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Matt Whitfield avatar image
Matt Whitfield asked

What are the best resources for the accidental SQL developer?

There are a lot of answers to the question 'I'm an accidental DBA - where do I start?' - but there are not so many for accidental SQL developers... The ones who wrote a query once, and were instantly tagged as the 'expert'.

I've been using SQL Server for about 11 years now, and I'm still learning new things, by following the people whom I respect on the net, reading their blogs etc. Participating in this community has also helped enormously.

But, for somebody just starting on the path - where would you send them to learn the ropes?

t-sqldeveloperlearning
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TimothyAWiseman avatar image
TimothyAWiseman answered

Generally to the same places I would send the accidental DBA, though their emphasis will of course be slightly different.

One thing the accidental SQL developper has going for them over the accidental DBA is that they probably (hopefully) have either a real DBA or someone who plays that role part time in their organization. So the first place I would send them to is that DBA in their organization.

After that, read. If you are really coming from knowing little-to-nothing then "The Manga Guide to Databases" is much better than the title makes it sound and is very readable. There are too many other good books to list, but I would start with that one.

Then look at blogs/community sites. Clearly, I am a big fan of SQLServerCentral. I especially recommend that a new SQL Developer read everything by Timothy A Wiseman there (joking!!!) and Jeff Moden(not joking about that one. His stuff is always worth reading.) Also, SimpleTalk has some fantastic articles, though most of those tend to be targeted at more advanced users.

Then start testing things out. SQL, like math, is not a spectator sport. You will learn more by trying to do things than reading about them. When you try and you run into a specific question, try to look it up, and if you can't, come to a place like this to ask questions.

Speaking of math, I think all SQL developers will benefit by studying the basics of set theory. It helps you to think in sets if you really understand them and it will help you understand why many things in SQL are the way the are.

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Nick Kavadias avatar image
Nick Kavadias answered

I started working with SQL Server 10 years ago. Back then I didn't even know what SQL was. My first book on SQL was a first edition of Sams Teach Yourself SQL in 10 Minutes. This was a great practical book which allowed me to get productive quick. The book explains all the basics in a concise way. I recommend it to anyone getting their SQL legs. I've leant it out many times over the years, the book looks like its been through the wars.

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Fatherjack avatar image
Fatherjack answered

I agree with the previous answers from TimothyAWiseman and SQLNinjaSkills.

To add to those I would say, do all that and work at home. Evenings, weekends, whenever you get spare time.

SQL Server Express is free, Developer Edition is very cheap, you can create a virtual PC on your PC at home. I use Sun VirtualBox(http://www.virtualbox.org/), get a suitable OS and install SQL, Visual Studio Express is also free so you can develop from there if you want to. Then, test, test, test. Play around with ideas and scenarios. Test out your answers to questions here, explore the SQL Server environment, learn from doing.

If you enjoy it then keep going, if its not any fun then it was an accident that you had and you may find more fun doing something different.

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(+1) I especially like your closing comment. I always think each person's ideal career is the one from which they receive the most joy. If you're stuck doing something 40 or more hours each week for 30 or more years (i.e. over 60,000 hours of your life), you should definitely try to make it something you enjoy.
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Grant Fritchey avatar image
Grant Fritchey answered

Just to add my two cents,

The best things you can do are read and test.

Read books like Itzik Ben-Gan's "Inside T-SQL Querying" and Joe Sack's "Transact-SQL Recipes" for technical info. For general job information, I still haven't found a better book than Craig Mullin's "Database Administration." To become great at the job, pick up Brad McGehee's "How to Be an Exceptional DBA." And yeah, the two best web sites, I think, are SQL Server Central and Simple-Talk, like everyone else.

Test everything. Get a copy of Adventureworks and walk through examples with it. Run scripts, do backups, do restores, break your system and fix it. Do all this on your own machine on your own time. Eventually, you'll know what you're doing for real.

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