Can you teach an old dog…?

My dog Bosley is almost 10 years old. For this past decade I’ve tried to teach Bosley how to fetch and return a ball or Frisbee. He just has no interest in playing fetch. He will go retrieve the ball but then just lies in the grass and plays with it. Maybe it’s something about the independent nature of his breed, Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen (PBGV). I think it is just because he has no desire to play the game.
This past Friday I attended an excellent training seminar hosted by the Ohio Enterprise Modeling User Community. My friend Steve Hoberman presented an interesting seminar on “What the data management professional needs to know about the latest trends and technologies”. I find myself thinking of my colleagues and me as the old dogs who at times don’t want to learn the new tricks. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it my friend Bosley?
Steve dove into the current buzzwords we are all too familiar with including cloud computing, mashups and bashups, XML and agile methods. I’ll be the first to raise my hand that although I know the terms, I didn’t have a clear understanding of the specifics of some of the technologies and methods. I was very interested in learning how these hot topics impact my role as a data management professional. The day gave me a fresh look at how data professionals can work with in this new world and be a value add to development teams.
The data community is aging. When I look around my office, I see team members in the late 40s and 50s. People in data groups today rode in on the movement from flat files to database technologies in the 70s and 80s. They strengthened in numbers with the advent of data warehousing and business intelligence in the 90s. Sure, there are some younger team members; just not as many. I won’t look into the psychology and social context surrounding the data community in this post. I think a simple assessment is that data is not about glamour and glory. Newer IT team members look for flashy tools and user interaction that the behind the scenes life of a data administrator can not give them.
There is one thing that old dogs have that the young pups don’t have… experience. The years of hands-on experience as a data modeller or DBA relate directly to the quality of our work and work processes. We need to realize that experience can turn into a liability unless we keep it fresh and relevant. That is why attending seminars such as this one and keeping current on technologies through blogs, web sites, on-line trade journals, and user communities need to be on the old dog’s mind.
Agile methods were a hot topic with the attendees at Steve’s seminar. It evoked emotions in most present. The typical response of most data people to agile methods is that it is just a way to avoid sound data design and documentation to deliver cowboy apps. I was happy to see this assumption countered with the reality that in some IT shops agile methods have resulted in greater customer satisfaction and a more efficient development lifecycle.
A key theme I observed as I listened to Data Architects supporting agile methods was that increased communications and involvement in these cross functional teams leads to a better business-IT alignment and a clearer picture of what the business needs to succeed. What was also obvious was that these data communities adapted to effectively work in this environment. They did not abandon their principles. They learned how to achieve their goals by adapting work processes to work in a faster paced environment while still looking out for the enterprise point of view for data.
 
The point I want to make today is that old dogs can not just lie down and refuse to play ball. We have valuable experience and knowledge. We need to use this knowledge to adapt to these new faster paced methods. Let’s return the ball faster and embrace change. This change in mindset will help your team be seen as a valuable resource and will help you remain relevant and in demand in your career. You may even get a pat on the head and a nice treat 😉
Tom Bilcze
Modeling Global User Community President
I’ve reached 2NF in “Why Be Normal?” How normalized are you?
Find out more about “Why Be Normal?” at http://erwin.com/whybenormal/. Want to know what “We Be Normal!” is all about? Visit https://communities.ca.com/web/ca-modeling-global-user-community/ to get the whole story.
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