Tuesday, 11 April 2017

T-SQL Tuesday #89 - The times they are a-changing: Don't fear automation; fear becoming redundant

“I suppose we really ought to be using Powershell for these checks” one of our infrastructure technicians commented to another after patching a server a short time ago - they still manually remote in and confirm the servers are operating as expected. Yes! I thought, that’d be a great shift in thinking. Across the room, a senior co-worker commented to another, in a decided but contemptuous tone “You know, studies have shown that automation leads to lower wages”. That comment took me by surprise.

I’ve always considered that doing my best for my employer is a key factor in being a good employee. Automation is an important tool towards doing more, more reliably, with less, and allows you to configure routine tasks to be performed automatically, without needing your assistance. This frees you to do more, and more reliably. It also means making yourself redundant from certain tasks, to free you to accomplish others; If you’d rather not do that due to flimsy fears around the future of job demand in your industry, well, that’s not a character trait I admire.

Will automation have an affect on our jobs? Yes. Environments change, and requirements change. Should we fear that? No, I don’t think so. Not if we are able to be fluid. We need to be able to hold our current job description loosely, while still being dedicated in our work right now. It’s likely that some-time in the future, there won’t be a job that does what you currently do. You need to be able to adapt when the environment changes.

This past weekend attended an SQL Saturday, where I sat through a day long High Availability / Disaster Recovery pre-conference session. During the session I sat beside a man who is an expert in the database-side of BI, and who was attending this session as a beginner on the subject of HA/DR. Next door, a man who was known, just a few years ago, as an expert in SQL Server Integration Services had re-branded, and was presenting as one of the world’s most well-known Power BI presenters. Both of those men are experts I look up to, and both of those men have been intentional about continuing to learn.

In the future there will likely be less Database Administrators, but those who are experts in their fields will still be in demand. Those who know how to support a range of technologies at a deep level will still be required, perhaps even more so than now. Those, however, who are content with one year’s worth of experience, repeated n times over, might not be.

An attribute I appreciate in the PASS community is the commitment members show to learning. PASS members discipline ourselves to improve at what we do, by teaching others and being taught by others. We aren’t content with mediocrity in our job, but make the time to study, to gain a deeper level of understanding in our fields, or humble ourselves to allow us to be seen as a beginner in others.

Am I worried about automation? A little, there’s a lot I feel I need to keep up with. Will automation reduce the demand for roles in the database administration field? Perhaps. Will my co-worker be out of a job? Not if he continues to learn and adapt to the changing environment.

What about you? As Buck Woody quipped, do you have 10 years experience, or one year of experience 10 times over?

This post is a contribution to T-SQL Tuesday #89 - The times they are a-changing. See more on T-SQL Tuesday here.

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