T-SQL Tuesday #097 – Setting Learning Goals for 2018

The invitation this month is from Mala Mahadevan.

This is my first opportunity hosting a T-SQL Tuesday and am super excited!!
T-SQL Tuesday is the brainchild of well respected SQL Guru and author of ‘sp_whois active’ – Adam Machanic (b|t).  Adam rightly predicted that we all could benefit from ‘a recurring, revolving blog party’ with a new topic given each month – the party has been on since 2009 with great benefit to bloggers old and new.

This month’s T-SQL Tuesday will take place on Tuesday, December 12, 2017.

It is the end of the year…each person has their own way of calling it a year. For many it is time to take those leftover PTO days, enjoy the time with family and friends, and be grateful for the many gifts we are fortunate to have received. It is also a time when we have to ponder the year ahead and how we plan to use this time in the best manner possible. For many years I never consciously considered setting or pursuing learning goals. I just learned what I needed for my job. If there was a new version of SQL Server out – I went after learning new features in it. But today – it is no longer possible to be that simple. Also, it is very difficult to focus on anything unless you put it down as a goal. One of my favorite quotes by Zig Ziglar sums it up best ‘ A goal properly set is halfway reached’.
Learning more on just SQL Server is no longer enough. We need to learn other tools and technologies. There are many of them. There are 3 things to address to me when it comes to goal setting with technology and learning –
1 What do you want to learn? (specific skills and talents)
2 How and when do you want to learn? (methods of learning and timeline on learning)
3 How do you plan to improve on what you learned? (Putting it to use at work/blogging/speaking)
I will explain each of those in detail below.

1 What do you want to learn?

This varies depending on your line of work and where you want to go career wise. I will give a few examples.

  • If you are into learning about the cloud and hosting – you need to know what options are (on AWS and Azure, to begin with). Also on multiple other smaller/private hosting providers. You need to know how to transfer data/how much it costs to scale/can you turn it on and off as necessary…any number of things.
  • If you want to learn other non SQL database platforms you’d have to think about which ones are important to you – postgres, CosmosDB, DocumentDB or even MYSQL or Oracle.
  • If you plan to get into data mining and analytics – there are several things to learn in that area. I just started getting to intermediate level with R , and now we have Python that works just as well with SQL Server. You are also better off learning other skills that go with data mining – such as cleaning data, setting up the solution on an ongoing basis and so on.

 In general it would be wise to narrow your focus down to your areas of interest and pick a few things – not too many but perhaps 2-3 things you’d like to focus on and get some depth of knowledge in.

2 How and when do you want to learn?

After you get those goals in, how do you plan to get the said training?

There are countless options, with time and costs to consider. The cheapest ones are Ignite videos (for free), Pluralsight subscription (30$ a month), EDx/Udemy courses (all reasonably priced).SQL Saturday precons (very reasonably priced day long training) as well as SQL Saturdays themselves(free day long training on saturdays). If you can afford it yourself or work at a company that pays for training – consider Tech Outbound (formerly SQLCruise) or PASS Summit.

There are  networking goals to consider as well. I personally would never have thought of networking as a ‘goal’, am able to tweet or message most folks and talk to them, so what is the big deal? No. Meeting people in person is a whole different thing, and you never know what doors that can open. Networking goals can be like meeting 10 people new (some people set them that way), or catching up with 50 people you already know including 3 lunches with people who have most regard for. You’d have to consider where and how you are going to get those goals met. For some people, like me, this is not a numbers game – I’d just like to say am going to be at Event A, B and C and do my networking there. That is totally fine too.

3 How do you plan to improve on what you learned?
  • The primary application of knowledge is at work. You want to think of upcoming projects or opportunities to apply this knowledge. For most people this comes up at a performance review that happens early in the year. Many people are also not comfortable making it public. If it is not bloggable that is ok – but if it is bloggable do consider sharing it. 
  • What are the chapter meetings, events you plan to speak at? If that is too much detail, consider how many of those you’d want to do.
  • What is the frequency of blogging you’d like to maintain?
  • Are you planning on writing books or coauthoring any?
  • Are you  planning on participating in forums to answer questions – such as on SQL ServerCentral.com?
  • Are you planning on any other group contribution – such as Idera’s #sqlchat on twitter or even answering #sqlhelp questions on twitter?
  • I’d put certifications and tests too in this category as they give a name to what you learn and add a credential.

So, that is quite a lot to think and write about.