As a DBA, am I a gatekeeper?


August 27, 2020 by Kenneth Fisher

TL;DR; Yes

Frequently in our industry we talk about gatekeepers as bad things. We talk about breaking down barriers and making it easier for people to get their jobs done. And so we should. I absolutely agree that we need to go out of our way to make sure people are able to get their jobs done, and that we don’t want to make things difficult on them. That said, part of my job is to be a gatekeeper.

My job is an odd mix of DBA and Database Developer. I’m there to support the developers, to make sure they can do their job, make sure their queries run in a reasonable amount of time, provide access, run scripts where needed, etc. And yes, part of my job is to say No, you don’t need to be a sysadmin. To tell people they aren’t allowed this access or that. To explain to management why data security is important and what the possible ramifications of not enforcing it are. Then once security is in place, I have to be willing to say No, I can’t run that script for you until you’ve followed the approved process. No, I won’t create that stored procedure. It does things that are against our rules.

One of the biggest pieces of my job, even above helping the developers get their jobs done in a timely manner, is to protect the company by protecting it’s data. I expect to have input into the processes that deal with both access to the data and databases and changes to said data and databases. Once those processes are in place my job is to follow them. I don’t always agree, sometimes I think this process or that is unnecessarily difficult and is making the work taking longer than it should, thereby costing the company more money. That said, while I have input and I promise you I will continue to put in my two cents about it, I don’t set the policies but I do have to follow them.

And sometimes that means I’m a gatekeeper. Sometimes I have to say No.

7 thoughts on “As a DBA, am I a gatekeeper?

  1. Reitse says:

    And then come the pleas, the requests to skip the rules just this once because reasons. The best fun comes when management gets involved though.

  2. askmrwonderful says:

    Hats off to you on your successful career. Historically, the DBA role was more geared towards managing data access and tuning database servers in order to protect the availability of on-premise servers. Nowadays, cloud computing and managed services have greatly simplified the administrative responsibilities as well as the popular Agile development process shifting many responsibilities traditionally held by DBAs and BAs to the developer which lead to a smaller, leaner (and sometimes faster) scrum team.

    • Unfortunately, in my experience, may “agile” teams don’t actually do it correctly. And there is a reason that many of those responsibilities were historically part of the DBAs. It’s a specialty like any other. Every now and again you’ll get a developer who starts learning more and more about those functions, and frequently they then become a DBA or database developer.

      • Askmrwonderful says:

        Hey that’s cool that you have a gig that works for you and you’re obviously good at what you do. And I agree that many implementations of the Agile process is flawed. Not trying to criticize one way or another. But the lean and mean agile model of technologists with more genericized technical skills is the more popular model and probably will continue for a long time.

        • I get that and I hadn’t taken offense 🙂 It’s just that while generalists have their place, and it’s an important one, so do specialists. And in this particular case you can read lots of horror stories about companies who don’t have a specialist in the databases they use.

  3. […] first topic was all about the DBA as a gatekeeper. Kenneth Fisher’s blog post inspired the discussion. We got into a fairly detailed discussion on what gatekeeping means, where it makes sense, and […]

  4. […] done more than a few rants in my time blogging. One more should be a piece of cake. Interestingly the day I […]

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