SQL SERVER – Expanding Your Skills – Notes from the Field #015

[Note from Pinal]: This is a fifteenth episode of Notes from the Field series.  We all want to learn more and progress in our career. It is human nature to look for change and variety after a while. In most of the cases, it is quite easy to move inside your organization if you are an expert in the skills of the other technology. For example, if you are a developer and have the skill set of DBA, you can easily switch to that job if there is an opening. However, the biggest challenge which we all face is how to keep ourself updating with new technology and expand our skill set when we are so busy doing our day job.

In this episode of the Notes from the Field series database expert Brian Kelley explains a very crucial issue DBAs and Developer faces when they want to advance in their career and expand their skills. Linchpin People are database coaches and wellness experts for a data driven world. Read the experience of John in his own words.


I’m sure the client was rather surprised by the questions I was asking. I was brought in to help consult on their SQL Server security and I was asking questions about OS practices, about intrusion detection, about firewalls, about their networks. We were 30 minutes into the call and I hadn’t gotten to SQL Server yet. Knowing that the question, “Aren’t we going to talk about SQL Server?” was building in the client’s mind, I simply stated, “I know you’re wondering why I’m asking so many questions that aren’t related to SQL Server. I’m trying to assess the whole environment because SQL Server is just one part of the system. A weakness in any part of the system could lead to the breach you don’t want.” There was an audible sigh as the client understood.

As SQL Server DBAs and database developers, we are charged with understanding how SQL Server works. However, as IT professionals, it behooves us to be more rounded. SQL Server is a part of the overall system. It’s an important part, because our systems are data driven and SQL Server holds the data. However, understanding more about the other pieces of the system helps not only in security, but in overall operations and troubleshooting.

When I speak about professional development, I suggest DB pros increase their skills in the following areas:

  • Learning the basics of how the Windows operating system functions
  • Knowing and being able to write in a scripting language
  • Understanding how TCP works, how basic routing functions, and how name resolution (DNS) is accomplished.
  • Developing a rudimentary understanding of the hardware components of servers.
  • Practicing and becoming proficient on performance monitoring beyond just the application or SQL Server.

The majority of people can’t attack all of these at once. My advice is to pick one, bring it up to an acceptable level of competency, and then move on to the next area. So how do you start? Andy Leonard, speaking of SSIS, suggested understanding the resources you have available to you and then putting in the work. I agree with that, but I am going to expand on it. Here’s a reasonable action plan:

  1. Get some introductory resources on the subject. These could be books, articles, free training, paid training, or anything that begins to expose you to the subject. Don’t worry if some or a lot of what you’re looking at you don’t understand. What you’re trying to do here is get more familiar with the subject so you can figure out what you don’t know.
  2. Continue to investigate potential resources so you can dive deeper and learn more.
  3. Develop an environment for you to practice. This could be a new set of VMs, it could be a laptop that you only use for whatever it is you’re practicing, but outfit yourself with what you need to get started.
  4. Identify what it is you need to learn.
  5. Develop steps to cover those items. Ensure you include adequate practice for what you’re learning. Also include milestones to celebrate in order to help maintain your motivation.
  6. Put in the work!

Also, be flexible. Be ready to adjust your plan at any of these steps. However, don’t be too flexible. In other words, don’t adjust without a good reason. Just because something is the “new shiny” is not a good reason to adjust. Learning that you missed something important in your research that you should know, well, then you better adjust your plan. But most of all, keep pushing forward.

If you want to get started with performance tuning and database security with the help of experts, read more over at Fix Your SQL Server.

Reference: Pinal Dave (http://blog.sqlauthority.com)

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One thought on “SQL SERVER – Expanding Your Skills – Notes from the Field #015

  1. Pingback: SQL SERVER – Contest Post – Notes from the Field – Learning Performance Tuning and Database Health | Journey to SQL Authority with Pinal Dave

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