I often get asked what is the best way to become a DBA. In fact this post was inspired by someone over on LinkedIn asking the very same question.
People give different recommendations. Training and certification, maybe move into the role gradually through different areas of your company or perhaps just get thrown in at the deep end as the good old accidental DBA.
Unfortunately all of the above have drawbacks. Training and certification takes time and there is no guarantee that it will open a door for you (you'll need experience too). A move within your own company is quite common but it can be hard to juggle different activities, especially when you're learning the ropes of a new technology.
And despite being one the most common starting places for many of us the accidental DBA role really isn't ideal because its missing one major component, there just isn't anyone there to guide you along. SQL Server can be a steep learning curve at the best of times and whilst there is a wealth of learning material out there it can be very difficult to filter through it, especially in the early days.
So what exactly is the best way? Well for someone who hasn't worked with SQL Server before or has limited experience then there is no better road to take than becoming a Junior DBA.
Becoming a junior DBA does not have a reliance on experience or certification. In fact most people that I talk to say they would look for a passion to learn SQL Server as being the biggest factor, check out my Q&A with Sergey Smirnov for example. The biggest benefit though is that working in a junior role normally means you can work alongside at least one DBA who will act as a mentor.
Having someone by your side who can share their knowledge and experience is extremely beneficial. For a junior DBA you get to work with a database professional creating real solutions to real problems and you should still have the time to learn and experiment.
It is worth mentioning as well that mentoring isn't a one sided benefit either. Its an incredibly rich and rewarding experience which I would recommend to anyone.
But the one downside I see is that there aren't enough of the junior DBA roles available. I'm sure there used to be more and that now they appear to be on the decline. If this is the case, why is that? Do we even need the junior role? I'm really interested to hear peoples views on this.