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A Database Professional's View

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The following sections contain an on-the-job interview that may provide some insight to the world of database professionals. The interview is with a database designer.

Interview

The following interview with Helen, a database designer, illustrates how a database professional might take on various relevant roles and responsibilities in an organization. Helen has been in this field for over 15 years. From week to week, she not only performs database work, but also performs various other job roles. Her certifications, training, and of course, experience, show that she has become a very diversified person in the IT field. Being diversified in many job skills is almost a requirement in this particular IT field. Helen brings to this interview her experience from the many database environments in which she has worked. It is helpful to be able to work with those in the field that you want to be in, learn from them, and gain experience while also working in a related field.



What is your job title, and how long have you been doing this job?

[Helen]: Right now I am a Senior Programmer Analyst. I've been in the database world professionally since late 1986, working in many DB environments.

What are your main duties?

[Helen]: My main jobs day-to-day are a cross between supporting an existing application system that is built on one database technology and assisting with the design and specifications for a new system that is similar to the old one but based on new technology.

What systems are you currently working with?

[Helen]: Unix and Windows NT. The database system software I use includes a proprietary database system on Unix. I use SQL Server and Microsoft Access on Windows NT.

What qualifications or certifications do you hold?

[Helen]: I hold an MCSE + Internet, an MCSD, and degrees in math sciences and business, which is how I got into databases.

How long have you been working in IT, and how did you get started?

[Helen]: I have been working in IT since 1983.1 was hired as a computer room assistant in school and gradually proved myself, got promoted as programmer and programmer analyst, and just continued on from there.

What hours do you normally work? If you work evenings and weekends do you get paid for it?

[Helen]: I pretty much work as the job demands it. Nowadays, I would say that I spend about 60 hours a week consistently, but at his point in my career, I have a pretty flexible schedule. If I wanted to work fewer hours, I could. I am typically paid by the hour, so there is an incentive for me to work the long hours I do.

What do you find most interesting about your job?

[Helen]: I like learning about the new technology, keeping up with the new SQL Server 2000, and seeing how databases evolve all the time as technology evolves and computers get faster. People realize that new things can be done with databases, like online analytical processing, and that means more for me to learn about.

What is the least interesting aspect of your job?

[Helen]: When someone tells me,"Here go do this.We know you can find the right solution, and we're really too busy to help you figure it out." And I then have to go figure out the solution on my own without any help. At times, I find myself lacking the information I need to do the best job I possibly can because the user is too busy to provide me with more input. Sometimes, I'm just guessing at how they'd like the database to work, and I don't like to guess about things like that.

Do you consider your job to be stressful?

[Helen]: Mostly no. However, from time to time when there are deadlines to be met, it gets a little bit stressful.

Do you work with other people or alone?

[Helen]: Some of both, and I most enjoy it when I work with other people. However, the nature of the job is programming, so there will be a week or so where that is all I'm doing.

If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?

[Helen]: I would like to spend more time on the new technologies. I am a technologist, so new technology is interesting to me.

Can you see yourself staying in this area of the IT industry, or would you like to try something different?

[Helen]: I think I'll always be involved in the database arena, simply because I really do understand it, and I have some talents in that regard. I like getting into the technology side of it as well as doing database design. So, I look for opportunities in which I get to do both sides of database work in order to maximize variety.

What do you consider to be the most challenging part of your job?

[Helen]: Balancing user requirements. Because I'm doing databases that serve accounting people, front line order taking people, and a large user community, I have to balance their needs, which is making sure people are paying for what they are supposed to pay for.

What advice would you give to someone who is starting out in IT?

[Helen]: Get into the industry any way you can in terms of just getting IT experience. This provides a good start toward doing the kinds of things I do. My first work in IT, as a school computer room assistant, was the academic equivalent of being the help desk engineer for a group of very novice users. It's the kind of environment that might not be very exciting or technically challenging all the time, but it is one in which you can practice the skills of communicating effectively with users at all levels of expertise and use all available resources to solve reported computer hardware and software problems. Being able to interact effectively with end users who often have substantial business expertise, but limited computer experience, is a key skill for many in the computer world, particularly in IT environments. And it's one that not enough IT personnel seem to have. Getting in the door of an IT organization and being able to demonstrate the ability to learn as well as the ability to work well with a variety of users often enables you to network your way into an opportunity in the particular area of IT that interests you within the organization.
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