Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What's in a name? (Database professionals)

Eddie Awad links to a post in The Database Programmer that talked about the skills that a database professional needs. (Incidentally, I theoretically fall in the more elementary realms of the "Hello World!" level.)

But before Ken Downs addresses these skills, he looks at the various titles given to database professionals:

There are three common job titles in the database area, which are Database Administrator (DBA), Database Programmer, and Database Architect. These titles tend to be somewhat variable from shop-to-shop....

How variable?

I have seen shops where a person was called a DBA and filled a relatively constrained role closer to IT or operations (routine tasks, no real programming) and other shops where a person with the DBA title was basically the Architect.

This can lead to some confusion and incorrect assumptions, not only among the database community, but in just about any profession. I have worked as a technical writer and editor, an MIS manager, a proposal writer, and a product manager, but just listing my titles does not necessarily tell you what I did - and what I didn't do - in those various positions.

But my favorite story about misleading titles is taken from Paul Boller's Presidential Anecdotes. Boller relates the following story in which Harry Truman pulled a quick one on Stalin:

When Truman went to the Potsdam Conference in 1945, he took an old Missouri friend, Fred Canfil, with him. One day after a meeting, Truman called Canfil over and introduced him to Stalin. "Marshal Stalin," he said, "I want you to meet Marshal Canfil." Truman did not explain that he had recently made Canfil a federal marshal in Missouri. But after that Canfil was treated with great respect by all the members of the Russian delegation.

Marshal Canfil is most famous for presenting President Truman with the plaque that read "The Buck Stops Here." Marshal Stalin was once recorded as saying, "I trust no one, not even myself."
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