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Anthony Fox
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2 Posts

Posted - 2015-03-16 : 10:53:01
UW offers certifications for python and database administration, and assuming they will be scheduled such that I can do both simultaneously, I can complete these in a year. The DBA cert promises interviews with recruiters.

From what I've read DBA is a job I would enjoy and be good at. My primary concern is with background checks. I had 2 DUI's in the '90's and in the course of one of them I may have gotten a bench-warrant. This was all cleared up long ago but it would still be on my record.

Also, I'm 48 years old, I haven't worked in 6 years and prior to that my work history is a mess.

I was recently diagnosed with a genetic defect that inhibits my bodies' ability to utilize folic acid. Folic acid is vital in the function and repair of the intestinal tract. Because of this, at age 25, yeast began overpopulating my digestive system. This gave me a wide variety of physical and mental symptoms: weight gain, depression and cravings for alcohol were among the most troublesome. But, I've begun taking a form of folic acid that my body can utilize and I appear to be on the road to recovery. And, of course, I stopped drinking 7 years ago.

The idea of getting a degree at my age sounds depressing, but going back to warehouse/manufacturing jobs is worse. My personality type is often described as "the scientist" and I've realized I'm not going to be happy until I find work that is appropriate to that type -- and that means getting an education.

BTW, Linux has been my OS of choice for 10 years. I'm completely at ease using the command line, I've built numerous apps from source, and even spent a few months learning emacs, bash scripting, and using the console exclusively.

So, any advice?

Most Valuable Yak

15732 Posts

Posted - 2015-03-16 : 20:38:31
A couple of questions/suggestions:

Have you ever contributed to any open source projects? Anything on Github that looks interesting? With your Linux background this would probably be the first thing an employer would ask.

There are TONS of online courseware available (MIT, Stanford), you won't get a degree from them but there's plenty of material to keep you busy. UW also has some:

Also take a look at Project Euler:

Anything that challenges your brain and makes you look at things differently is going to help more than a strict certification path. Hopefully these will whet your appetite for more and perhaps a full degree won't seem so depressing.

Database administration is unfortunately one of those jobs that really needs experience, there's definitely a Catch-22 there. It's not impossible, but even with a certification you may find only junior to mid-level positions until you get a few years (5-7) on the job with it. Microsoft SQL Server is one of those products that bred a lot of "paper DBAs" who passed the cert and knew nothing, so a lot of employers may place little value on them.

Don't be discouraged, you can learn and do a lot as a database developer, especially if you get really good at SQL. If you can read query plans, understand physical operators and how to tune them, and be comfortable with more advanced constructs (common table expressions, pivoting, etc.) you will find yourself in demand. The utter lack of knowledge most job applicants have is stunning, they claim 10 years experience and can't write a SELECT statement without a GUI.

If you're going to do DB stuff on Linux, learn Postgres. MySQL folks are a dime a dozen, and not even worth that much. Play with NoSQL stuff just to see what it's like. Learn about MongoDB and why it sucks, Hadoop and why it's better, what Redis is good for and what it's not. You'll want to play with cloud stuff (AWS and maybe Azure), because that's where stuff is moving to. It's not that hard.

Microsoft has made vast improvements in their open source support, especially in Azure, and it's fairly inexpensive to get started. You can also get discounts as a student via DreamSpark:

I think I'll stop, I didn't mean to write a bible here. Good luck! Post back if you have any questions.
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Anthony Fox
Starting Member

2 Posts

Posted - 2015-03-17 : 11:38:09
Thanks @robvolk, you've confirmed a number of things I've been thinking and that is extremely helpful and encouraging.

I have both Github and Sourceforge accounts for bug reporting and I've been considering projects I'd like to contribute to or even new ones that might be useful.

The "paper DBAs" are people who can learn things by rote, which I'm terrible at. When I'm new to a subject I tend to struggle until I get a good grasp of the fundamentals. At that point I rocket past the people who were simply memorizing routines. I've been considering learning Java and Postgres on my own if only to get another perspective on programming and SQL. Understanding the fundamentals are the key to any subject and I hope that communicating my understanding of that to prospective employers will help me land my first job.

It's all about the first job and no matter what it's like I've had worse. Separating trash from recyclable materials at a waste management plant or, even worse, telemarketing. And, I'm not in it for the money either. In fact, "100K/year" discouraged me from looking into it for a long time because I thought that meant it was a job that sucked. I imagine it does for a lot of people though. That's another thing I'll want to stress in interviews -- it's the job itself that I find most appealing, not the compensation. Not that I'll be very tolerant of being low-balled, of course.
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Starting Member

37 Posts

Posted - 2015-04-02 : 05:55:28
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