Break Stuff Like an Expert
This post is part of the DBA JumpStart series being written by myself and 19 other professionals from the SQL Server community and coordinated by John Sansom (@SQLBrit). It has been compiled into a free eBook, which can be found here. Be sure to download a copy!
If you could give an aspiring DBA just one piece of advice what would it be?
My favorite thought on this topic is don't be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes are one of the ways that we learn. Make a lot of them, and you'll have many opportunities to learn. Really.
I hear the term "expert" thrown around a lot, occasionally even in contexts I agree with. To me, an expert is someone that's found an incredible number of ways to break things, and has used those experiences to their advantage. They have figured out how to fix everything that they have broken, and even more importantly, they know how to avoid breaking things in the future. Whenever something goes awry, the worst possible outcome is to not learn anything from it. So long as this isn't the case, you can always make at least some good come from a sticky situation.
This is not to say that you should go out making mistakes or breaking things. Creating problems in a production environment is still a very bad idea that could have a negative impact on your career. These mistakes are best made in development or (even better) a local sandbox instance. Practice everything there before making changes in production. Even more importantly, take some time and think about all the different things that can go wrong. If possible, make those situations happen in your DBA environment and then figure out the best way to recover from them.
Along those lines, not being afraid to make mistakes also doesn't mean you shouldn't be prepared for them. Even if they are inconvenient, simple actions such as making sure backups are up-to-date and on hand before launching a change can be the difference between looking like a rockstar for recovering gracefully from an unforeseen issue, and having egg on your face.