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Tim avatar image
Tim asked

Helping others get started with SQL Server

I have been asked twice in the past two weeks how someone can get started with SQL Server. This seems like such an easy question but I don't feel like I am providing them with the right response so I am turning to the community for support. My advice was to download SQL Server Express, SSMS, and Adventureworks. I then recommend a basic T-SQL book that will teach selects, updates, inserts, deletes, etc - the basics to get them going. I then recommend a few sites such as SSC, MSSQL Tips, SQL Skills for research and articles. A guy I was talking to today asked about projects, or labs to do with Adventureworks to teach some real world type stuff. This was a hard question for me as my experience came from Real World stuff. I am the accidental DBA who just had to start working with it, no formal training until after doing DBA tasks for 10 years. As a Database Professional who is active in the SQL Community, how can I better coach and instruct the up and coming future DBA's who are looking to me for direction. It is so much easier for me to coach a Jr DBA, but for some reason I am stumped with the person who barely knows what SQL Server is.
sql-serverprofessional-development
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Just wanted to provide an update. I spent about 45 minutes with one of the individuals yesterday and talked to him about creating their own database to catalog or inventory something they have. They really liked that idea. I then showed them Adventureworks and how it is setup and that they can also use that to start writing queries, playing with joins etc. Everyone's comments on this post so far have been great. I am hoping to take this particular person with me to a SQL Saturday in 6 weeks. It is close enough we can make a day trip out of it.
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thats great @Trad, keep us up to date :)
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Fatherjack avatar image
Fatherjack answered
For me the need to learn something is driven by another need. If someone is self studying SQL Server then there can be a lack of purpose so my suggestion would be to imagine a business case that needs a SQL solution. I think I have mentioned before in an answer to a different question that picking something close to you such as a hobby can make the work easier to comprehend. As an example start by writing a database to catalogue your DVD collection may be? Once that is in place (with normalised tables for Directors, Actors, Studios, Genres, etc) then you can expand the project to become a DVD lending library so you need to add the ability to have more than one copy of a film and also have customers and so on. Building on something that is familiar along with something that has a need and a purpose means you have a project that will incorporate lots of parts of SQL Server and finding out how to solve the problems will accomplish the learning/teaching. Also, get them on to this forum and we'll help along.
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@FatherJack, Wonderful idea about building a database to catalog something. DVD's, CD's, music, etc. That will really get them going on database design, then once they input their data, then they get to build a whole host of queries to access it. Maybe build out reporting services as well. I think that will work perfect as a sample project for them to get started.
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Its having something that is of interest that keeps the interest in getting SQL to behave. Glad you like the idea.
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sqlaj 1 avatar image
sqlaj 1 answered
All your suggestions are great. Other things that come to mind are SQL Saturdays. I am not sure where you live but the training is free and a great place to "catch the SQL bug" :) Here is the site. Look for one near you. http://www.sqlsaturday.com/ I would also add looking for a SQL Server user group in your town. Most can be found here. http://www.sqlpass.org/PASSChapters.aspx In addition, when I first started talking to my son about databases I talked about things he could relate too. Perhaps that would be a good place to start. Like family budgets, family member birthdays, or speacial events. I think it's great you are trying to help. Just another sign of how the SQL community continues to rock! Cheers!
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@sqlaj, I guess I should have mentioned that I suggest those as well. To be honest, I will be speaking at my third SQL Saturday this weekend, am on a planning committee for a SQL Saturday in September, and I am the President of my local PASS Chapter. I certainly push those events. I just feel like there is something more I can give them. Where is the best place to start learning SQL. You sit down at a computer with SQL installed with AdventureWorks. Now what? Has anyone written labs to follow with AdventureWorks to build reports, update pricing, etc?
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TimothyAWiseman avatar image
TimothyAWiseman answered
I think you covered the basics, and sqlaj had a couple of good additions. Just to be a little more specific, for people that barely know what SQL is, I would recommend The Manga Guide to Databases. It is definitely a little bit goofy, but it provides a surprisingly good primer and it assumes no knowledge databases at all. It certainly won't take anyone from beginner to pro, but it will take someone who has never heard of a database at all to the beginner stage. I would also look at simple-talk.com along with the sites you recommended. One other thing that I know some will disagree with, but the moment I decided to learn SQL, I started prepping for the certification exams. I did this primarily because it gave me a structure to my studies and a goal to aim for. I know that those things don't matter to some people, but I found the goal helped me stay motivated and the structure kept me moving forward.
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@TimothyAWiseman, always nice to read your comments on here. I forgot about simple-talk. Also the book choice, I am not familiar with it but will certainly take a look at it. The book I recommend is pretty cheesy too. It is a SAMS Teach Yourself T-SQL in so many days type book. It covers basic syntax pretty good and it enough to get folks started but doesn't cover basic database knowledge so your book choice is probably a much better fit. I am actually studying for my 70-432 exam right now. I figure it is time to upgrade my MCDBA on SQL 2000 don't you think?
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sp_lock avatar image
sp_lock answered
One site that I think is pretty useful is one I found off Buck Woody... [Technet Edge][1] [1]: http://edge.technet.com/people/buckwoody
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@jonlee lockwood, Buck Woody is a hoot. If you ever have the chance to hear him speak at a conference, DO NOT PASS IT UP. You learn a lot and you get a lot of great comedy. Put him and Paul Randal in the same room and you can charge admission.
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xypher avatar image
xypher answered
Being new to SQL, I will definitely take your advice. Learning projects are definitely where it is at for me though!
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@xypher, that is one of the easiest ways for me to learn as well, "on the job training".
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Matt Whitfield avatar image
Matt Whitfield answered
The only thing I would add is that PASS is generally very US-centric - there isn't much activity outside of the US. There are local organisations, for example in the UK we have [SQLServerFAQ][1] for user groups and [SQL Bits][2] as our conference... Another thing that hasn't been mentioned is forums... Obviously the fact that you are reading this text means that you've already found / engaged with a forum in some sense - but the act of having to ask your question in a sensible and answerable manner can actually be a great help... [1]: http://sqlserverfaq.com/ [2]: http://sqlbits.com/
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@Matt Whitfield, ah SQL Bits, one of my to do's in the next couple of years. I really want to cross the pond and meet you all and attend that event. This Oct will be my third trip to PASS but I hear SQL Bits is awesome as well. PASS is predominant in the US, but folks keep starting PASS Chapters all over the world. Even SQL Saturdays are popping up in other countries. I really need to get my passport and a second job to fund my SQL addiction.
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sqlnubi avatar image
sqlnubi answered
I would also suggest the person try to shadow a DBA and see what they do on a daily basis. When a DBA is working on a project they could sit beside them and the DBA could explain some of the things they are doing.
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