Masters of Multitasking

Typical SQL Server pro is jack-of-all-trades

SQL Server professionals are masters of multitasking. SQL Server Magazine's first-annual salary and industry survey puts a face on the typical SQL Server professional. And it's the face of a hard-working DBA responsible for a variety of crucial IT tasks who, despite organizational politics and economic stresses, loves a job that's full of challenging puzzles to solve—and that makes a difference.

In this issue, SQL Server Magazine examines the responses of the 778 people who participated in our comprehensive 2004 survey, which explored everything from work environment, job titles, and job functions to compensation details. We also received a wealth of candid comments about your job satisfaction, what keeps you in the industry, and what keeps you up at night. In this leadoff article, we profile our respondents, looking at demographic information and SQL Server pros at work. In "Who Makes What?" (page 23), we tackle compensation, analyzing salaries, bonuses, and other benefits and looking at where the best-paying jobs are—and who has them. And in "SQL Server Pros: Surviving or Thriving?" (page 29), we examine why so many SQL Server pros love their work, even though their jobs can be tough to take.

Who Are You?

According to our survey, the typical SQL Server professional is white (75 percent of respondents), male (86 percent), and in the 30- to 39-year-old age range (46 percent). He holds the job title of DBA (41 percent), has a bachelor's degree (37 percent), and lives on the US East Coast (32 percent). This typical IT pro is a full-time employee (91 percent), has 6-10 years of IT experience (37 percent), and has been with his organization between 1 and 5 years (53 percent).

Don't fit this profile? Although three-fourths of our survey respondents are white, 14 percent are Asian, 4 percent are Hispanic or Latino, 2 percent are black or African American, 2 percent said they're a mix of races, and 1 percent reported native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander ethnicity. Males continue to dominate the SQL Server industry, as they do in IT as a whole, but 14 percent of our respondents are female. And although more than 45 percent of survey participants said they're between 30 and 39 years old, 16 percent are under 30, 28 percent are between 40 and 49 years old, and 9 percent are between 50 and 59 years old. Only 1 percent of respondents said they're over 60.

Figure 1 shows respondents by job title. After DBA, which garnered 41 percent of responses, the most popular job titles were application developer/programmer (15 percent), database developer and IT director/ manager (each with 7 percent), systems administrator (5 percent), and consultants and other (each claimed 4 percent). Other job titles included application architect, systems architect, business intelligence (BI)/data warehouse architect, database designer/modeler, network administrator, and executive management. But no matter what their job title, as we'll see in a moment, all respondents spread their time across a variety of IT duties, spending a significant amount of time on database design, development, and administration.

Survey results show that besides the 37 percent of respondents who have a bachelor's degree, 20 percent have a master's degree, and 14 percent have done some graduate work. As Figure 2 illustrates, 37 percent of respondents have 6-10 years of IT experience. More than 15 percent have been in the industry 1-5 years, 33 percent have worked in IT between 11 and 20 years, and 11 percent have 21-30 years' experience. More than 50 percent of survey participants have worked with SQL Server for between 1-5 years, and 37 percent have worked with the database system between 6 and 10 years. In addition to SQL Server experience, respondents said they have experience with the ubiquitous Microsoft Access (86 percent), Oracle (50 percent), Sybase (27 percent), FoxPro (24 percent), the open-source MySQL (23 percent), and IBM DB2 (19 percent).

Of the approximately 480 respondents who said they do application development, 33 percent have 1-5 years of experience in programming, 30 percent have 6-10 years' experience, and 23 percent have 11-20 years' experience. Figure 3 shows the database and programming languages respondents use. More than 90 percent use T-SQL—no surprise there. The next most popular languages are VBScript and Visual Basic 6.0 (54 percent each), with ASP/ASP.NET (43 percent), Visual Basic .NET (39 percent), and XML (33 percent) all having healthy usage. And, more respondents use Oracle's PL/SQL (28 percent) than C# (23 percent).

Survey results show that only 8 percent of respondents aren't employed by organizations full-time. Of those people, 5 percent said they are consultants, 2 percent are contract workers, and 1 percent work freelance or are self-employed.

Putting in Your Time

According to the survey, the 40-hour workweek is a myth to most SQL Server professionals. More than 60 percent of respondents work between 40 and 60 hours a week, as Figure 4 shows. A significant 17 percent work up to 70 hours a week, 5 percent put in up to 80 hours, and a worn-out 5 percent work between 80 and 100 hours per week.

How does that time break down between the office, working from home, working at other locations, and being on call? More than 81 percent spend between 30 and 50 hours at the office, 10 percent spend 51 to 60 hours at the office, and 3 percent spend more than 60 hours at the office. More than 60 percent of respondents put in 1-10 hours a week from home, with 13 percent working 11-20 hours from home a week. Only 23 respondents work any hours at another location, such as a client site; 13 percent of respondents said they spend 1-10 hours per week at another location. Although 41 percent of survey participants said they aren't on call, 30 percent reported that they are on call 1-5 hours a week, and 24 percent are on call more than 10 hours a week.

