Many of us won't grow and expand our career completely at our jobs. While some employers will provide training in the form of funds to buy books, take a class, or learn in some other way. I think most employers will understand that you are learning at work and need time to experiment and practice some skills. That isn't necessarily going to be enough time for you to learn and practice everything at work. Many of us end up doing some normal work at home, and we'll likely need to do some career growth at home as well.
That means some sort of resources that are available to work with the data platform. These days I'd recommend a lab of some sort in Azure or AWS, but I know many of you are worried about costs and uncomfortable with building a lab on a service that might require a monthly charge. I think you can easily get away with a minimal or zero monthly charge, but I do understand your concerns.
That means a home lab, and I wanted to ask this week what you have and need in your lab. I've asked in the past, but it's 2019, so let's revisit the question. I wrote about this at Quora, but what would you do today if you were starting? Or what is your current lab?
For me, I have a desktop machine at home that really powers my lab. I run VMWare, but if I were more cost conscious, I'd just use Hyper-V or Virtual Box for full machine work. I think containers are the future and I'd suggest you start learning about them, but for now, have a virtualization method of setting up a machine and installing SQL Server. There are evaluation versions you can run for Windows, but certainly you can also just install SQL Server on your system. Developer edition is free, so no excuses here.
While some might want complex setups for HA, DR, and other testing, for most of us, a developer edition, a little disk space, and some time will provide a lab where we can get things done. There are lots of Stairway series here at SQLServerCentral, tons of articles here and at Simple Talk that you can follow along with, and many questions in our forums that you might read the first post and try to answer on your own.
If you have a lab, let us know how you set it up today. If you don't, maybe this is a good weekend to start thinking about how to set one up.