Starting a SQL Server DBA Job

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I have been a SQL Server DBA at one organization for a number of years.  I am moving on to another organization and I saw one of your tips about leaving a SQL Server job gracefully.  I thought this was a good tip, but I could use some recommendations on starting a new SQL Server Job.  In some respects, I am an old hand, but I do want to get some advice that can be helpful to a DBA at any level.  Can you offer some suggestions?  Check out this tip to learn more.


Starting in a new SQL Server shop can be exciting and challenging.  Leaving your comfort zone could be a hard transition.  You may have seen many other people come and go for greener pastures.  In this tip we will cover the following items:

  • Self assessment
  • Your role on the team
  • Get to know the team
  • The SQL Server environment
  • Be as much of a pupil as a teacher

Self assessment

Once you have made the choice to move on to another organization, I think you need to set aside some time for a self assessment.  Identify your strengths and weaknesses.  Be sure to understand what you enjoy and what you dread.  Having a clear understanding of yourself is the first step to figuring out how you can help another organization, seeing how you would fit on the team and generally being happy with your job. 

Taking the time for a self assessment is probably something you should do prior to starting your job search.  It could be a simple process you work on one day at lunch, with some of your peers at work that you unconditionally trust or even with your spouse.  No matter how you approach this step, be sure at the end of the process you have a clear understanding of what you want to do and what you do not want to do at your next organization.

Your role on the team

Understanding what is expected of you is half the battle when determining success from another person's perspective.  It is hard to measure a yard without a yard stick.  When you start this new opportunity, ask why you were hired.  It could have been due to one key skill you have, one project you worked on, a gap in the team that you can fill, your communication skills or something you would have never expected.  Be sure to ask your manager about why you were hired to help you understand how you fit into the team.

Get to know the team

Once you have an understanding of how you tick, and you think the organization as well as the team are a good fit for you, I think the next logical step is to get to know everyone on the team.  Go out to lunch or happy hour; get to know your peers on a personal and professional level.  If you get a chance to chat with someone before or after a meeting, take advantage of it.  Over the course of time be sure to understand everyone's role on the team and their skills.  You might find that you have a great deal in common with many of your team members.

Additionally, be sure to meet the team members in other departments you will be working with.  This might happen naturally over time or on the first day when you are introduced to more people than you can ever remember.  Whether they are folks in the networking department, development group or user community, be sure to get to know them and how they work.  It is always good to have friends in other departments when there is an issue.  Hopefully that will not be on the first day or even the first week, but it will happen.

The SQL Server environment

Depending on the reason you were hired, you might already have a good understanding of the SQL Server environment at a high level.  You need to expand your knowledge in the following areas:

  • Team members responsibilities in the environment, for each application, for each SQL Server, for particular portions of the SQL Server stack, etc.
  • Core business applications including the operating hours, key processes, key stakeholders, etc.
  • Standard operating procedures for development projects and overall SQL Server operations
  • On call procedures, server down situations, escalation procedures, etc.
  • Communication expectations in terms of medium (phone, email, text, etc.), frequency (hourly, significant news, etc.), etc.

Be as much of a pupil as a teacher

Starting with a new team can be a situation to learn a whole different set of techniques to resolve challenges you have faced in the past.  Take a step back and think about how the problems are being solved before making any sort of judgment.  Some of the solutions might be better or worse than what you have built in the past.

So with this new environment, take the opportunity to learn everything you can.  Be sure to understand why things were done and those answers may give you a good indication of the environment and/or the history of the department.  Do not be quick to pass judgment.  These issues may be the reason you were hired.

Once you have a clear understanding of the environment, shed some light on the issues the department is facing where you can offer your expertise.  Try to do so in an educational manner in an effort to help the team. 

Next Steps
  • As you begin a new job, consider the five key recommendations from this tip and see how they apply to your situation.  Hopefully they will help get you started in the right direction.
  • One item to keep in mind 30, 60, 90 or even 180 days after starting your new job is to follow-up with your team and/or manager to see if you are meeting their expectations.  This could be an informal discussion or a meeting on the books depending on the organization. Either way, I would encourage you to confirm your expectations of how you are doing.
  • Are there other items you would like to do when you start a new opportunity?  Are there other things you have seen your peers do that made you cringe or feel good about your team member?  Please share your thoughts in the tip comments.
  • Check out these related tips:

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About the author
MSSQLTips author Jeremy Kadlec Jeremy Kadlec is a Co-Founder, Editor and Author at with more than 300 contributions. He is also the CTO @ Edgewood Solutions and a six-time SQL Server MVP. Jeremy brings 20+ years of SQL Server DBA and Developer experience to the community after earning a bachelor's degree from SSU and master's from UMBC.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

View all my tips

Comments For This Article

Saturday, April 27, 2019 - 7:39:00 AM - Philip Gardocki Back To Top (79775)

I have not finished yet, but you have me on your bullet points.  I wrote up my list and for the first day on the job and am now looking for advice on the web.  We both prioritized getting to know the team before the technicals. 



Saturday, November 16, 2013 - 6:11:48 AM - Utkarsh Back To Top (27521)



Hey John i just want to do a job in sql  i am a software developer and i want to switch my job so kindly give me a tips for a career growth in database line

Friday, March 9, 2012 - 5:32:20 PM - Jeremy Kadlec Back To Top (16330)


Thank you for the feedback and insights.

Thank you,
Jeremy Kadlec

Friday, March 9, 2012 - 5:25:37 PM - Ralph Wilson Back To Top (16329)

Oops, That last line should read "Know. . . ." instead of "No . . . ".  Blody spellchecker! :-/

Friday, March 9, 2012 - 5:24:31 PM - Ralph Wilson Back To Top (16328)

IMHO, you should do the self-assessment step before you even interview for the new job.  In fact, I believe that you should do a completely honest self-assessment at least once a year and consider your strengths, weaknesses, goals (not only the ones you want to set for yourself but also the ones you no longer wish to attain), and your progress toward goals you previously set for yourself.  You, IMHO, perform that sort of self-assessment for not only your profesional but also your personal life.

Who was it that said, "To thine own self be true." or "No yourself."? ;-D

Thursday, October 6, 2011 - 9:57:32 PM - shazamo Back To Top (14797)


One thing to add, knowing the culture of the new company you are joining is an important thing for you to set your basis, especially if you are going to work with people from different countries who came from different cultures and may not be fluent in the language.


Thursday, May 12, 2011 - 4:36:31 PM - Jeremy Kadlec Back To Top (13817)


Thank you for the post.

Thank you,
Jeremy Kadlec

Thursday, May 12, 2011 - 9:29:36 AM - John Back To Top (13813)

My $.02:

The role on the "team" should be known before walking in the door as well as what "team" really means at that organization.  Things certainly can change from the interview to when an offer is made and accepted and to when one's first day happens but I would be very concerned about walking into a new DBA job and not having a good idea of the lay of the land.  The manager's and your expectations shouldn't be unknowns. 

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