The SQL Server Pro Habitat

Seventy percent of survey respondents work in the United States; Figure 5 shows US respondents' locations by region, with 32 percent of participants living on the East Coast. We also had respondents from Europe (12 percent), Asia/Pacific (6 percent), Canada (6 percent), and other locations, including Central and South America, the Middle East, Africa, Australia, India, Puerto Rico, Thailand, Russia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, China, and Bermuda.

Slicing respondents by industry, finance (15 percent) and health care (12 percent) lead the pack, as Figure 6 shows. Other survey participants were spread across consulting, IT services, government, real estate and insurance, manufacturing, retail or distribution, education, and many other segments. Nineteen percent of respondents work in companies with 1-99 employees, and 18 percent work in organizations with 1000-4999 employees. As Figure 7 illustrates, 12 percent of survey participants are in organizations with 100-249 employees, 12 percent are in companies with 500-999 employees, and another 12 percent are in businesses with more than 25,000 workers. Survey results show that respondents have spent a fair amount of time with their organizations. More than half have been with their current company for 1-5 years, 20 percent for 6-10 years, and 7 percent for 11-15 years; 14 percent have spent less than a year with their current company.

Almost 45 percent of respondents work on a database development and administration team with fewer than 5 people, including themselves. Nearly 30 percent work on teams between 5-20 people, and 8 percent work on a team of 200 or more people. On the application-development side, teams tend to be larger, with 25 percent reporting a development-team size of 1-4 people on the low end, and 16 percent reporting a team size of 200 or more people. Sixteen percent of respondents work on a development team between 50 and 199 people. The typical size of BI/OLAP teams is 1-4 people (41 percent).

SQL Server is the primary database platform for more than 70 percent of respondents' companies, with Oracle coming in a distant second at 15 percent, and DB2 trailing at 7 percent. However, 54 percent of those surveyed said their organization uses Oracle as well as SQL Server; DB2 is in use at 28 percent of sites. Nearly 34 percent of survey participants said SQL Server is running on 5-20 servers in their organization, and 25 percent said they have 1-4 SQL Server machines in their company. Almost 10 percent said they had 200 or more SQL Servers. More than 20 percent of respondents said their organizations support 101-500 database users, 19 percent support more than 5000 users, and 17 percent support 1001-5000 users.


We saw earlier in looking at job titles that 41 percent of respondents are DBAs. However, 93 percent of all survey participants work on database administration, with 28 percent spending more than 50 percent of their time on this task. For respondents who said they spent time on the job functions listed in the survey, Figure 8, page 22, shows how much time the respondents said they spend on each task. For example, 94 percent of respondents work on database development, and Figure 8 shows that 19 percent of those respondents spend more than 50 percent of their time on this task. More than 90 percent of survey participants also said they work on database design and modeling, and 13 percent of those spend more than 50 percent of their time on this task. About 17 percent of respondents who do application development spend more than 50 percent of their time on that responsibility, Web site development gets strong focus from about 14 percent of respondents, and 12 percent of respondents who develop reporting solutions spend a good deal of their time on that task.

In Figure 8, also notice how many tasks people spend less than 10 percent of their time on. A variety of small tasks can eat up a lot of time and cause respondents to feel scattered and unfocused. For instance, more than 60 percent of our respondents spend time—but less than 10 percent of their time—on department and group management, IT management and strategic business planning, network design and architecting, OLAP/data mining system administration, data warehouse/data mart administration, reporting solutions administration, network administration, security administration, storage administration, messaging infrastructure administration, end-user and desktop support, and training. That's a lot of tasks to have your fingers in. And 79 percent of our respondents said that their duties remain unchanged from last year.

Figure 9 profiles how DBA respondents divide their time. Not surprisingly, they spend most of their time, 17 percent, on database administration, giving 10 percent of their time to database development, 9 percent to developing and administering reporting solutions, 8 percent to database design and modeling, 8 percent to developing and administering data warehouses and data marts, and 8 percent to application development and administration. The graph goes on to show all the other minute claims on their time.

What new business-critical initiatives do respondents' companies plan to build or implement in the next year? More than 40 percent will be working on additional application development solutions, database management solutions, and database development solutions. More than 30 percent of respondents will be working on Web databases, security enhancements, infrastructure/server/network enhancements, XML and Web services, backup and recovery solutions, application management solutions, and BI solutions. And more than a quarter of survey respondents will be working on high-availability solutions, server consolidation, storage management solutions, financial applications, performance-tuning solutions, and customer resource management (CRM) applications.

Needless to say, boredom wasn't among respondents' complaints. And many survey participants cited the variety of work and the excitement of being part of a fast-paced, ever-changing industry as key to their career satisfaction. Be sure to read the other survey articles in this issue to see whether compensation is balancing out all the long hours and what SQL Server pros like and dislike most about their jobs.

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