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Volunteering to gain SQL experience


Volunteering to gain SQL experience

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rho_pooka
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Greetings all, I posted a comment in another thread but thought that starting a new topic may be appropriate.

Just a question for the veterans out there coming from someone that is young, relatively new to SQL, and wants to get their feet wet with real life SQL experience. Are there opportunities to volunteer in the SQL community on site(at a company), or virtually? If so how? I believe this is also called an internship, which I'm totally fine with however I currently hold a 9-5 job and would be strained on the time i could put in to interning...

I went ahead tonight and registered in our local user group here in chicago which I find very cool, but I keep striving for more exposure to SQL other than the books/online courses/forums that I'm currently digesting.

Secondly, I noticed that there is a SQL Saturday event in Madiscon, WI coming up in March or April, and another in Chicago. Are these worth attending, or am I going to be completely over my head, not know anyone, and feel foolish?

Any guidance would be greatly appreciated!
pietlinden
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SQL Saturday? It's a bargain, so absolutely go! You may not understand it all, but go to beginner lectures (I went to the one in Nashville last week, and it was great!). Of course, the more you know, the more you stand to get out of an event like that, but you have to start somewhere.

Can't really answer the other question, as I'm in somewhat of the same boat, but I do have a couple of certifications... not that they mean anything. According to Kevin Kline, the only SQL Server cert that means anything is the MCM, and that's been discontinued.
Jeff Moden
Jeff Moden
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rho_pooka (1/24/2014)
Greetings all, I posted a comment in another thread but thought that starting a new topic may be appropriate.

Just a question for the veterans out there coming from someone that is young, relatively new to SQL, and wants to get their feet wet with real life SQL experience. Are there opportunities to volunteer in the SQL community on site(at a company), or virtually? If so how? I believe this is also called an internship, which I'm totally fine with however I currently hold a 9-5 job and would be strained on the time i could put in to interning...

I went ahead tonight and registered in our local user group here in chicago which I find very cool, but I keep striving for more exposure to SQL other than the books/online courses/forums that I'm currently digesting.

Secondly, I noticed that there is a SQL Saturday event in Madiscon, WI coming up in March or April, and another in Chicago. Are these worth attending, or am I going to be completely over my head, not know anyone, and feel foolish?

Any guidance would be greatly appreciated!


The only problem with "volunteering" is that there's normally not a "senior" to work with to learn things from. The problem with "internships" is that they normally don't take the time to teach you and not everyone in the business is actually good at it (teaching or SQLServer). I don't mean that to sound mean but it's a cold, hard fact with proof in these and other forums.

If you want some real life problems to work on, buy yourself a copy of SQLServer Developer Edition (normally somewhere between $45 and $60 USD including shipping depending on where you buy it) which is identical to the SQLServer Entrprise Edition but with special licensing and you don't need to install it on a Windows Server. Then, start answering questions on these forums. You don't necessarily have to post answers at first. You'll find out who the "heavy hitters" are and the things that you'll learn from them will be absolutely remarkable. Also read the articles and the discussions that follow. There is frequently more and sometimes better information available in the discussions on the "Join the Discussion" link of articles. And, if someone posts a link to something else, take the time to at least look at it.

Not everything that you'll find on these or other forums is the right way to do things and that's why it's important to learn to recognize the "heavy hitters'. They're normally the ones that either ask for or create readily consumable test data and post documented code along with explanations.

If you need to ask a question on how to do something, don't be afraid. Just do it right so you can get the best help possible. See how to post code and performance problem questions by taking some time to study the two links I have in my signature line below under "Helpful Links".

As for SQL Saturday's, I have just one word... GO. And don't let the rating of a session scare you away. If something sounds interesting and even if it's labeled as "Advanced", just go. Even if it's over your head, you'll start to learn terminology and techniques and methods that you should study to become an SQLServer "Ninja". And always have an alternate session picked out. None of the people doing the presentations will be offended by you walking out if the session doesn't turn out to be what you thought and none of them will ever be offended by a late arrival at the alternate session.

--Jeff Moden

RBAR is pronounced ree-bar and is a Modenism for Row-By-Agonizing-Row.
First step towards the paradigm shift of writing Set Based code:
Stop thinking about what you want to do to a row... think, instead, of what you want to do to a column.
If you think its expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur. -- Red Adair

Helpful Links:
How to post code problems
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Forum FAQs
rho_pooka
rho_pooka
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Thank you for advice Jeff Moden! I currently am working with SQL Server Express, but I only have it on one machine, and have been working through queries that I have found on these forums, and various other sites/books. I have also started a blog to document my thoughts and progress that I'm making. The blog is mainly for myself as a diary of sorts, perhaps it can turn into something more in a year or two down the road…

Thanks again for solid advice!

