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Allen White

Computer Science 301

Last night I delivered my PASS presentation to an Advanced Database Management class at my local college. Before I started the presentation I explained some concepts that were important in the presentation but outside the scope of it. Things a SQL Server DBA should already know, but students wouldn't necessarily know.

The presentation took longer than it did at PASS, because a number of points needed explanation, again because of the lack of exposure to the product, but it was well received. It also gave the students a chance to see the kind of real activities they can expect to perform when they graduate.

The thing I found interesting were some of the questions. I was asked about setting up the Alerts, and could I do that in a Try-Catch block (for example). What struck me about this question was the fact that the question was based on a programming perspective on all things. As a Database Administrator, I spend most of my time working with tools like SQL Server Management Studio to set configuration parameters that SQL Server uses to perform effectively. These students are taught to program everything. (Well, not everything, but that's a major focus.) I'm not sure if that "problem" is inherent in an educational environment. The students are learning skills across the breadth of the IT spectrum, so they can find a job in an area that some company needs help. It's good that they get a broad perspective.

I just wonder if it'd be a good idea to have a class that focuses on general adminstrative topics. One 16 week class could cover 4 weeks each on the administration of SQL Server, Exchange, ADS, and Windows Server, for example. (I know - it's all Microsoft-centric, but the skills would be very marketable.) The important thing here is that there's no programming, other than some scripting.

Just a thought.


Published Tuesday, September 25, 2007 8:52 AM by AllenMWhite



James Luetkehoelter said:

I've found that MANY academic computer science programs are actually focused just on programming. And often times out-dated languages. The problem is that many acredited universities have an extremely long process for changing curriculums.

Usually the best academic IT programs come from tech schools. Personally though, I'd rather hire someone with a History or English degree than a Comp Sci  :)

September 25, 2007 11:29 AM

RickHeiges said:

As a former University Faculty member, I'd like to ask the question "Who went to school to become a DBA?".  Almost nobody goes to school to become a DBA.  Most DBAs that I know were developers or network admins who discovered the "joy" of being a DBA.  One of the reasons that I left academia to become a consultant was that the students did not have the "DBA" experience to appreciate all of the cool stuff that was coming out with SQL Server 2005.  On the plus side,, we emphasized solid DB design in our program, but that only goes so far.  I'd like to thank Allen for sharing his knowledge with the next generation.

September 25, 2007 6:25 PM

AllenMWhite said:

Actually, the college does focus most of its efforts on programming, but of all the colleges in my area, this one is the most closely aligned with the current state of technology.  I liked Rick's question about "who went to school to become a DBA?", but that makes me wonder about the network admin track they have at the school.  If network administration is attractive, why not database administration?  My personal experience shows that DBA's are paid more than network admins (as a rule) so why haven't schools picked that up as a track?

September 26, 2007 7:22 AM

Lara Rubbelke said:

I took some advanced graduate classes at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management on database management.  One of these classes was "Database Design, Development and Management", and was an exceptional class on the fundementals of the database world (taught by a great professor - Gordon Everest).  This class was not designed for a single platform, but that did not matter.  Concepts around different types of backups, triggers versus constraints, normalization, etc translate across platforms and prepare people with an good understanding of best practices.  

I guess these classes do exist, but you may need to look hard for them (depending on your geography).

September 27, 2007 9:51 AM

RickHeiges said:

I agree with Lara that classes do exist, but they are typically in the advanced segment of a program.  The typical undergraduate course catalog does not address the typical tasks of a DBA very well.  BTW, if anyone lives in Seattle, the UW Outreach Extension program has a SQL Server Certificate Program that was very popular last year.  

Here is the link...

But again, these are usually specialized programs.  

September 27, 2007 12:17 PM
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About AllenMWhite

Allen White is a consultant and mentor for Upsearch Technology Services in Northeast Ohio. He has worked as a Database Administrator, Architect and Developer for over 30 years, supporting both the Sybase and Microsoft SQL Server platforms over that period.

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