Experience Comes from Mistakes

Posted: January 27, 2014 in Career

In my opinion the big difference between a Database Administrator (DBA) and a Senior Database Administrator (Sr. DBA), comes down to experience, sounds simple enough right? If we explore that a little deeper, wouldn’t it be easy enough to base the differences on knowledge? A Sr. DBA would have a wider knowledge base to draw from as they face every day challenges, otherwise said as someone who has an extensive amount of time spent studying and learning quite a bit about SQL Server combined with opportunities to work with the product. Knowledge comes from many sources, in my experience I gain the most knowledge from making mistakes. As an example, I learned quite a bit about relationships when I purchased race day tickets for my wife’s birthday I had even purchased tickets to sit and eat lunch with my favorite driver. This was lesson was reinforced when the year after I bought her the vacuum cleaner she had mentioned she wanted.

All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes. – Winston Churchill

When I reflect to my first full time IT position, I often think about the lesson I learned about troubleshooting issues. I had just completed a week long class on how to install the Windows OS (NT 4.0) and how to create a new domain where I could then add the entire collection of PC’s. The class was great and I was confidant in my skills, because I had eventually completed all the lab work in the class. My confidence quickly faded over the next week (including the weekend) with each reinstall of the Domain Controller simply because each attempt resulted with errors stating the workstations could not find the domain. The biggest blow to my self-confidence came when I realized all my issues were resolved when I determined I should start with the basics and power on the network switch.

At first I consider the mistake a lesson in how that network switch worked, but today I realize the true lesson learned was all about troubleshooting and more importantly the importance of learning from the mistakes I have made. Everyone has different learning experiences, I often wonder about the mistakes other database professionals have made and what they have learned from them. There are many people I respect in the SQL Server Community, and I can see a true value in learning from them. If they have the time available, I would love to hear about the lessons they have learned:

Paul Randal

Andy Leonard

John Morehouse

If you have had an experience that you are willing to share I would love to read about it, and share it with others. Please post on it and let me know so I can share it with my network.



  1. A benefit from experience, and mistakes are often involved somewhere along the way, is the moral certainty and conviction you can bring to a discussion in order to avoid future mistakes.

  2. andyleonard says:

    Excellent post, Chris. And I concur – we learn from mistakes. I recently blogged about mistake here (http://sqlblog.com/blogs/andy_leonard/archive/2014/01/04/a-mistake-responding-well-and-a-public-call-for-a-public-apology.aspx).

  3. Chris Yates says:

    Mistakes, we make them every day and if someone tells you they don’t make any mistakes then something should be checked more into with that person. As a data professional growth is a necessity and learning from mistakes is one way our knowledge base expands and our ability to tackle problems with the best known possible solutions. One take away from this post that stood out to me is that it is okay to admit to your mistakes, when you realize that you made a mistake then take ownership of that mistake learn from it and then move on. This was a great read! Thx for sharing this.

  4. […] MVP Chris Shaw (b | t) wrote a blog post earlier this week on learning from mistakes and tagged me to write a similar post – so here it […]

  5. […] Experience Comes from Mistakes – Chris Shaw […]

  6. Mika Sutinen says:

    While I agree that you can get valuable experience from your mistakes (and from those of others) it’s not something you can take for granted. I’ve met people who just keep repeating the same mistakes they always do, over and over.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s