DBA Personalities: DISC and Values Models

Posted by Baron Schwartz on May 20, 2015 8:44:00 AM

What personality characteristics do great DBAs share? What motivates them?

If you’re not sure why you should care, you’re probably not a hiring manager! Hiring and retaining highly skilled people is consistently listed as a top challenge for CIOs. CIOs strongly desire to predict whether someone’s a good fit for a particular role.
DBA_Personalities

Enter the personality profile assessment. These are quantitative tools used by many companies to try to learn as much as possible about candidates during the recruiting process. I thought it would be interesting to know what drives DBAs, so I reached out to a number of great MySQL and PostgreSQL DBAs I know personally and asked them to fill out a pair of free online assessments.

These assessments rank behavioral tendencies in four dimensions, using the DISC model. They also rank motivators (values) in seven dimensions.

At this point I need to add a disclaimer that everything about this process is biased and unscientific. Everything from the selection of test subjects, to the interpretation of the results, is unscientific. Still, the results are interesting and I believe there are valuable lessons to be learned.

Let’s see what the results indicate.

DISC Model Behavioral Index

The DISC model ranks externally observable behaviors in categories of Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance. These range from 0 to 100. Most people are strong in one or two categories and less dominant in others.

I combined the scores of all the respondents and built a heatmap from them. Here’s the result:

DISC_Model

What can we draw from this? The typical DBA is relatively low in the D and I categories, and relatively high in S and C. It might also be useful to look at plots of individual points:

disc_index

In this chart, the green line is the average score. DBAs tend to skew towards Steadiness and Compliance.

Values / Motivators

The behaviors are the “what” and the values or motivators are the “why.” The assessment I asked people to use ranked the following motivators: Aesthetic, Economic, Individualistic, Political, Altruistic, Regulatory, Theoretical.

Here’s the heatmap:

Values-Motivators

And here’s the individual scores and the average:

values-index

The results indicate that DBAs care a lot about theory, regulatory, and aesthetics; and they tend not to like politics or care much about money.

Conclusions

If you’re a hiring manager building a DBA team, you might be interested in how good DBAs tend to behave. You might like to know that they tend to be single-taskers who like structure and want to understand the ordering principles in their work and environment. You might also want to know that there are categories within which there’s a wide variation. For example, DBAs can be introverted, but not all of them are.

If you liked this post, there’s a lot more detail in our latest ebook, The Strategic IT Manager’s Guide To Building A Scalable DBA Team. The ebook contains a guide on how to use assessments in the hiring process.

If you’re curious about the personality assessment used, you can find it freely available online at Tony Robbins’s website. Disclosure - I use personality assessments in hiring, but not this one. Read the ebook for more details. And feel free to contribute your results to my collected set, if you’re interested in that. Just contact me through LinkedIn.

Cropped image by vainsang on Flickr.

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