The database developers: who are they and what they have to do with “development”

Interesting question to ask in this blog, right? But recently I’ve being involved in lot’s of conversations regarding whether this profession even exists.

This is actually quite interesting, because the database development started to be a separate profession quite early in my career. Perhaps in the mid 1990s there was still no clear distinction between the database developer and the DBA, but 2000 job search clearly indicated that these two are distinct (although I’ve applied for both). In a couple of years the “Data Architect” became a new thing, and I’ve started to apply for all three (or rather by that time it was more like jobs chasing me, not the other way around).

What was never a question since 1980s, that “programmers” and “database people whatever you call them” are two separate qualifications (although some people can do both).

There is a common belief, that “small companies” like to hire people who can do both, but I remember how I was hired first time to work in the US. The very small startup initially hired a friend of my friend, who could do it all, but after just several months they realized, that they need to hire somebody who specifically knows what are the databases and what they are for.  And I think that this idea goes along with the broader tendency of professionals becoming more and more specialized, and with the general trend (yes, I know, there are always exceptions) that people who specialize in a certain area become more skillful in this specific area (yea, I know it’s not always the case, I can think about many counter – examples right now, when I type this:)).

All this might seem  contrary to what I am doing these days and what I am advocating for. I am a part of the Software Engineering Department, and I believe firmly (more than ever before:)) that my place is there. But I distinguish clearly between actually doing it all and  understanding what other parties are doing (and yes, sometimes you can do without understanding :)).

The main reason why I wanted to write on this subject one more time, however, is not work-related. I was in process of writing a blog post for my company blog about why the fact that our paper was accepted for ICDE 2016 is so-so-so cool. And it’s not only about the fact, that this conference is so selective, and that that’s a great honor and just amazing; but also because it is clear from the reviews, that it is an important step in recognizing that what we are doing is indeed optimization.

To learn, how non-obvious is it, just ask Karthik Ramachandra, how many times his and his team’s work was not recognized because “it’s not about the databases”. Our work is even more on the application side, than Dbridge project, but that’s where the coolest and the most powerful optimization happens. That’s were we can really improve the user’s experience.

When I’ve received a notification that our paper is accepted, first I was just happy and thought about it mostly as my personal achievement, but now I think that recognizing the direction we are working in is even more important – we can write more papers on that subject :). So although I never submitted a workshop proposal which I though about two years ago, I still think I did my share.

Back to where I’ve started. Just look at our paper: people have been asking me who is the main author, but we do not really have one! (well, I did most of nagging and planning, but not of the actual writing). It’s definitely app-plus-db paper, but all three of us have our own piece of work. Actually we are contemplating to make our presentation this way – so that all three of us could present their parts.




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