Every action is a performance – moving from internal to external roles

The SQL Server community has lots of articles appearing which talk about becoming a DBA, becoming a better DBA and how to prepare for interviews etc.  I thought I’d share some of my experiences about moving from an internal DBA role to a client facing consultative role, for me this was into pre-sales and solution/infrastructure architecture.

When you’re used to sitting within an operations or support environment how you act, communicate and appear are probably not something you consider too much, even if you’re already supporting external clients.  When you leave the office and meet clients things quickly change and hopefully these few points will give you some understanding of the differences:

Whenever you’re in sight of the client you’re selling – whether your company’s services, your experience or capabilities and whether in a meeting, their reception or bathroom, you’re still selling and be the part.

Know your audience – are you talking to business people, technical people, managers or team members?  The very mention of the word LUN could kill the meeting if you’re there just to talk about your experiences and demonstrate why your company can do what the client is asking of it.

There is a time and place for detail – similar to the point above, deep diving into the level of technical you’re used to talking about at your desk will probably never happen in a client meeting, it’ll be saved for emails or conf calls etc.

Look the part – sometimes clients expect the technical expert to be dressed casually especially if they’re visiting you, however if you’re visiting the client it’s probably time to look smart.  Looking smart means looking as though you’re used to dressing that way, I’ve seen so many people turn up on their annual suit wearing day who look as though they haven’t tied a tie since their school days.  Looking smart doesn’t cost money, it just takes an iron and quick check before you leave home. 

Remember your expertise is why you’re there – there’s a reason why you’ve been asked to the meeting, if people ask you a question then as long as you don’t lose them with technical terms they don’t understand, answer with appropriate depth.  Demonstrate the value you bring by answering with a concise but deep answer that gives you a chance to show you know what you’re talking about.

Keep your communications smart – Every conference call, email or conversation in the corridor is still a client facing engagement.  There maybe people more influential than you think listening or getting your email forwarded to them.  Even if they swear, criticise their bosses or the choice of technology, it’s not your place to agree or share your views on why the guy in charge doesn’t know what he’s doing or why deploying product x in 2010 is just crazy.

You never know when you’re going to meet your next boss – It could be someone who meets you in this engagement one day ends up in a position to recruit you.  Or he might even come join your company.  Either way there’s always the chance that you’ve already met your next boss, you just don’t know it yet.  Don’t let their first memory be the time you confused the project team with your overview of database mirroring versus log shipping.

Hopefully that will help people understand some of the softer differences between internal and external, interested in your thoughts!

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