one. Even the most basic #SQLHELP questions on Twitter cause me to pause before piping in my answer. And I have been more wrong than right recently.

There’s just no replacing the production experience. And that’s the way it should be.

I’m also OK with being just OK. OK is a huge improvement over where I started earlier this year. I’m looking forward to seeing where I can end this time next year.

Just don’t ask me to carry a pager.


I'm a Distinguished Product Manager at Oracle. My mission is to help you and your company be more efficient with our database tools.


  1. In exactly the same place with Oracle, have done Wkshp I,II,Dataguard and RAC courses but still feel like a complete novice. My problem is our Oracle environment is so disjointed and lacks consistency that I get fed up with actually trying to familiarise myself with this technology – its too painful. For example from instance to instance some servers will be running dbcontrol others will only have sqlplus client installed and some will only be configurable through a remote sqlplus session – this is just for starters *sigh*. Most of the Oracle dbas do everything through a remote sqlplus, so this is not an issue to them but I have told them it is like me restricting SSMS use for them when they try to admin SQL Server. Then we have f/w restrictions that mean that remote sessions are not possible.

    All I need is to work closely to a good Oracle DBA who has configured the environment in a standard way and is willing to share skills in the same way in which I like to think I do. Until that day SQL Server will receive my full attention.

    Yep SIASL really is a excellent book, probably Heinlein’s best imo!

    • JeffS

      I feel for ya Mark. Using SQL*Plus only through remote – guessing you mean TELNET or SSH – connections would be too painful for me to bear. You know there is a SSMS for Oracle out there, let me know if you’d like a copy.

  2. This is one of the things that keeps me from becoming an UPPER( ‘dba’ ); I don’t have to do it everyday, and I probably won’t. It is annoying, but true.

    • JeffS

      That used to bother me, but not anymore. I’m happy to be where I’m at, and I’ll continue to add new tricks as I can.

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