“If you could give an aspiring DBA just one piece of advice what would it be?” This was a question posed to me by John Sansom (blog twitter).

Question everything about the data – access to it, security of it, and how it’s being used.

I don’t mean this negatively. You can question why a developer wants ‘sa’ access, or why the business wants to implement a feature, or why the same process has been done the same way for ten years when there is a new method that would be faster and more secure – without being negative.

The DBA is the gatekeeper of the company’s data, and, as I always say, the business’s data IS the business. Understand that this is a very important role, and should not be taken lightly. It is not your job – and it should not be – to say yes to every request, or to approve every piece of code the developers want moved into production.

It is your job to question the users as to why they want something and to ask if that fits in with the company’s objectives. Does it help the business reach its goals, without spending too much money or exposing the company to too much risk?

It is your job to learn more about new features and technologies, and question if those would fit in your company. Don’t always assume that the way something has always been done is the best way to do it. In one of my previous jobs, I helped replace some VB script with PowerShell – there was resistance to change, but it was more efficient in the end. That change started with me asking why we weren’t using PowerShell.

When a developer wants to check code in, there should be a code review. If you are a DBA, you don’t have to be a T-SQL expert, but at least know enough to identify common problems. If it’s complex, question the developer, asking if she’s tried multiple ways to get the information, and if it’s the most efficient. If you see something that looks out of place, ask why it’s there. You may learn something!

Learn how to question without being inquisitorial. You don’t have to be confrontational. Never approach someone as if he has done something wrong – you are simply asking to clarify, to learn more.

The greatest thing about asking questions is that you will learn. You will learn more about SQL Server. You will learn more about the business. You will learn interpersonal and communication skills. This will help you grow – your knowledge of SQL Server will grow, and your career will grow.

Remember: question everything. You need the company’s data. You need it be secure. You need to it be used appropriately. Questioning will help you meet these objectives.

Want More Advice?

John asked 19 other SQL Server professionals the same question, and he’s compiled it into a free e-book! You can download it from http://www.johnsansom.com/dba-jumpstart-free-sql-community-ebook-dbas/. Thank you John!