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Downtown with Josh Brown

Q&A session with Josh Brown: Database Administration Supervisor for Samson Resources and the man responsible for spearheading Momentum3’s recently launched FlexDBA program

Rushing inside looking flustered, I hurriedly take my seat at McNellie’s in downtown Tulsa. Slightly out of breath after maniacally running through a gravel parking lot in heels, I promptly apologize to Josh for being late. “Hey, no worries,” he says in his typical nerve-calming tone, waving me away while smiling, “I got here right before you did.” Immediately I suspect he’s lying just to make me feel better. Always polite and considerate, one can’t help but like the dude.

After a few minutes of small talk, the waiter comes over to take our order. Telling Josh to go first, I hungrily decide on the open face chili cheese burger. “I’ll have the soup and salad combo” he says, “Balsamic vinaigrette for my dressing. Oh, can I get a side of steamed vegetables too?” Feeling like a gluttonous pig, I say, “That sounds good – I’ll have the same.”

A small town Oklahoma boy, Brown graduated from high school in Vinita with a class of just over 100. I am entertained by this fact as I recall my son’s recent graduation from Broken Arrow High School last May. In the nosebleed section of BOK Center, I clapped and cheered for my boy without ever visually locating him. I say something lame like, “I bet it wasn’t hard to be the cool kid,” followed by a snort as I’m still amused by his small class size. Forever composed, Josh laughs it off before replying, “I wasn’t the cool kid at all,” he shrugs, “I was the science fair geek.” I feel instant regret as I humbly retract, embarrassed by my weak attempt at a joke (along with the snort that followed.)

Swiftly changing the subject, I ask Josh about his beginnings in IT. “I got my start back in ’93 when I was helping my dad build networks for a bunch of the local school systems.” As I begin to do the math in my head to determine how old he was back then, I give up & respond with something poignant like, “Wow, that’s a really long time.” Pausing for a moment, Josh silently reminisces with a grin. “Yeah, I was basically raised in IT. I’ve always been fascinated by it.”

Originally an electrical engineering major, Josh switched his focus to computer science after his first year. “Oh geez. I was bored out of my mind in those classes,” he recalls with vigor. “I’m not knocking that field or anything. It just wasn’t for me.”

Josh completed his associates in applied science and received a two-year computer science certificate before moving on to Radford University in Virginia. A natural leader, Josh cofounded the group Collegiate Entrepreneurs and is one of the founding fathers of Delta Sigma Pi, Omicron Pi chapter. Impressively, both groups are still going strong today. Josh graduated from Radford with a ton of good memories along with a bachelors in information science and systems. After college, Josh moved to Washington DC, embarking on a new journey and entering the ever-changing world of software development.

Tell me a little about your experience with the various tools you use on a regular basis.
I have been working with Microsoft SQL Server in a development and administration role for a decade. Oracle – six years. MySQL – five years. MongoDB – 2 years. The issues I deal with are – Capacity Planning, Configuration, Performance Tuning, Change Management, Systems Integration, and Electronic Data Interchange.

That’s great from a tech standpoint; but what are your “go-to” tools?
Well, for timely backup and recovery, I look to tools like Litespeed for SQL Server and Oracle RMAN. In terms of general monitoring and performance tuning… SpotLight on SQL Server, Foglight or TOAD on Oracle, and Zenoss as a very robust monitoring and statistics gathering engine.

What sorts of clients do you typically deal with?
Our FlexDBA clients consists of everything from 1000+ employees with hundreds of database instances that support thousands of user databases; to small and medium businesses that rely heavily upon one or two database instances that support the life blood of the organization. Our FlexDBA clients use us to make sure these things aren’t missed.

Why do you think so many organizations are missing the mark with regards to data and how it’s handled?

Basics – People miss the basics. Backup and Recovery are the bread and butter for any DBA. It is really easy to become distracted by the latest project or initiative and lose sight of the basics. The problem is that neglecting the basics: backup and recovery, index maintenance, statistics maintenance, and proper patching; can lead to job actions and managers calling people like me to come clean up after a failure. Many don’t have a DBA or their DBA is needed for various initiatives and projects and don’t have time for the basics.

“Bread and Butter”, tell me more about that…
(Adrienne is thinking about bread and butter as she chews her salad)
DBAs are stewards of data before anything else; their mission is to collect and protect data ahead of anything else. Collect, design and implement systems that allow organizations to capture and store data in a secure, centralized fashion. Protect. Ensure the availability of the organizations data regardless of the circumstances under which the business is operating – the average Tuesday to a catastrophe, and all the conditions in between.

The latest research shows that most employees are still unhappy at their current jobs, even at the best companies. Why do you think so many companies are getting it wrong?
Companies get it wrong when they fail to recognize bad leadership and bad practices. The reality is that oppressive leadership can undermine entire armies of staffers, hell bent on doing the right thing. Blocking communication channels and creating an environment that does not allow for open exchange of information and decision making by consensus stifles growth, and any sense of community in the workplace along with it. Bad practices, inconsistent with the industry, or in some cases, even common sense will only serve to dishearten and disenfranchise a workforce.

What can companies do to stop the cycle?
I think we simply need to remember why we were hired – to do a job to the best of our abilities. Simple – do your job the best way you know how and when you don’t know how, ask for help. In most cases, organizations are full of technical advisors and mentors that can be called on to shed light on just about any situation; and if you don’t find the answer there look around, more than likely there is someone in your social or professional network that has “been there, done that” and whom you can call on for advice. Better to be consistent with the industry than flying in its face.

Why is it important to use a formal strategic planning process?
Every effective organization has a plan, a roadmap – that flows into a one, three, and five year plans. Participation from all aspects of an organization in the planning process is critical to identify the priority of the goals in the plan. From there, it becomes a process of defining a consistent framework that identifies the major and minor steps required to meet the goals in the plan along with estimates/level of effort that are used to place the steps on the roadmap in an arrangement that meets the goals. At that point, you have the plans – one, three and five years.

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