-Ben
Jeff Moden
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Thanks for the feedback, Ben. To be sure, I'm not actually sour on volunteering. It's a great way to help the community even if you're green but will take the time to properly research a problem (and, you can always ask pointed questions on these forums). It also looks good on a resume if you keep a log of services rendered.

I am pretty sour on internships for the reasons stated and the fact that a lot of places use interns as the proverbial "coffee runners". That, not withstanding, there are good internships to be had but they're hard to find. Basically, you have to interview THEM.

--Jeff Moden

RBAR is pronounced ree-bar and is a Modenism for Row-By-Agonizing-Row.
First step towards the paradigm shift of writing Set Based code:
Stop thinking about what you want to do to a row... think, instead, of what you want to do to a column.
If you think its expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur. -- Red Adair

Helpful Links:
How to post code problems
How to post performance problems
Forum FAQs
rho_pooka
rho_pooka
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I appreciate your honesty about internships, they are very hit or miss. I've ordered the SS developer version this morning from Amazon, it'll be fun to see what is different between it and express. I'm guessing there are ample youtube videos and articles to showcase the feature in the developer version.

Take care, again, thank you for the guidance.

-Ben
pietlinden
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Just wondering - since I'm not absolutely new to SQL Server (I have a couple of those Microsoft pieces of paper) but lack paid experience in SQL Server, what would be the best way into that? I used to do a lot of work with SQL Server's runt baby brother, Access (and get paid for it).

So I'm somewhat trapped in the "Can't get a job without experience, can't get experience without a job".

Options as I see them:
- start in help desk or similar and volunteer.
- start a blog in WordPress (I'm more interested in databases than web dev) and write about what I'm learning... Most people will ignore it and that's fine. But I could post code samples etc.
- volunteer with PASS/local SSUG (would help me get to know more people.)

Any other ideas? The reason I didn't add "volunteer to do SQL Server work" for someone is usually that a company's data that's secured in SQL server is usually one of their most important assets, and you don't just let some noob mess around with it. That would be pure insanity.

So where do you start?

Thanks for any feedback/ideas!

Pieter
rho_pooka
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Pieter, as I'm faced with a similar circumstance I've elected to do the things that you had mentioned, starting a blog, being active in the forums, and have gotten in touch with a local user group. We will see what comes of all of it...

I'm interested to hear the versed professional's advice for you.
pietlinden
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I'm going to talk to Kevin Kline if I can track him down. (@KEKline on Twitter, I think.) He's a serious smarty (SQL Server MVP), so his advice should be good. He's in the local SQL Server User Group (we're obscenely fortunate - in addition to Kevin, Louis Davidson and Joe Webb are here, and then there are a ton of really good SQL folks on top of that. So a typical monthly meeting has about 50-70 attendees.

Go to those if you can. Ours have several recruiters, which can sometimes be helpful (even if they can't get you a job). One told me a while back (after telling me up front that he could not get me a job) that I should go the support route, and basically work my way into SQL Server that way.
Jeff Moden
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If you're trying to get an actual job, then there are a couple of excellent routes to take.

Believe it or not, SQL Saturdays are one of the best places to network. Take plenty of copies of your resume with you. If you do have a blog site or a forum that you regularly participate in, make sure you include that in the resume for people to lookup.

The Local PASS chapter is an excellent place to network, as well. Don't be afraid to talk with the Chapter President and have him include a short section at the beginning of the meeting for those that either have jobs to offer or those looking for jobs. Again, copies of your resume should always be available on the spot. Yes, they can be electronic and you can email them to folks right at the Chapter meeting if you are at a place where you can get a connection and you remembered to take your computer with you.

Also, spend an hour to either sit down and design a simple business card with the area of SQL Server that you'd like to work with on it (as well as your contact info, of course), or spend a sawbuck or two to have someone print up a hundred.

While some people don't care for them, I stay in constant contact with good recruiters even though I'm not currently looking for a job. Of course, I don't even talk with the bad ones anymore. You'll know who the good ones are because you should actually take the time to interview the ones you find and ask them for references. ;-) The good ones will have no problem with that at all.

Don't be like the store that opened without hanging up a sign. Advertise yourself. Like Steve Jones says, "Develop your own branding". If you ever get to an SQL Saturday where he's teaching his "branding" session, I strongly recommend you go to it. Some of it will seem obvious but take good notes because it isn't obvious until you've heard it. ;-)

--Jeff Moden

RBAR is pronounced ree-bar and is a Modenism for Row-By-Agonizing-Row.
First step towards the paradigm shift of writing Set Based code:
Stop thinking about what you want to do to a row... think, instead, of what you want to do to a column.
If you think its expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur. -- Red Adair

Helpful Links:
How to post code problems
How to post performance problems
Forum FAQs
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