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The Learning Choice

By Steve Jones,

I advocate learning constantly for those of us in technology. This might be especially important for data professionals as we are at the nexus of so muc activity these days. Data is important, our systems are under scrutiny for security, there is an every growing set of applications that want to connect, and we often struggle to keep up in a fast-paced, DevOps world. It feels like my plate is overflowing with the need to understand PowerShell, JSON, the cloud, Hadoop and its myriad of related technologies on the Microsoft Stack, machine learning, data science, statistics, and when I have time, make sure I'm up to date with SQL.

Recently I've run across a few pieces that ask the question about where to spend time. There's a blog on R v Python (I've seen quite a few of these) and a thread on deciding if ML skills are something a database developer should learn. These are just a few of the ones I've seen in the last month, as I guess lots of people are thinking and writing about New Year resolutions and goals.

We have a limited amount of time for learning each day, week, month, or year. We might be able to increase that for a short time, perhaps months, but all of us need some balance in life. Given that there's a limited amount of time, and that we need some focus and practice over time to absorb skills, where do you spend your effort in learning?

Jeff Moden is an advocate of you sharpening your T-SQL skills with deep learning, as he sees this as one of the main reasons that applications perform poorly (and people post in our forums). Others lean towards adding new skills, perhaps adding SSIS proficiency or transitioning your analysis skills to Extended Events. Still others might seek to become more generally rounded by spending time on C# or Python.

There are also other views, such as focusing on the skills you need in your current position. If you're not happy, maybe you want to devote learning effort to get a job in an area where you're passionate. Or maybe you just want to make more money, and are willing to spend time in those technologies that are paying more.

The choice is up to you, and I can't give you the answer that suits your path. You must find a balance between work and the rest of life, and make the choices that best fits you. I don't want to imply this is easy. Thinking about the things that really matter to you and affect how you approach each day is a difficult exercise. My advice is that you go in one of two ways. If your career is something that you feel passionate about, focus your learning in a way that will help you find a job that brings you purpose. If you just need a job to pay the bills, learn things that increase your earnings, but ensure that you have family, faith, hobbies, or some other endeavor outside of work that brings purpose and fulfillment to you.

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