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I am a Database/ BI person with 5+ years of experience (SQL Server and Oracle). I would really love to work for a startup, but from the feeling I get from seeing the job postings, most startups are not looking for people other than developers for their IT team.

Do startups even look for other IT people other than developers? And if so, how can I connect with ones that are looking for DB persons?

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closed as off topic by TMN, kevin cline, maple_shaft Sep 20 '12 at 13:33

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Yes and no. Start-ups usually do need DBAs, but they rarely hire them because they cannot justify the cost. –  Matthew Flynn Sep 20 '12 at 10:05
You have to ask yourself what are they doing. An analytics startup without a DBA is insanity. A knitted sock startup with a DBA is probably doing something wrong. –  Ben Brocka Sep 20 '12 at 12:07
How is the makup of teams/companies as far as membership by specialty not a valid question? –  JeffO Sep 20 '12 at 13:51
@JeffO to be on topic for this site it should really ask about a software project, not a company...but regardless it's not answerable as-is because any given company/project may or may not require a DBA –  Ben Brocka Sep 20 '12 at 14:06
The part of your question on how to connect with startups looking for a DB person, try the workplace site. workplace.stackexchange.com –  JeffO Sep 20 '12 at 16:38

4 Answers 4

Start-ups typically need generalists. Jack of all trades. At least for early stage start-ups, a database specialist is too specific in my eyes, and ends up being a burden to the team. Other tasks end up stacking up, and if your queue is empty and the money is running out, it's a clear choice. In later stages, perhaps it's more important (scaling a successful start-up)...

Having said that, you may want to start talking with others already in start-ups who may need some consulting or advice.

If you really want to get into start-ups, I'd suggest broadening your skill set so it can be applied where it's needed, while still having a very strong background in databases. It's an applicable skill, but there is a lot more needed than just that.

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+1 I really like this advice, especially the part about broadening your skill set while still maintaining strong database skills –  Anthony Sep 20 '12 at 2:56
Yep. I interviewed with a start-up recently, and was told that they'd need somebody like me eventually. I'm a senior-level developer with DBA and sysadmin experience, but I don't have a lot of UI/UX experience so I couldn't provide the level of "front to back" coverage they were looking for. –  TMN Sep 20 '12 at 12:26
+1 for consulting/part-time need. –  JeffO Sep 20 '12 at 13:52

How can I connect with startups that are looking for DB persons? Or do startups even look for other IT people other than developers?

I would speak with the local developers who are involved in start-up projects. That is really the way to be connected. Well, one may think w*here to find them?* I would look for local developer events by Goggling or visiting this site communitymegaphone.com

As far as i know, new start-ups are usually more interested in new grads rather than people with 5+ year experience. Because, general structure of start-up contains one very strong technical leader (also called CTO) who has strong belief in what set of technologies and how they will be used in their products. Thus, start-up owner may look for inexpensive but very passionate young programmers who have strong technical background (like math, cs, applied sciences, etc.) and can quickly catch-up any technical things.

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I once came across a memo on my bosses desk "Recruit them young and keen, preferably single and no mortgage, pay peanuts on the promise of working on new tech, share options, career growth. You will usually get 12 months, up to 2 years before the wise up and leave........" - That memo came from a talk presented at a startup conference. I am not sure I believe they are all like that..... –  mattnz Sep 20 '12 at 1:34
Well, they all start like that however they change this policy once company is sold or gets warm cash flow :) –  Yusubov Sep 20 '12 at 1:48
The reality is the vast majority of startups fail, and it's not due to lack of money. That's a symptom of the failure. Hiring grads is good for grunt work, but not building a business. In my opinion anyway. –  Adrian Schneider Sep 20 '12 at 3:29
@AdrianSchneider, agree with you, and you are welcome to vote :) –  Yusubov Sep 20 '12 at 3:33

There are some common things for start-ups, one of them is being tight on money. As a result, they will opt for using open source technologies available, rather than paying licenses for some big company.

For the database side, that means they will most likely stay away from Oracle/Microsoft stuff.

Secondly, DBA is a very specific area of expertise. For most start ups, dealing with the quirks of database/optimizing stuff in not high on the priority list, thus they won't be needing a DBA at early stages. That generally rules out startups that are in early stages.

Consultancy can be an option. But in my experience, most startups will avoid paid consultancy, as they won't have that much money.

So, in short, it will be hard to find a start up, especially in its early stages, that needs a DBA, especially a DBA specialized in Oracle/Microsoft products. Not impossible, but hard.

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Start-ups need DBAs very much, but they rarely can afford one* until they grow past a certain size. Until then, the role of the DBA is combined with other roles in the IT administration area. For example, the DBA at my last start-up was also our network administrator and system administrator, managing our entire IT infrastructure. This is the easiest route for a DBA to get into start-ups: get more knowledge about general IT administration, and look for a start-up hiring someone to oversee their entire infrastructure. As a DBA you know a lot about networks and operating systems already, so you are probably at least half-way there.

* This depends a lot on the specialization of the start-up: I worked for one developing a cross-platform solution for RDBMS from four different vendors, with close to a hundred instances of different DBs used for testing, so we hired a DBA early on.

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