What to Look for in a Good Database Admin Hire

When your business needs to hire a new database administrator, it's important to focus on specific qualities.
April 26, 2022
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With every passing day, your business depends more and more on data. With data, your business can better compete in your particular sector, pivot when necessary, understand and predict trends, and work with powerful applications and platforms deployed to your on-premise data center or a third-party cloud host.

But to get the most out of a database, you need outstanding database administrators to build, maintain, and manage those massive troves of data. Given that hiring a database administrator isn’t quite the same as hiring a JavaScript developer, that’s not as easy as it seems.

So, what qualities should you look for in a DB admin? Let’s dive in together and find out.

Analytical Skills

First and foremost, a DB admin must have solid analytical skills. Anyone who has ever worked with data on this level understands that to function in this position, one must be able to effectively collect, examine, and analyze data, solve problems, and make decisions based on their analysis. 

Without high-level analytical skills, a DB admin wouldn’t be capable of building schema to serve any useful purpose. A DB admin who does possess analytical skills will be able to more easily troubleshoot the myriad problems that often present themselves with databases.

Remember there are a lot of moving parts that go into creating and using databases. A good DB admin is capable of looking at the whole picture, analyzing it, and forming solutions quickly and effectively.

Communication Skills

Unlike programmers, who often only work with those on their team, DB admins must function not only within their team but with nearly every team in the company. Because databases are key components for developers, marketing, human resources, accounts payable, operations, management, and end-users, any DB admin you hire must be able to effectively communicate to a wide variety of staff members. 

One of the trickiest aspects of this is that your DB admins need to be able to communicate to these departments in a way that will help those non-DB admin staff members to understand what is necessary to keep a project moving forward. The world of databases is quite different than anything else in your company, so most of your staff will be in the dark as to how they function. A good DB admin can effectively communicate the concepts and needs to help make other stakeholders comprehend what’s going on as well as the end result they’re looking for.

Attention to Detail

Detail is absolutely crucial for a DB admin. Consider how complicated databases can be (especially when they’re used at scale in Big Data). You have massive databases with vast amounts of data. Should a single, simple detail slip through the cracks, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

So when you hire a new DB admin, near the top of your list of qualities must be attention to detail.

Logical Thinking

Sounds like a no-brainer, right? It’s not. There are two ways of thinking: Logical and creative. Creative thinkers are great for certain tasks (even programming). But with regards to database administrators, you want logical thinkers who can break down a schema to its constituent parts and rebuild it in their minds. You want DB admins who think in terms of data structure and getting from point A to point B in the most efficient, effective way. 

Problem-Solving Skills

Along the same lines as logical thinkers and analytical skills, you also want to look for DB admins with an uncanny ability to solve problems. Databases and their associated query languages can get very complicated. You want to look for DB admins who know how to break a very large process down and troubleshoot every aspect without getting lost in the detail (of which there will be plenty).

Understanding of Your Business Sector

One thing to remember is that your DB admins will have to have a solid understanding of your business sector, to build effective databases. Say, for example, you’re in the healthcare industry, which is dramatically different than the manufacturing industry. A good DB admin will understand what’s important in that sector and know how to build a database accordingly. Without that kind of knowledge, a DB admin might struggle.

Collaboration

Your DB admins need to be able to do more than just effectively communicate with other teams, they need to be able to collaborate. Remember, databases work directly with other components in your business. From websites, data visualization platforms, artificial intelligence, desktop applications, IoT, and edge services, those databases are wide-reaching. 

Because of that, your DB admins must be able to work with developers, operations, IT security, network administrators, end-users, and management to effectively do their jobs.

High Proficiency With One or More Databases

It should go without saying that your DB admins must at least know one database management system (such as MySQL or MS SQL Server). To really be effective, a DB admin should probably at least have a solid foundation with both a relational database and a non-relational database. Your business might start out smaller, which lends itself to being powered by a relational database. But as you scale up, that might require a pivot to (or the addition of) a non-relational database. 

Do yourself a favor and hire a DB administrator that is comfortable with both types. If not, you’ll eventually have to hire a non-relational DB admin anyway.

Conclusion

Hiring a database administrator doesn’t have to be hard. If you look for someone with these skills (on top of the default skills you usually look for), you shouldn’t have any problem finding a highly-qualified member for your team. Just make sure that, before you even start searching, you know the types of databases you’ll need, so you can more easily narrow down your hunt.

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