Occasionally I’m asked what the most important thing for a DBA to know is.  It seems some people want to know what 1 thing to focus on in order to be successful long term as a DBA.  I’ve pondered this question for quite a long time and I’ve given various answers over the years.

Reality intervenes

Ive come to the conclusion that there really is no one special thing or “skill” that its important for a DBA to know.  Sure, there are lots of qualities that tend to make a successful DBA.  Things like attention to detail, thirst for knowledge, and an uncanny love of BACON…  The problem is as huge as the SQL Server product is becoming it is also becoming increasingly difficult to be an expert in everything.  I am actually of the opinion that it is impossible to be an expert in everything SQL Server.

Knowing what you dont know

The most important thing for a DBA to know can be summed up in 3 simple words ” I Dont Know”  Why is that important?  Because, knowing what you don’t know, and being able to admit it to those around you is by far the most valuable skill that you can poses as a DBA at any skill level.

When in doubt its always good to remember that its ok to say “I don’t know” The Corollary to this statement is of course “Ill find out, or find someone who does know”.  Ive seen many small issues blow up into large problems over the years because someone didn’t really understand what was going on and they were afraid to let their coworkers (or boss) know that they don’t understand.  In many cases if we’ll just learn to say “I don’t know” some further pain can easily be avoided.