The problem with SQL Server training today

14 Comments

I haven’t been doing a lot of in-depth technical blogging here lately because I’ve been working on a very big problem: the state of SQL Server training today.  DBA training today has all kinds of problems:

I’d go buy a book, but books take forever to come out.

I’d like to learn about SQL Server 2008 now.  Like, right now.  Today.  So if I go to my local bookstore or to Amazon.com, I can buy books, but they’re half-baked and they don’t include any real-world implementation problems or howtos that have popped up since RTM.  People write books long before the final code is even deployed.  Heck, I’ve seen SQL 2008 books that don’t even call features by the right names, because the feature names like Policy-Based Management change during development!  By the time the right book is ready, my boss already wants things deployed.

I want to learn, but I don’t have the time to go to user group meetings.

SQL Server user groups like PASS are a great way to hear from smart presenters, but unfortunately these meetings only happen once a month, and even then they’re not always in the same city.  I was at the West Michigan SQL Server User Group and some of the attendees had traveled 45-60 miles just to get to the meeting.  I admire their dedication, but the only thing that makes me drive 45-60 miles after a long day of work is a hurricane evacuation, and even then only for a category 3 or above.

The economy sucks, and nobody’s got any budget money.

We all want to be able to further our DBA eduction, but budgets are getting cut like crazy.  We can’t all travel around to the latest and greatest conferences, and we can’t go out to a week-long boot camp that costs thousands of dollars.  At the same time, technology is marching forwards faster, and our training gets out of date fast.  So when I run into a SQL Server problem, what do I do?  I search the web.

It’s dangerous to take production SQL Server advice from “Surfer69”.

When I run into SQL Server problems, I end up Googling the web to find answers.  I might find a few forum posts from unknown people, or maybe some Experts Exchange threads.  Do I really want to try those solutions on my production SQL Servers?  Not really, especially not when they’re written by “BigFreddy22” or “HotMamma31”.  I want to know that the person on the other end actually knows what they’re doing, and that they’re a SQL Server professional, not a pimply-faced kid who’s giving bad answers as a joke or somebody who’s just reciting something they heard secondhand from a developer.

I want to be able to drill down into topics and learn more.

I want more than just a one-line answer that says, “Enable AWE.”  I want my junior DBAs to be able to see what AWE is, understand what it means, and see it in context of other SQL Server topics.  If the instructions call for them to rebuild an index, I want them to click on that instruction and see why indexes need to be rebuilt, and how to do it.  The more they drill into a topic, the more they understand the mechanics of SQL Server, and the better their code and their databases will perform.

Some topics are only halfway covered by a bunch of different sites.

I’ve gone to web pages and said, “Well, they’ve got most of it right, but they left off these three crucial details that make a world of difference in a good implementation.”  Sometimes I can leave a comment on those sites to enhance the content – but sometimes the author or blog doesn’t allow comments, like Books Online.  I don’t have the time to write complete articles from scratch every time the way I did with my SQL Server 2005 Setup Checklist, but sometimes I do have enough time to enhance somebody else’s coverage and make it better.

So with a lot of help, these problems are about to be solved.

I’m working with a team of great SQL Server experts to solve this problem for once and for all.  We’re going to change the way DBAs get answers, the way DBAs get trained and the way DBAs interact with each other.  Next Monday, I’ll explain it in detail, but for now, check out some of the guys helping to build it:

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14 Comments. Leave new

  • I’ve been waiting for this! I am all of these:

    -I’d go buy a book, but books take forever to come out.
    -I want to learn, but I don’t have the time to go to user group meetings.
    -The economy sucks, and nobody’s got any budget money.
    -It’s dangerous to take production SQL Server advice from “Surfer69?.
    -I want to be able to drill down into topics and learn more.
    -Some topics are only halfway covered by a bunch of different sites.

    The only question now is:

    Is it FREE?

    Reply
  • Great question, and yes, it’s definitely free.

    I’m a big believer that you can’t charge for content. That business model just doesn’t work. The instant somebody has to get out their credit card, they hit the back button. Content is just too easy to get for free, and people would rather take bad advice for free than pay for advice they’re not sure about.

    I’m really, really lucky to work for a company that shares that belief, and that gives me not just the power but the responsibility to share SQL Server knowledge.

    Reply
  • I too identify with all of the above and the difficulties in learning SQL server. I can’t wait to see it.

    Reply
  • Looking forward to it, I would love to see more advanced content – 300-400 levels. Seeing multiple articles just walking through GUI screens isn’t education, it’s just redoing BOL.

    Also if there’s anything I can do help, let me know!

    Reply
  • Very much looking forward to this!

    Reply
  • I find myself trying many sources most of which are mentioned here. I like webcasts the best, but some can be cursory. More “real world” examples would be best.

    Reply
  • I’m excited to hear all of the positive comments, and I know we’re on the right track. When I was a DBA, I was starving for better training and education, so I know how it feels.

    Reply
  • I’m pretty much on my own when it comes to training, so I’m looking forward to seeing it!

    Reply
  • Dude, you just outed SQLBatman. It just hit yahoo! news via AP.

    I suggest if you want to learn a new part of SQL, volunteer to speak on it at your local usergroup(or national conference) on a topic that you are unfamiliar with. Maybe not at the 400 level but it is a good way to learn.

    To me this is the 2nd best way to learn besides actually experience.

    Reply
  • I am excited for next Monday!!!

    Reply
  • A “DBA” is such a relative term, and I’m really happy to see this promising new opportunity to help make better DBAs.

    I teach introductory/intermediate SQL Server at a polytechnic institute, and often times I get students who were designated as “DBAs” or “SQL Experts” in their company because they happened to be there. I often tell my students they have to do what they love, not what they’re forced to do, because it just won’t work out. If they like (love!) databases, then becoming a DBA is their calling. I often redirect them to your two articles (Becoming a DBA, How to Hire a DBA).

    I also recognize that the more I learn, the more I realize the more I need to learn. It’s kind of a vicious exciting cycle. The moment I see a new article or book or webcast, I’d be like a giddy kid getting an early present for Christmas 🙂

    I’m neither an expert nor an MVP, but if I can also contribute in any way I can, I would be more than happy to!

    Reply

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