This month’s TSQL Tuesday is hosted by Robert Davis (aka SQLSoldier) and his topic of choice is excellent. In any IT field it is incredibly important to keep up with the latest technology and to continually improve ourselves. For a DBA I believe it is even more important that we constantly strive to improve ourselves. Part of that continued education process is knowing what works best for you and the others involved.
How do I learn?
When attempting to learn a new skill I think the first question should be “How do I learn best?” For me it is absolutely a hands on approach. I can read something and takeaway good information but if I want to really learn it, remember it, and understand how it applies, I need some hands on time with it. For this reason I maintain a quad-core, 8GB server at home that runs Hyper-V. I then have about 10 different guests running various combinations of OS, SQL, clustering, etc so I can play to my heart’s content. When I’m done with that topic I can hit “reset” on the guest if I need to and it is as if I had never made those changes.
The second thing I do is read everything I can get my hands on. I get a nice allowance for books at work and I put it to good use. I try to read at least one sql related book each month. I also absolutely love Google Reader and use it to follow a lot of blogs. I just looked and I am currently following 62 blogs. Are they all sql? No but most are. As I find new blogs that I find interesting I add them to Reader. Occassionally I will go back and look over the subscriptions. If there is something that is no longer being posted to or I no longer find interesting I remove it.
Finally I use the Microsoft Certification tests to learn. I know you ware probably saying “What?”, but I will tell you why. As I take the new tests that come out I pay careful attention to the topics covered. To me it is important to see what technologies Microsoft considers to be important or perhaps are pushing. For example when I took the latest MCITP: Database Developer test it pushed me to learn about XML. I only know of maybe a couple of customers using it, but it was interesting to learn and put away in my mental toolbox.
How do I teach?
For me the number one question I have to ask myself is what is the makeup of the audience? Am I speaking to fellow DBAs, developers, business stakeholders, etc. From there I can then determine what the appropriate content is and what needs to be covered. If it is a group of DBAs then I shouldn’t have to explain the basics of indexes, we can jump right into the meat and potatoes and I can let the acronyms fly. However if the audience is not as SQL savvy I need to carefully consider the underlying content and determine what needs to be covered first so that the people have a firm grasp of the basics before we jump into anything bigger.