Blog Post

A VR Wielding Mentee



This post is my submission to become one of Paul Randal’s mentee(s) in 2015:

As I write this blog post, I just happen to be in view of a picture of The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo


It is a small section from the fresco of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

At times I have felt like Adam. Thinking and feeling that I have completely mastered something but in reality my true understanding falls extremely short of what I am capable of knowing about SQL Server.

With so much knowledge and wisdom about SQL within our own community it can seem daunting and overwhelming to learn about SQL Server. Our #sqlfamily is truly stretching and reaching out to help us learn even if it means moving heaven and earth to give us more and better resources. But at times over the years some of us just half-heartedly reach out like Adam to learn things outside of our realm of expertise. So much to learn and how can I get it all into my brain? Where to start and how to hook it all together? Do you learn just enough to be dangerous? What do I need to read, watch, listen to in order to absorb the content in a reasonable amount of time? What books, blogs, whitepapers, videos, Pluralsight courses, high-cost/investment courses should I consume and in what order? These are some of the questions I have thought about over the years. Today is usually boils down to a work related problem and what do I need to learn right now to address it.

Personally I prefer dead tree books for reading as I look at a computer all day. I have accumulated a lot of SQL books over the years. Some I read cover to cover, some just for one section to solve a problem or some just to have for general reference to dip into once in a while because it is so good like Internals.

“And now for something completely different,” what is the best way to visualize things inside of SQL Server? How does it all work together? I mean to really see things in your mind’s eye. To go way beyond just using code, video, audio and PowerPoint slides to deliver information. How you do think about SQL Server when you are not sitting in front of a computer?

I look at my own level of insight and understanding and I realize just how much I don’t know even though I have been working with SQL Server as a career since 1999 in a variety of roles and levels of success.

For a while now I have helped lead a study group on certifications for the Denver SQL Server User Group. We are currently focused on the 70-461 Querying exam then we will work on -462 and -463. Once a week we get together to learn and share stories and lessons learned. People have expressed an interest in some kind of overall view of what SQL Server consists of and how it all relates together. This is especially apparent for people who have never used SQL Server and are now getting into it for the first time.

Teaching people something they have never learned before and then having them keep that information fresh in their brains and being able to recall and apply that knowledge and wisdom when the opportunity presents itself is a perennial challenge! This applies to the facilitators and teachers as well…

So why do I want to become a mentee? First to explore my own thought processes and to see things afresh again from an expert’s view. Second to un-learn what I thought I have learned and to come up with a new way of learning SQL Server from nothing. Third I want to be a pioneer into the uncharted area of SQL and virtual reality (VR).

I want to build a new type of tool for use by the community. Something beyond just static 2D. Management Studio and PowerPoint will always be the default tools for training and education however I can see a unique opportunity to bring VR into our world. An advanced visualization environment to help people wrap their brains around the world of SQL Server in which we live in all day long. A small virtual world to walk around in and learn and explore with one focus: SQL Server. Start with one area and then build from there and relate everything back unto itself. Kind of like T-SQL MERGE but with memories and context. Please see my previous blog post for more about this here

VR could become the ultimate canvas upon which to create the next level of training and education tools. I want to become a mentee and start building new environments as I learn the material with fresh eyes and then share that with the world as I go. Feedback/iterate/polish. Think of it as a little like note-taking using a high-end video game engine. Your imagination is the only limit! But one does not have forever to create gorgeous experiences, to master all of the video game tools, additional software and then to use a skill I call “quick creativity” to get going fast on creating content in a timely manner so as not to waste time. One has to ship.

To this end I am currently using Unreal Engine 4, GIMP, Blender, PowerPoint, Audacity, and VR gear from Oculus. I watch a lot of things on YouTube and courses from Pluralsight and Digital Tutors to learn these technologies.

With your help and direction I would like to start to build a new generation of community tools built by the community and for the community. Something different and that can begin to take advantage of VR for the #sqlfamily

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best Regards,

Todd Kleinhans


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