I spend a little time on AskSSC (that is the question and answer section on http://www.sqlservercentral.com). Quite often the question “Where do I start learning more about SQL” will come up where someone has just taken on the role of DBA within his or her organization. Or possibly it is from someone who has been in the role for a little while, but is now ready to expand their skill set. It is very easy for us to rattle off a long list of books and blogs, but I find myself typing more about the benefits of PASS and what it offers. Books are great and I will list a few at the end of this blog, but I mainly wanted to highlight areas within PASS where one can greatly benefit.
SQL Lunch SQL Lunch is an on-going series of live meeting sessions where speakers from all levels cover a vast array of topics. The event is free and typically there is more than one per month. Everyone should be signed up to get the notifications of upcoming SQL Lunches.
24 Hours of Pass There isn’t enough I can say about 24 Hours of PASS. The last one was two days with 12 hour long sessions from Women in Technology (WIT). The most recent 24 Hours of PASS was my second time attending. What other organization will offer 24 hours of free training? All you had to do is register. Each session is a live meeting and has a Q/A section at the end. The twitter feed was most excellent as well. These sessions are also recorded and made available for free after a period of time.
SQL Saturday SQL Saturday has to be one of my favorite events. I have had the privilege to speak at 4 SQL Saturdays so far this year. I am currently helping to organize SQL Saturday #89 in Atlanta on Sept 17th and the soon to be announced SQL Saturday Atlanta on April 14th 2012. SQL Saturdays are an all day event held on Saturdays all over the globe. They are free for attendees. SQL Saturdays are modeled after the PASS Summit meaning there are multiple sessions and tracks being offered through out the day. You can typically attend between 5 to 6 sessions in a day. Speakers range from folks just starting out to authors of books, and MVP’s. You will find a wonderful mix of sessions on BI, DBA, and professional development.
Local Chapters Local chapters are probably one of your best avenues to network with local DBA talent in your community. I am the chapter leader of the Columbus GA SQL Users Group. I have to say that when I first took over the group it was a bit overwhelming. Trying to coordinate the location, sponsors, speakers, etc is a lot of work but the rewards are wonderful. All the sponsors I have worked with have been fantastic and really support the SQL Community. I have blogged about that before. What is really great to watch is the user group grow and seeing DBAs from different companies share ideas and tricks they have picked up. It is a wonderful networking opportunity.
Virtual Chapters So you don’t have a local chapter to attend or you just really like webinars, join a virtual chapter. They are free too. Even if you have a local chapter check them out. There are LOTS of virtual chapters on anything from application development, BI, Powershell, SQL Azure, and more. Many of the virtual chapters meet twice per month. I highly recommend joining any that interest you. Many of these are also recorded.
SQL PASS Then there is PASS itself. If you are not a member, WHY NOT? It is free to become part of the “Professional Association for SQL Server”. You do not get bombarded with email. There is a monthly news letter that goes out that contains anything cool and interesting happening in the community or with SQL Server.
PASS SUMMIT The PASS Summit is the largest gathering of SQL Nerds on the planet. Last year we had over 4000 folks attend the 2010 Summit. It was easily the best Summit ever. Don’t believe me, just read all the blogs about it. I think twitter is archived so if you can find away to access the archive you can read all the tweets about it too. There are pre-cons galore and 168 sessions to chose from. There are lots of social gatherings each night to mix and mingle and meet other DBA professionals. If you didn’t have a twitter account when you started you most likely created one at the event. Live twitter feeds are posted all over the place and lots of giveaways are exclusive to twitter. Popular twitter hashtags #sqlpass, #ssis, #ssas, #sqlhelp, #sqlserver, #sqlbits, #sqlsatXX where x = number. The 2010 Summit was my second year attending and was incredible. I was able to meet so many different folks that I had crossed paths with online. If you can only attend one training event per year, this is that one event you need to attend.
SQL Rally SQL Rally is very similar to the PASS Summit but on a smaller scale. One could say it is also like SQL Saturday, but on a larger scale. SQL Saturdays are one day and free. SQL Rally is two days and charges a small fee. SQL Rally is a little more strict about their speakers so you only get seasoned presenters and more MVP’s. SQL Rally was a huge hit and more are currently planned.
SQL BITS SQL BITS is a three day conference given by SQL Server Experts from around the world. Day one is pre-conference sessions, day two has between 25-30 sessions spread over 5 rooms, and day three is a free conference day with 20-25 sessions given by the UK SQL Server community.
Some great books to get started are
SQL Server 2008 Query Performance Tuning Distilled by Grant Fritchey and Sajal Dam
Performance Tuning with SQL Server Dynamic Management Views by Louis Davidson and Tim Ford
SQL Server Execution Plans by Grant Fritchey
Inside T-SQL Querying by Itzik Ben-Gan
SQL Server Internals by Kalen Delany, Kimberly Tripp, Paul Randal and others
MVP Deep Dives – to many authors to name.
I also recommend that people who are wanting to progress in their knowledge of SQL and their career to get involved in the SQL Community in general. Volunteer at your user group, volunteer at a SQL Saturday or get on twitter to network with other DBA professionals. I can’t stress enough how active the SQL Community is on twitter. Start asking and answering questions on Ask SQL Server Central, start blogging and start commenting on others blogs if you find the article helpful. It doesn’t take long to build relationships with other DBAs online. Maybe one day you will both be at the same conference have an instant contact. While at the 2010 Summit I felt like I already knew so many people just from AskSSC and twitter. Everyone I met in person that I already knew from online introduced me to everyone around them. It was a great way to instantly connect with other professionals. My network has grown tremendously thanks to being involved and meeting some really great people along the way.
To all those who have crossed my path, I greatly appreciate it.