Gone Fishin’

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

-Chinese proverb

I try to remember this proverb when I’m working with members of my team.  If I answer every question, I’m just giving them fish.  If I show them where to find the answer, I am teaching them to fish.  Some days I do better at this than others, and I know that this mindset also applies when working with people from other teams in my company.  Our group is positioned so that anyone in the company can contact us with questions related to the database.  Those questions can come from Sales, Development, Installations, Technical Support, etc.  Where possible, we try to teach people to fish.

When I notice a theme in questions that come to our team, I talk to management about having a training class.  Usually the training is focused for a particular group, and today I have a training session with the Solution Engineers.  The SEs are part of the Installations team and their job is critical on many levels.  They become one the first technical figures for the customer, and they are heavily involved in creating the software solution.  Very often, they are also the first person to work with a customer DBA.

Who are you teaching to fish?

The responsibilities of the SE as it relates to the database are to get the database created, and then talk with the DBA about maintenance plans.  There are a lot of details that go along with these two tasks, which is the heart of what I will cover today in the training.  But my bigger point is this: Who in your company are you teaching to fish?

As a DBA, it is easy to rant and rave about developers and management.  But that’s just it, it’s easy.  The real work is when you try to solve that problem.  I am certain that senior DBAs are always training junior DBAs, but who is teaching everyone else in the company about databases?  Maybe that should be you.

Look around your company and try to identify knowledge gaps.  Is there one person who keeps asking you the same questions, or is it a group of people from the same department?  I guarantee that there are people outside the DBA world who want to know how the database works, or they at least want to understand how it relates to their role.  Find the gaps and talk to your manager (or another manager) about providing training.  Once you have buy in, identify someone that you will be teaching who you think will be an advocate, or supportive of your training.  Work with that person to determine the scope of your presentation and the topics you will cover.  Set a date for training, put together your materials and then, teach ‘em to fish.

This does take time and effort on your part, but remember that the more people you teach to fish, the more time you’ll have to go fishing.

gone fishin'

gone fishin'

One Response to Gone Fishin’
  1. Jerry Brenner
    September 20, 2011 | 7:48 pm

    Not really a comment about your post – I noticed your presentation at SQL PASS. I also work at an ISV and am interested in speaking with people in similar positions. (I didn’t see many ISVs last year and I don’t think there’s a BOF for ISVs.) I’ve built a lot of tools into our applications, for both Oracle and SQL Server. Here’s my bio, from a talk I gave at Hotsos 3 years ago:


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