The DBA as a helpdesk.

9

October 28, 2021 by Kenneth Fisher

Every one and again you will see people asking What skill do you think is the most important for your job? Usually the answer is soft skills. I.e. dealing with people. Today I have a someone specific soft skill in mind. I was talking with my son and he mentioned that half the time he hears me on the phone with a co-worker he hears some variation of Not my job. He’s not wrong. Over the years I’ve noticed if the word data or some variation of it is anywhere within a city block of the issue I’m going to be one of the first people called in.


I have an error that says I need an updated driver installed on my machine.
Ok?
It’s a database driver.
Ahh. Yea, I’m afraid I don’t do that. You’ll need to call the helpdesk.


My website is down.
Ok?
Sends me a long error (if I’m lucky)
Oh, I see. It can’t find the SQL Instance. What instance are you trying to hit?
No, clue, how do I tell?
Contact this person. They are the SME for that website.


Half of my job is figuring out who can actually help someone with their current needs. Be that another developer, an SME for an application, the help desk themselves etc. And even when it’s my work I frequently have to train the new people, and there always seem to be new people, how to fill in the correct documentation so that I can actually do the work.

One of these days I need to get around to adding all of this to my job description. But I am curious, do you have the same experience? Is it just me? Is it just DBAs or do other technology specialties have the same type of experience?

9 thoughts on “The DBA as a helpdesk.

  1. Sean Redmond says:

    Hi Ken,

    Isn’t what you are talking about simply basic manners, namely treating everyone with respect?

    You mightn’t be able to help them immediately or another colleague may be responsible for solving their problem, but the person posing the problem should be made felt as if they were treated with dignity.

    Kind regards,
    Sean Redmond

    • Oh absolutely. But it would be nice if I didn’t spend half my time sending people to the correct place, particularly when I know that people don’t get sent to me all that often.

      It frequently feels like people get sent to me because I AM polite, and DO try to be helpful. So they know they can pass someone on to me and I’ll help them resolve their problem. And while I’m happy to do so it does interfere with me doing my job and there are teams who’s job is specifically to give that type of help. And frequently they are the ones sending people to me.

  2. joshindpa says:

    All the time. Even more frustrating is building out places folks can answer common repeated questions that they refuse to bookmark/use…

  3. Peter F says:

    Can confirm it’s the same for me. What you described is exactly what i do every day. Sometimes the confusion is such that people have a hard time explaining the problem. Many times wasted, much pain.

  4. Joe G says:

    I get the same thing. People tend to think everyone in the IT Department has the same skillset and does the same job.

  5. MK says:

    yes, I have the same experience

    DBA = Default Blame Acceptor

  6. James Fogel says:

    My favorite is the Excel problem. Since I manage the databases, it is clearly my problem to teach someone how to devise a formula or some other nonsense.

  7. logitestus says:

    With smaller companies (which I work for) typically everyone in the IT department end up with the Helpdesk hat from one time or another. In that situation I think of it as a Team effort so I can completely understand the effort needed.

    • Yea, I would agree that in a small company it can certainly end up that way. Perfectly reasonable. I find it weirder when you are in a big company where there is a help desk and there is supposed to be training in the various tasks for the job. Which comes off a bit more frustrated than I really am 😃

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