Industry Experience

I don’t get it. Why do so many jobs and contracts seem to insist upon having experience in a particular industry when, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the specific industry in which we work has no bearing upon the nature of our work.

I have worked across many industries, but each time I talk to a recruitment agent I get similar questions: “Have you worked in X industry?”, “I won’t put you forward for Y unless you have worked for Z”.

It’s the wrong question. Have I worked in Media? Investment Banking? Accountancy? Property? Logistics? It doesn’t matter. No, really. It doesn’t. I have worked in all of those industries and a few more besides, and the nature of the industry was largely irrelevant. A friend recently suggested that you need Investment Banking experience so you understand the inordinate bureaucracy and dreadful boredom that come with working for an Investment Bank. A little unkind, but I know where he’s coming from.

What is relevant is the type and nature of systems with which you are working. Are they mission critical? Zero downtime? Very High Transaction rate? Enormous Data Warehouses? Hundreds or Thousands of databases? These questions have relevance. A high transaction rate OLTP in a Bank is very similar to a high transaction rate OLTP Web Retailer.  The challenge with these systems is a different to that of an enormous data warehouse, but it’s still fundamentally an RDBMS. Data is data is data. We don’t need industry experience – it doesn’t help us in the same way as it helps Business Analysts or Project Managers or even Developers.

The recruitment problem for DBA’s is that recruiters don’t know the difference between OLTP and Data Warehousing; a large proportion simply keyword match (the great ones don’t! – and there are genuinely great recruiters out there, in small numbers) so you need to ensure you have all of the relevant keywords on your CV – I have even been asked to amend my CV to put Word and Excel on there! WTF? Unfortunately you also need to be careful, otherwise you’re probably getting job adverts sent through for Cobol Programmers, Websphere Guru’s and all manner of support and helpdesk staff. I removed IBM Assembler Programmer from my CV about 10 years ago, although I suspect there are not too many jobs left for that skill set now.