Interview – Tim Mitchell

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.

Next up: Tim Mitchell (b | t):Tim Mitchell

Mohammad: Where do you see SQL Server technology evolving to 5 years from now? More cloud focused?

Tim: The data world is certainly going to be more cloud-focused, and that doesn’t just apply to SQL Server. The value proposition of using cloud services – time to market, scalability, cost – is clear, and I see more and more of my clients moving at least part of their data workloads to the cloud. The future of data processing and storage is in hybrid solutions (cloud + on prem), and the successful data professional will learn how to fluently speak hybrid.

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

Tim: Eliminated? Definitely not. However, the DBA role is evolving, and those who are successful will have to adapt to keep up. There was a time when a person could make a decent living just monitoring backups and rebuilding indexes, but these days it’s far too easy to outsource or automate that type of work. The DBA of the future must learn how best to use automation to eliminate unnecessary manual work, and will have a better big-picture understanding of how the business uses the data he/she monitors and protects.

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

Tim: I’m proud of the body of work I have contributed to the SQL Server community, not just one single accomplishment. I was delighted to serve as a mentor for several up-and-coming data professionals, several of whom are now themselves very active as contributors to the SQL Server community. I was honored to serve on my local SQL Server user group board for two terms (four years), and am proud to have accomplished a great deal in that role, including securing tax-exempt status for the group. I’m proud to have published over 300 blog posts, and I often get positive feedback from others that these posts helped them to solve specific technical problems. I have delivered presentations at over 100 technical events around the world, and am honored to have been able to share some of the lessons I learned with thousands of fellow technical professionals. My hope is that my contributions will inspire others to contribute to the SQL Server community to continue the cycle of giving back.

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

Tim: A few of my favorite nontechnical books are The Secrets of Consulting, The Four-Hour Work Week, and The Dip. When I’m reading just for fun, I usually lean toward Stephen King or John Grisham.

Mohammad: For someone who’s career focus has been on one aspect of SQL Server (i.e. high availability), 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?

Tim: As with most career guidance questions, I’ll answer this one with It Depends. There are folks who will be successful as generalists, and others carve out niches as specialists. In my journey, I started off as a generalist – not just SQL Server, but I dabbled in software development, network administration, hardware, and other disciplines. By starting off as a generalist and later evolving into a specialist, I know a lot about the few areas I specialize in and enough about the periphery (hardware, networking, etc.) to be aware of the impact and risk of the technical decisions I make when I build a solution. Becoming a specialist worked best for me, but I know a lot of folks who have successful careers as SQL Server generalists. Both are important to the development and support of a data architecture.

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