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SQL University: A Primer for SQL Server Beginners

graduate Recently I was thinking about my experiences with all of the SQL Server learning events and while they have all been absolutely awesome I realized one thing: they’re that awesome for me because I know what’s going on. By that I mean I’ve been around SQL Server for awhile now so when I attend the sessions I already have a basic understanding of everything that is being discussed. Granted I always learn something new from these sessions but what about the first timers and accidental DBA’s that have no idea where to start? The one place I noticed this trend the most was at SQL Saturday. While there are individual sessions that are aimed at beginner level I haven’t seen any tracks or actual dedicated sessions to starting SQL Server from scratch. For instance what are the basic tools of the trade? What’s SQL Server Management Studio? Who are the go to people for help?

Given this fact I would like to propose that organizers of SQL Saturday events consider putting in a dedicated track for Entry Level SQL folks. My suggestion is to call it SQL University but that’s just my take. My hometown user group, the Tampa SQL Server User Group will be organizing a SQL Saturday event in the coming months and I hope to get this program implemented in there. My hope is that individuals who are new to SQL Server, or would like to get into it, have a dedicated track in which they can feel comfortable going to without expectation of certain knowledge. In the meantime I will be doing a series of blog posts entitled SQL University which will cover the world of SQL Server from the ground up. In these posts I’ll cover basics such as tools to use, basic dba tasks etc. But that’s not all, I’d like to extend the help of my fellow bloggers on this project. If you’d like to become a SQL University professor hit me up at jorge@sqlchicken.com. I’ll need professors in the different aspects such as administration, development and business intelligence. For this first semester of SQL-U I’d like to keep the classes at the 100-level. We’ll see how the project develops from there.

So, friends, what are your thoughts? Would you like to see something like this implemented? Do you think it will help raise awareness of organizations like PASS and bring in more attendees to our events? Let me hear your thoughts in the comments.

Update: WOW the response for this project has been really great! I now have a small pool of professors that will be helping out with this first semester. Due to this I’m closing the call for bloggers at this time. A big thank you to them (I’ll announce them soon) and a big thank you for all those willing to help out!

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SQL Saturday #16 – Recap

Last Saturday was the SQL Saturday event at Devry University in Miramar, Florida. First off I have to say it was a great event with over 400 attendees! It was also my very first SQL Saturday speaking event. The speaker evaluations haven’t come back yet but I have a feeling I’ll definitely should have some dings as my presentation started off well but towards the end the presentation Gods reared their ugly heads and it ended on a not-so-great note with my demo not going so well. The good news is that one attendee, Argenis Fernandez ( Twitter ), gave me some good feedback as well as told me that he got some good ideas from the presentation and was excited to go back to work and implement Policy Based Management in his environment. Honestly that kind of response makes the effort all worthwhile.

From my session I went to check out Kendal Van Dyke’s ( Blog | Twitter ) session on Configuring SQL Access for the Web Developer/Admin. Kendal and I interact pretty frequently on Twitter so I was glad to get a chance to finally meet him as well attend his sessions. This was a good intro level talk on how to configure web application authentication methods in both classic ASP and ASP.NET. Some nice tricks come out of this session including how to properly add a user to the IIS_WPG group (hint: the proper way ISN’T to just add them to the group in computer management!). I’m no developer but this was really useful to me, especially as a DBA tasked with implementing Sharepoint in to our environment. I say this because Sharepoint has its share of permission issues especially if you run the app pools or web apps under a different account such as a custom AD account.

My next session was Andy Warren’s ( Blog | Twitter | LinkedIN ) session on Social and Not so Social Networking for the DBA. I’ve attended other sessions with Andy and they’ve all been great. This one was no exception. Andy is an excellent presenter and makes it look so easy. One thing that was great about this, for me, is that this is the first weekend was the first time I’ve gotten a chance to really meet and talk to Andy. It was funny because at the speaker dinner he asked “Hey, aren’t you that SQLChicken guy?” which made me laugh. I guess my self-branding is working! Anyhow, this session was really interesting as it was more of an open discussion with the group rather than a straight forward presentation. Andy brings up important things to think about in terms of networking such as don’t start building your network only when you need something (aka job search). Networking is something that can benefit you far beyond simple job searches and opportunities. In the session some of us shared how simply being connected on social networks like Twitter have actually helped improve ourselves in our current jobs. If you ever get a chance to attend this session I highly recommend you do. In fact, if you’re attending the PASS Summit in Seattle in November, Don Gabor will be holding a Pre-Conference session called Networking to Build Business Contacts. Andy highly recommends anyone attending the summit to check this session out as it will help you not only build your network professionally but help you network in general at events like PASS and SQL Saturday.

At lunch I got to sit down and have lunch with Andy Warren, Kendal Van Dyke and a few other attendees. I only mention this in the blog because I we got a chance to talk with some people who ranged from first-timers to the SQL world as well as others who’ve been doing it for awhile. Also it was interesting to get feedback on little things like how sometimes the session descriptions were a little too vague so it made it difficult to decide if the topic or level was the right one to attend. Based on this I know I’ll be tweaking my abstracts for future events. The other cool thing was getting a chance to sit and pick Andy’s brain a bit about the direction of PASS. Personally I’m excited to see what PASS has in store to continue bringing the community together. So far its been fantastic to be a part of it.

Next up was another session with Kendal with topic being Transactional Replication: Beyond the Basics.  Honestly I’m currently not using transaction replication in my shop but after attending this session I feel like I gleaned enough knowledge to be able to tackle that task if it were asked of me. Great overview of different topologies that were clearly and easily explained, as well as going over some possible pitfalls you might encounter. Very interesting topic and presented very well. Kendal will actually be doing this presentation this year at PASS (first time presenter, congrats to him!) so again if you’ll be at PASS Summit this year I suggest you check this session out.

After that I went over to Jeffrey Garbus’ ( Blog ) session on Indexing for Join Optimization which drew quite the crowd. Packed house with a bunch of people (myself included) taking a seat on the floor along the walls to check this topic out! I’ve attended Jeffrey’s session before at the last SQL Saturday in Tampa and he is a great speaker. This particular talk was actually kind of a part 2 to his earlier talk on Choosing Indexes for Performance . Even if you didn’t catch the first session this one alone is a treasure trove of great information. For instance do you know why join orders matters? Do you know the difference in performance between doing a join using the old ANSI syntax and the new? You’d be surprised. Again I highly recommend you check out any session by Jeffrey if given the opportunity.

Last, but most definitely not least, was Chad Miller’s ( Blog | Twitter ) session on Powershell and SQL Server Administration. Chad not only covers basic Powershell commands and tricks but he covers using a cool project he’s developed called SQL Server PowerShell Extensions. What PSX gives DBAs is a base set of functions that covers most common DBA tasks. One of the coolest demonstrations I saw during this presentation was the use of Powershell as an ETL tool. Chad shows you how you are able to copy data from table to another using only 3 lines of code! This presentation truly made me excited to really start learning Powershell and applying it at work.

Overall I thought it was a great event, as any SQL Saturday I’ve attended, and I had an absolute blast presenting and meeting a bunch of folks I’ve interacted with on Twitter. If you get a chance to make it to a SQL Saturday event I couldn’t recommend  it enough. You get top-notch education, great networking opportunities, awesome swag and all for free! If you don’t have a SQL Saturday event in a city near you, and you won’t be making it to the PASS Summit this year then don’t fret! The good folks at PASS have put together an exciting free training event called 24 Hours of SQL PASS. For more details on this great event check my previous post on it.

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