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Transitioning for the DBA Crowd

By: on February 9, 2011 in Advice, DBA

Whether you’re leaving for a new opportunity, a fellow DBA is leaving (or going elsewhere in the company), or someone you deal with that touches the databases you administer (such as the application admin)  is moving on, you need to be prepared to do your own exit interview. Chances are their collective knowledge has not been sucked out of their head, and it walks out the door when they leave – never to come back. As a DBA, there are things you will need in this situation, or if you’re the one moving on, what you should provide people with so you’re not the guy they are cursing two weeks from now when you’re no longer there.

The Dos

  1. If you don’t do it already, start documenting your procedures and specific things you do which no one else may know. For example, when the SuXor application had performance issues and you had to apply a hotfix to correct the problem, what was it? That info will come in handy if they ever need to rebuild the server.
  2. Ask questions. What you don’t know will hurt you. Chances are you didn’t set up the servers since you just got into your DBA role 30 days ago, but you damn well better know what you have and what they need. At the end of the day, it’s your butt on the line when the CxO can’t get their report and it’s due to a missing linked server you didn’t know about.
  3. Get passwords … and change them. If the person leaving set up the apps and databases, chances are they used a password which may not be documented somewhere. Get it. Even though whoever is moving on may have been the nicest of people, if you have a single password used for ‘sa’ on all of your instances, it’s best to change it when the person leaves. Even if someone won’t have VPN access, you don’t want to take the chance.
  4. Return everything. Sure, the company probably won’t miss that $50 USB stick they bought for you and has no asset tag. Give it back.
  5. Be proactive.If you know you’re leaving, initiate the transition of your duties, information, etc. In a best case scenario you do such a good job at it you can leave earlier than planned to start your new opportunity. People will hopefully remember you fondly if you do this.
  6. Set a reasonable time limit for people to contact you after you leave or ask if you can get that person’s contact info. Look, you don’t still want to get calls six months down the road, but assuming you left on good terms, there’s no harm in answering some questions quickly over the phone or e-mail for the first few weeks after you leave. Good karma, baby. Set a line in the sand (or ask where that is). At some point if they still need your help, you’ll have to cut the tap off or tell them they need to start paying you. Just as much as it’s good to have a nice transition out, you still need to onboard at a new position. Understand if it’s not you and you get the “no more” message. Goodwill only goes so far.
  7. Realize that life goes on without you. Hard to believe, right? Every company I’ve left has managed to survive without me. They couldn’t always replace me, but they managed to get on with it. You’re not the be-all-end-all.

The Don’ts

  1. Don’t burn a path on the way out the door with a flamethrower. Whether it’s you or someone else, people on the other end don’t appreciate the person who is leaving doing things that make enemies. The person leaving may be unhappy, but there’s a pretty good chance he or she will run into those people again in the future. Bad word of mouth gets around.
  2. Don’t destroy anything which may be of use to others. I’m sure your share on the corporate network has lots of good stuff in it. Don’t delete it without thinking. If you’ve got things people may need, send them in e-mail or ask people where to copy that stuff to. Believe me, they’ll appreciate it. Don’t assume they have what you have.
  3. Don’t poach other employees. Chances are you’ve got a clause in your employee agreement which prevents it, but even if you don’t, it’s pretty bad form to do it. At least if you’re going to do it, let the body go cold and have some discretion so it appears they left of their own free will. The last thing you want is a lawsuit. I bet the corporate lawyers have time and money on their side.

So that’s what I’ve got so far … what are your Dos and Don’ts?


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