I am finalist for 2009 Exceptional DBA Award

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Since the Red-Gate software sponsored award website doesn't post much information about us, I thought I would post my application letter so you get a better feel for what I do at work. Thanks for voting - click Vote Now image on this site: http://www.exceptionaldba.com/vote.htm

What is your toughest challenge as a dba?
Keeping up with the onslaught of changes that happen with a growing company (www.demandmedia.com) that wants to go public and all the challenges you face with limited man power. You have security always present in forms of PCI and SOX compliance; business management wanting latest development project to be pushed on schedule and then throw in last minute got to get done now deal for good measure; IT management trying to develop SOX compliant change processes, which slows ability to make changes as quickly as done before; SQL developers wanting latest version of SQL Server to use for developing/improving functions to their applications; IT management questioning current architecture and wants full report on why we do it this way; oh and by-the-way backups continue to fail with network hiccup issues, make sure to figure that out as network team says their network is flawless; don't forget to test out Windows 2008 and SQL 2008 performance on new SAN to make sure you get best performance out of it; the count-down to server migration to SQL 2008 started a month ago, don't forget to let everyone know who will be affected and find a mutual date for outage; make sure the other DBA's you are in charge of have a list of work to do every week; and while you are at it, create that automated db push process from TFS so when you have to push code, it isn't all manual; and this list just keeps going and going and going...now prioritize the gigantic list and try to make your customers feel like you are on top of everything.
 
If your undertake any work or activities for the sql community, what do you do and why?
I host and blog at my own SQL community site www.sqlwebpedia.com. Recently, I have renewed my desire to blog more on specific subjects I have researched. I find it hard to find the time to continuously blog or answer questions, and when I do search for solutions to my problems, I typically will answer a few questions while I am at a site which has SQL forums, or post it up on my community site. Since I am not a full-time consultant, I don't feel the pressure to continuously keep a presence in the SQL community, but I do it to pay it forward as many others before me have done so, which I have learned from.
 
Why did I decide to become a DBA?
I had been in Systems Administration for 12 years and wanted a new challenge. I had used MS Access since version 1.1 and loved creating tools with it. 9/11 happened which made it difficult to find employment. Our local unemployment agency would pay for classes to retrain me, so, I choose SQL Server MCDBA tract and am very glad I did. I have done a combination of SQL development and DBA work since then. Now I am a Sr. Database Administration Manager with lots of responsibility and people to manage.
 
 
What is the greatest responsibility of a DBA in your opinion?
To keep systems up and running securely and in the case of a disaster, you are able to recover all data to the previously agreed upon restore objective set by the business and fully tested by you. If you fail at this, your company could be out of existence the very next week, lose millions of dollars, or public opinion of company goes down the drain.
 
 
What do you think are the hallmarks of an exceptional DBA and how do you match those?
First, you have to have a passion to learn about technology. Without the passion, you will just be an ordinary DBA who is forced to change by outside influences. You can tell an exceptional DBA by the desk he keeps. My desk is stacked with SQL books and magazines, print outs of white papers, schema diagrams litter the cubicle walls, server network diagrams, past PASS badges, and certifications from classes and MCP tests. Also with this knowledge, you need to share. I often send emails to our team or blog on my community website on new software to make our life easier or new tsql coding methods or procedures to help our daily jobs.
 
Second, you also need to understand a lot about current technology just like an architect would for the building industry. You need the ability to implement the best solution for your company or client, otherwise you may recommend a solution that doesn't meet your customer's needs (internal groups should be thought of as customer's - as they can also find a new "supplier" if they don't like your solutions). You will need the skill set of a Systems Administrator, Systems Engineer, Security Administrator, Storage Engineer, SQL Developer, and Project Manager. I constantly am reading magazines, books, and blogs about the latest technologies. My friends on the softball team give me grief because I bring my thick SQL books to read during downtime, call me weird, but I like reading them. I started systems administration in 1990 and have MCSA cert and almost have my MCDBA cert. I graduated with degree in Civil engineering from University of Washington, which I believe has been very helpful for my success. 
 
Thirdly, you need to be good at troubleshooting difficult and challenging problems. You won't be able to pass them off to others as you are the expert. Sometimes you will need to push other teams into helping you solve problems that affect your systems, and if you are going to do that, you will need evidence to back up your claims. Recently, we had horrible replication performance on a reporting server that would put the data more than 24 hours behind, which was unacceptable to business managers who needed to make decisions based on the data daily. I worked with MS support services and our network engineers to understand the issue and how to test. I then spent the next few days coming up with a prescription for network OS tweaks to windows TCP/IP stack and a custom replication profile. This solved problem for a while, but eventually got worse. Next I looked at the VMWare ESX hosts it was hosted on and the SAN storage design. I found that the VMWare hosts were over-subscribed, the SAN team had given us archival speed disks, and we had partition alignment issues. My final recommendation was to move to a physical server on Windows 2008 and SQL 2008 with same amount of RAM and more CPUs. Final result was a resounding success; 2-3 second replication latency, jobs taking many hours were completed in many minutes, and business managers and reporting engineers were very happy with new solution.
 
Fourthly, you need non-technical skills like interpersonal communication, written communication, honesty, integrity, diplomacy, mentoring, speaking, and sales. If I didn't have these skills and a track record of consistently following them, I wouldn't have convinced our CTO right after I was hired to get third party backup compression for our sql servers, nor would I have convinced him and our team to spend tens of thousands of dollars on third party software to monitor and administrate a handful of critical sql servers. Prior to this they had nothing and were okay with that. To do this I had to research all the alternatives, communicate to vendors, view presentation after presentation, and finally make a recommendation to the db team on what to use and what not to use. There is a balance between nice to have and what we really should have to meet our operational goals, without breaking budgets.
 
Fifthly, you need a can do attitude. I always come to problem or new architectural meetings with an attitude that we can do anything that management asks, as long as we have the time and money to do so. Management likes this kind of attitude as it gives them the confidence that you know what you are doing and that we are flexible enough to meet needs of ever changing marketplace. This only works if you have many more successes than failures. Failures are okay as long as you take the blame for them if you caused them and work to prevent them from happening again or if you can't prevent learn from your mistake and not forget that knowledge. 
 
Why do you think you deserve to win this contest?
As my boss would say, there are not that many DBA's who go the extra mile for the company and go way beyond the call of his job description. Chuck is a Sharepoint evangelist and architected and implemented MOSS 2007 for our company and convinced us to add CorasWorks add-on to improve its capabilities. He is still a part time administrator for it and often holds lunch time and one-on-one training sessions with managers. Chuck also convinced us to purchase online training from AppDev to help web developers and SQL developers with learning new technologies along with motivating team to go to local PASS summits in Seattle. Chuck also has written many stored procedures to help with security auditing and migration, blocking process monitoring, and a 1500 line backup procedure that can do just about everything you would ever need for backups. 
 
One thing you can rely on is his honesty, you can trust that if there is a question on technology and he doesn't know it, he will admit that but will come back to you in short order with new found knowledge, ready to make recommendations on it; and in the rare cases he makes mistakes, he admits it outright and has resolutions to fix any issue brought forth.
 
Chuck is also the go to guy to get things done when it comes to cross department solutions. He has a great relationship with all the other team members, so if we have an issue that involves some technical issue with systems engineering, network engineering, corporate engineering, storage engineering, business intelligence, web development, or database development teams here, we can trust that Chuck can communicate at their level, get consensus on action items, and drive teams to a successful resolution.
 
Thanks for your website and tools!
-Chuck Lathrope