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T-SQL Tuesday #99 – Door #1

t-sql tuesdayThis months T-SQL Tuesday is hosted by Aaron Bertrand and the topic is Dealer’s Choice. Aaron gives us the choice to blog about a topic of our choice, either about a passion outside of the SQL Server community, or about a T-SQL bad habit. In this blog post, I’ll tackle the first option,  but I’ll also post a second blog post about some T-SQL bad habit.

My passion outside of the SQL Server community is collecting Batman comics (actually trade paper backs, because in Belgium it’s not easy to find the actual single issue comics and the shipping costs to get it delivered would kill me financially). I’ll show you how such an endeavor actually has many parallels with being a Microsoft Data Platform professional (my wife will probably roll her eyes so hard when reading this).

This is my collection a few months back:

So this is my journey:

  1. First it started out with just a few comics here and there. Typical classic Batman novels, such as Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Year One. Most SQL Server professionals start out their career learning the basics for their job. Either through a class-room training or by training on the job by colleagues.
  2. When I decided to expand my collection, I needed some guidance. So I searched for some “Top x Batman comics” lists as a starting point. I used the Top 25 Greatest Batman Graphic Novels at IGN. My goad was to get as many comics from that list (which is not really possible, since some comics are quite old and are really collector’s item. Aka expensive and usually out-of-print). I got to 19 out of 25. In your SQL Server learning path, you can also seek guidance. You can read blog posts, go to forums (I used SQLServerCentral.com) or find a mentor which tells you which parts of the SQL Server stack are interesting enough to invest your time (and money) in.
  3. Sometimes you get inside the rabbit hole. On the top 25 list was also the comic Batman and Son by Grant Morrison. This led me onto the path of Grant Morrison’s epic run on Batman. Which is very long and batshit crazy sometimes (pun intended). Likewise, at the start of my career I invested a lot of time in SSIS, ETL and data warehousing, which still pays off today.
  4. At some point in time you have to realize you can’t have it all. Batman has been going for decades. The Microsoft Data Platform is vast and contains numerous technologies, especially if you include the ever-changing Azure Data Platform. There is just too much to keep up. So I made some choices. Batman comics actually consists (at the moment) of 3 volumes. Sometimes DC decides to give a title a reboot (so there are three Batman #1 comics).
    • For volume 1 (which started in the 1940’s and ran until #713) I decided to only go for the classics and most of the titles at the end of the volume (which compromised a lot of Grant Morrison’s run). So I got those lengthy story arcs (which weren’t in the top 25 list) like No Man’s Land (about 7 paper backs), War Games, Contagion and Legacy.
    • I only buy single issue comics if they are special (like Batman #1 of the third volume and the last issue of the first volume).
    • For volume 2 (The New 52) and volume 3 (DC Rebirth, the current ongoing title) I focus on the Batman title only. So no Detective Comics, Robin, Nightwing, Batwoman, BatGirl and so on. Otherwise I would be declaring bankruptcy by now ??
    • Sometimes a buy stand-alone graphic novels (which are not part of the main title), such as The Master Race.
    • Also, no merchandising. There’s just too much and it will lead you to the Dark Side. I have a couple of DVDs with the best movies, a T-Shirt and of course the Lego Batmobile. But the main focus will remain on the comics themselves.

    Similarly, I also had to make choices in my SQL Server learning path. It’s almost impossible to know it all. Even Microsoft Certified Masters don’t know it all. Sure, they know a lot about the SQL Server engine, but show them SSIS and they run away screaming in terror ?? I decided to focus on the the traditional Microsoft Data Platform (SSIS, SSAS, SSRS and MDS), along with Power BI. Because Power BI is awesome. But I learn new stuff all the time. Either because it’s interesting (like the Data Science track) or because it makes my job easier, like Biml. Sometimes I learn new things when I need them to do my job, such as setting up a data warehouse in Azure.

  5. Occasionally, I end up at a comic book store or a convention and I just browse the comics. Sometimes I find something that seems really interesting and I take it home. The same happens when going to a SQL Server conference: you browse the available sessions and you attend the ones you think are going to be interesting. Sometimes you find some real gems.

So what’s the take-away from this post? Advancing through your SQL Server learning path requires a bit of thought and planning. Don’t get overwhelmed with all the possibilities and choices, but rather go for something you really find interesting and invest some time in it.

Koen Verbeeck

Koen Verbeeck is a Microsoft Business Intelligence consultant at element61, helping clients to get insight in their data. Koen has a comprehensive knowledge of the SQL Server BI stack, with a particular love for Integration Services. He's also a speaker at various conferences.

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