There’s More Than One Way to DBA

Jonathan Carpenter

Client Success Specialist

Jonathan Carpenter is an experienced nonprofit professional with over ten years of experience in the arts and culture and higher education sectors.
June 05, 2024

If your organization uses a customer relationship management (CRM) solution of any kind, then there’s a good chance that there is a database administrator (DBA) on staff to manage the use of that solution.

You might not know what your DBA does every day, and the truth is that the exact role and duties of a DBA vary widely from organization to organization. There’s more than one way to be a DBA! Some DBAs may have many years of experience working with their software of choice. Others can be equally effective with less experience but the right mindset and strong support from within their organization. Sometimes, DBAs aren’t even full-time staff members. They’re part-timers or consultants, brought on board for their expertise to accomplish critical tasks and ensure that an organization’s database keeps running, even if their resources are limited.

JCA consultants are happy to serve as DBAs for many of our clients. Whether we’re serving in an interim capacity while you’re hiring a key staff member or simply jumping in on a short-term project, we’re here to help.

To help demystify the job of the DBA, I’ve outlined a day in my life as a DBA for JCA’s clients. There’s no such thing as a typical day, but this sample day will show you the key tasks that keep a database administrator busy.

8 am: Coding and coffee. A Tessitura DBA lives and breathes SQL code. SQL is the programming language that runs your Tessitura database. Reading and writing SQL can come in handy in a wide variety of situations. You can create SQL scripts to maintain your data—for example, keeping upper and lower cases consistent in patron addresses. Some days, I might write custom code to do complex calculations for a custom report. On other days, it might be as simple as using SQL to create a custom query for a Tessitura list.

10 am: User training. At many organizations, the DBA is responsible for setting up new users in the system and providing basic training. Sometimes, new hires may come from other organizations that use Tessitura, so they need very little assistance getting started. I’ve also worked with new users that have never even heard of Tessitura and need multiple training sessions to become familiar with the system and comfortable with the specific functionality needed to do their jobs. My favorite training sessions to lead are one-on-one sessions where I get to work with someone a few times. It’s so rewarding to see that lightbulb moment when everything finally clicks into place!

11 am: Tessitura User Group meeting. Many organizations find it helpful to hold an internal Tessitura User Group meeting. These meetings, often chaired by a DBA, are a great opportunity for the Tessitura users in your organization to have important conversations about data standards, prioritizing projects, upgrade planning, and more.

A Tessitura User Group meeting is a great forum to get into the weeds. Maybe you’re discussing how your organization is storing phone numbers. (How, exactly, are you using phone 1 and phone 2?) You might need to decide how often you want to allocate budget to performing an address clean-up with National Change of Address (NCOA) updates. I’m always happy when clients ask me to lead these meetings, though, frankly, anyone with a passion for the efficient use of Tessitura could lead these meetings if your organization doesn’t have a DBA.

Noon: Lunchtime! Can’t forget to take breaks! (Sometimes, it’s a little too easy to get lost in code…)

1 pm: Troubleshooting. Let’s face it: sometimes systems don’t work the way that you’re expecting them to. When that happens, it’s helpful to have a technical phone-a-friend. Whether you’re figuring out how to get a report to work or trying out a new acknowledgments process, your DBA can help. Personally, I love a good puzzle, so I always enjoy this part of being a DBA. It can be very satisfying to solve a technical problem and help a user accomplish an important task.

3 pm: Lists & extractions. Lists and extractions are essential to CRM. Many organizations designate their DBA as the only person that can pull lists in Tessitura! While I think it’s important for all Tessitura users to be comfortable creating lists, it does often make sense to leverage your DBA’s expertise in generating lists and extractions. Your DBA can help you understand the ins and outs of IN and HAS. They may even be able to write a SQL query to find a specific segment of patrons that you were having difficulty isolating with standard list criteria.

4 pm: System configuration and product creation. This day-in-the-life ends with some work on maintaining the ticketing and fundraising elements of Tessitura. While departmental power users can often create new performances or new campaigns, sometimes it’s helpful for a DBA to pitch in. This can be particularly true when a large number of performances need to be created quickly or some of the finer elements of a fund need to be reviewed. Whether speed or expertise is the limiting factor, your DBA will be able to lend a hand and make sure that things are configured properly.

So, as you can see, a day in the life of a DBA can go in many different directions! That’s part of the fun. No two days are exactly the same, and there are always new challenges to keep things interesting. But whatever the task, your DBA is always in service of helping your organization make the most of your database.

If your organization finds itself in need of database administration support, we’d love to talk with you and help figure out how JCA can support you in tackling the challenges that your organization faces.

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