Interview – Rob Sewell

I decided to start a series of blogs where I interview key people in the SQL Server community. Instead of me asking technical questions, I plan on asking about their outlook on the future, books they read (non-fiction and/or technical), and their overall thoughts on where technology (mainly SQL Server) is headed. You can find more interviews here.

Rob Sewell
Rob Sewell

Next up: Rob Sewell (b | t):

Mohammad: Do you think people who dismiss the cloud as a “fad” or just don’t take it serious enough to learn about it (i.e. Azure, AWS, etc), will be in a tough spot to find a job 5 years from now?

Rob: I think you can compare it to something like COBAL where a 60 year old language is still in force today or Fortran where there are still plenty of job openings. There will be jobs for longer than 5 years but I think there will be less and less opportunities that are solely on-premises. I believe that it is really important that any person who is working in IT gains knowledge and experience in cloud technologies and their capabilities to be able to have a long and fulfilling career.

Mohammad: Do you ever see the traditional SQL Server DBA role being replaced/eliminated?

Rob: There will always be a requirement for a person or role to ensure confidentiality, integrity and availability of data. Whether they are called DBAs or have a different job title I don’t think really matters. The traditional DBA role is evolving and DBAs are now able to influence much more than just access to the data but also source control and continuous integration solutions for example. Having said that the production DBA who can identify issues and troubleshoot and improve query performance will be able to show a monetary improvement to their company if they are using cloud PaaS services. They will be able to save costs by reducing the resources required if they can improve the performance of the query so those skills are going to be needed for plenty of time to come 😊

Mohammad: What are you most proud of doing/accomplishing for the SQL Server community so far in your career?

Rob: Wow, a tough question!! I am really really proud of the people I have encouraged and in a couple of cases mentored who are now established community speakers, bloggers, user group leaders, SQL Saturday organisers or volunteers. Also that some of them became MVPs. They have put in all of the hard work to get there but hopefully I gave some a nudge in the right direction.

I am also proud that people find the knowledge and experience that I share to be of benefit and that they choose to read my blog, come to my presentations and use the open source tooling that I contribute to like and

Mohammad: What non-technical/non-fiction book/s would you recommend? If you only read technical books…what do you recommend?

Rob: I really like the Phoenix Project and think that people should read it to get an idea of where they are and to see the difficulties an organisation faces when trying to begin a continuous deployment methodology.

In a previous career I worked with people with Autism and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a great story. I also love all of the Terry Pratchett books.

Mohammad: For someone who’s career focus has been on one aspect of SQL Server (i.e. Database Engine), do you think it would be wise for them to become a “jack of all trades” by starting to learn, SSRS/IS/Azure, etc. or remain focused on their area of expertise? In another words, which would you say is more valuable? mile wide / inch deep or inch wide / mile deep?

Rob: We are all individuals so it is difficult to answer that question in general terms. Some people will work in roles that are very broad and need a little knowledge across a wide area, some will want to specialise in one particular area. Both types may easily change as their careers progress. What I would advise though to anyone who reads this is not to try to learn or research all of it.

It is important, I think to be aware of the other areas of say the data platform (you can also read cloud technologies, operating systems, programming languages here) and know the places to go to find the specialised information whether that is official documentation or a particular specialist. For example, I know very little about columnstore but if I ever required that knowledge I would obviously head to Niko Neugebauer’s blog or when I need to know something about containers and SQL Server I ask Andrew Pruski.

Mohammad: Regarding the awesome command list that dbatools offers: Is there a command or feature that the team would love to create a command for but for some reason cannot due to limitations? If so, what?

Rob: I know that there has been some discussion about providing commands for replication and the difficulty there is that it is not exposed via SMO but via RMO which is a little different. Some of the replication experts in the community are discussing the best way forward with that. Right now dbatools is not cross platform and this is a limitation on SMO which does not work with .NET core…………… yet. Hopefully that will be resolved in the future and then dbatools (and dbachecks) will be able to be used from any OS that supports .NET core.

Mohammad: Lastly, I really believe in not only learning from your mistakes but, if possible…learning from the mistakes of others. Is there something you regret doing (or not doing) that you don’t mind sharing with my readers? (If you could help someone by warning them to “not do this…” or “do this…”…what what that be?)

Rob: When it comes to mistakes, as a DBA always double and triple check before running that script! I have run commands without the where clause highlighted, I have deployed changes to production instead of test. Check, Check and then Check again 😊 and if you make a mistake, hold your hand up and say Hey I did this, don’t try to hide it. In a similar vein, if you don’t know something say I don’t know, people will have much more respect for you.

The advice I would always give is never stop learning. We live in a world where new features are being added to the products we use constantly and whilst it is difficult to keep on top of them all I recommend using some form of aggregation to be able to consume the information about the things that interest you. I think this is related also to the answer to question 5.

Also improve your listening skills. We can learn so much from other people but we can also solve problems or deliver great solutions by using the knowledge of everyone involved. Be humble and listen to the knowledge of those around you.

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