License and registration please. Did you realize how many tables you had locked back there?

Do you just hand your keys to whoever wants access to your car or your house? Why do so with your database? Just because someone wants to look at ‘your’ data, doesn’t mean you have to let them in without asking a few questions, right?

While the person won’t be driving your car, they’ll be driving data in your database. This could be one of the most important and valuable assets your organization has. Wouldn’t you like to know a bit more about this person before they get behind the wheel?

I know in the real world that this probably wouldn’t fly. Stakeholders in the application expect access to the database, little to no questions asked. Or, if a team lead asks for an account, you better have a darn good reason for saying ‘No.’

But, what if as the DBA, you could interrogate every person ever assigned a login? What would you ask? Or better yet, are you a DBA and you already do this? There are no right or wrong answers to any of my questions. I would probably still give someone an account if they flubbed every single question. But you can be sure that I would be keeping an eye on them. I would also try to find someone in the organization to adopt Mr. or Ms. N00B. Even better, I would ask the person requesting for access what training they were planning on providing this account holder.

What I Want to Know Before You Enter My World

  • Have you ever worked with a database before? And by database, I mean Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL, DB2, or Sybase. Do not include experience with MS Access.
  • On a scale of 1-10, please rate your comfort level with SQL.
  • What will be your primary method for connecting and working with the database? Examples include SQL*Plus, SSMS, Access, etc.
  • Explain to me, without using Google, what a Full Table Scan and Cartesian Join mean to you.
  • What is wrong with the following query?
FROM schema_name.table_name;
  • Once you have access to the data, do you intend on extracting it outside the database? If so, do you promise to be held accountable for any secure data you take with you?
  • Where do you go for help when you have a question about SQL or the database?

Some US states require Driver’s Ed BEFORE You Get a License

Too often I see users given access to the database before they are given training. Training should be delivered beforehand. It should be offered again a few weeks afterwards once the user has a chance to get their feet wet. And organizations should offer training on-demand when necessary for their employees.

Ok, back to the real world again. Sigh.


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. Avatar

    Hi Jeff.

    What training path would you recommend. I’m new to Oracle and currently using books that I’ve bought to learn Oracle. Are there any particular books that you would recommend. Right now I am between a 3 and 4 on my comfort level with SQL. Any advice you have will be appreciated.

    • JeffS

      I don’t know if I would recommend a book per se. The one book I would is Kevin Kline’s SQL in a Nutshell. For the rest of your education, I would recommend FREE resources. There are many talented bloggers out there in the Oracle space that share their experiences and tough lessons learned when it comes to development, administration, and tuning. Just practice your Google-FU when you get ‘stuck.’

      Be sure to bookmark Tom Kyte’s AskTom series – any question worth asking has probably already been answered here! There are many folks on Twitter and other social networks that are happy to help you as well. Don’t forget about the Oracle Technology Network (OTN) resources. Videos, message boards, documentation, downloads and more all here for FREE.

  2. Avatar

    “On a scale of 1–10, please rate your comfort level with SQL.”
    On my “To Blog” list is some list of questions, akin to your cartesian join one, to actually give a more consistent measure for that than a self-appraisal. Once the PL/SQL Challenge gets off the ground on the SQL side, I may just be able to point people there.

    And one sweet spot for Apex developement is, “What do you need it for and can we build you an app for that ?”

    • JeffS

      I think that question – the 1 to 10 one – would be followed up by some practical questions. I’d be interested in learning if the user understands set theory, basic math, why you need a GROUP BY when you ask for a Sum across departments. If they fall on the low side, then I want to help that person get the training they need. I want to be a career coach, but at the same time, I want to protect the database and my sanity.

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