The Future of Ongoing Learning

  • Hello. I am someone who enjoys continuous learning. I have been stumped by the new paradigm where Azure & Power BI change monthly though. The biggest problem I've had is that things seem to have changed fairly significantly if I learn them before I use them by 6 months or more. Microsoft Learning has broken modules regularly due to them not keeping up with the changes. Books can't be written since they'd be outdated by the time they were "printed", etc. I would like to master something new, but how can you master something that's continually changing? I can learn something when I need to by googling or youtube but I like mastering technologies. Are we just in a time where there is no point trying to master something you're not using every day? Even with Azure techs that I use, I use a lot of them so don't get a ton of time on any single one. I've pretty much mastered SQL Server, SS Stack, and Power BI but I'd like to master some Azure techs. Most of the pieces seem pretty simple like ADF, but in aggregate they are not simple.

  • I've been working with Azure for over 10 years now (and I've added AWS in the last year, along with some other stuff). Fact is, it's hard. Take Azure SQL Database for an example. Mostly, it doesn't change that much. It's lots of stuff around the edges. The core is SQL Server. That means, your basic knowledge of expected behavior migrates with your data from on-premises to the cloud. However, it is those edges that are pretty constantly changing. I recently discovered some older code I wrote in PowerShell is no longer working in Azure because they're updated the language. So, it's back to the drawing board for that stuff. However, the core behavior remains.

    I'm not that up on PowerBI, so I won't comment in any direction. From AWS Developer tools to Google Cloud Platform relational databases, back to Azure DevOps, most of the core functionality remains on these things. So, it's about learning that core, then being ready to constantly shift as the interface, web platform, etc., changes.

    It's not easy, but at least I'm likely to be employed for another 8-10 years since I'm already on top of the core stuff. That's about all the good news I've got.

    ----------------------------------------------------
    The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood...
    Theodore Roosevelt

    The Scary DBA
    Author of: SQL Server 2017 Query Performance Tuning, 5th Edition and SQL Server Execution Plans, 3rd Edition
    Product Evangelist for Red Gate Software

  • Thanks Grant. I'm in the same boat as you in that my current knowledge will keep me employed until I retire which should be 7.5 years out. I'm just not ready to quit learning since it's really my #1 hobby. I am thinking about pivoting to non-database topics though since there doesn't seem to be much point in learning areas that are still fluid. Azure SQL DB has seemed stable to me lately but I'm sure that I'm not going as deep as you do. I lean more towards BI developer which leaves simpler SQL data models once the ETL/ELT is done. Databricks, Synapse Analytics & Azure ML are topics I'd like to learn but I rarely use them.

  • Synapse is really cool, and worth your time. It also doesn't change that much at the core. At the edges though, hoo boy.

    ----------------------------------------------------
    The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood...
    Theodore Roosevelt

    The Scary DBA
    Author of: SQL Server 2017 Query Performance Tuning, 5th Edition and SQL Server Execution Plans, 3rd Edition
    Product Evangelist for Red Gate Software

  • I had a project with Synapse recently and I found the documentation to be lacking. For the most part, I was doing the Python ELT so I can't speak to all the documentation. We were having some serious problems with the Data Lake/Python interface though. Any recommendations on learning Synapse? I only have VS Dev essentials Azure credit for learning so I don't have a huge credit. In the past, I've had several times where I burned up my credit on a single day because I didn't know what I was doing. I tried MS Learning but the modules were mostly broken. I worked through a few issues with that and then hit something that was a blocker. I don't remember what it was anymore though.

  • I don't think you're going to master something. You're doing to dip into a stream, get some skill and competence, and much of that will continue to be valuable over time. However, sometimes there are substantial changes to tech in the stream, and it is possible that you may find some of your knowledge is old and not optimal. You'd have to dip back into the stream again and learn more.

    How you do that, I have no idea. I agree, that doc'ing and searching isn't always helpful and out of date. It's one reason I think versioning and dating of both technologies and modules/blogs/etc, is really important. Some vendors have resisted versioning things, and giving a way to match up a point in time with knowledge. Teachers/bloggers/etc. also often don't think through anything beyond a publish date, rather than a version or a "observed" date for the portal or the PowerBI Desktop, or something else.

    It's a hard problem, and worse in software, but it's going to be an issue with other things as well. If Tesla allowed 3rd parties, or we start to see them, I think mechanics will have some issues with different "versions" of how the car works or is diagnosed. Already, there are constant technical documents published for cars because what exists in the first version of a new car might be different after 6 months. Not lots of stuff, but particular parts might change. They have the same problem, at a different scale and rate, but it's always a problem. I see this same issue sometimes looking at YouTube with my car. It's a 2012, listed as the E70 model, but the way certain things work or are put together (or come apart), can vary, so hunting for knowledge on YouTube or elsewhere is always a challenge.

    I think search and find is likely your best skill in continuous learning.

  • Thanks. I love your idea about versioning. Python does this and once I figured out that Synapse was on an older version, I could use the drop-down to set the documentation to the correct version.

  • For learning Synapse, also look up Azure Data Warehouse. That's the old name. So there's a lot more documentation there. I have a few blog posts. I used to teach a class on it.

     

    ----------------------------------------------------
    The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood...
    Theodore Roosevelt

    The Scary DBA
    Author of: SQL Server 2017 Query Performance Tuning, 5th Edition and SQL Server Execution Plans, 3rd Edition
    Product Evangelist for Red Gate Software

  • Thanks Grant & Steve. I think this is enough to get me going.

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