So It’s T-SQL Tuesday time again. This month it’s hosted by Robert Davis and the topic is Learning. It’s a topic of particular interest to me. I work in a field that writes software for education and now I’m writing about education on software. Here are the ways I learn (BTW, The methods are ordered from shallowest to deepest in terms of understanding)
Knowledge: (Ability to Remember)
- Attending Conference Sessions
- Watching webinars
- Reading (BOL/Books/Blogs/Magazines)
Comprehension: (Ability to Understand)
All of the above… plus:
- Getting help from StackOverflow and #sqlhelp
- Conference Sessions (Q&A time). I mentioned conference sessions above, but here, I’m calling out the Q&A time.
- User Group Discussions
Application: (Ability to Use)
All of the above… plus:
- Troubleshooting: The best knowledge and understanding comes from troubleshooting, especially in crisis situations. This hard-fought knowledge doesn’t get forgotten.
- Exploring a new feature installed on a machine.
- Talking to consultants or mentors: Don’t underestimate this. I often felt like the SQL Server clinic (drop-in consulting provided by Microsoft’s CSS team) at the pass summit were underused.
- Hands-on Labs.
- Receiving code reviews.
Analysis: (Ability to Evaluate/Create)
With enough experience, you reach Nirvana*. You’ll know you’ve arrived if you can:
- Answer questions from StackOverflow and #sqlhelp
- Conduct code reviews
- Give Talks/Sessions/Workshops on a topic
* Nirvana comes from Seattle. Coincidence?
But why should you care?
It’s useful to know which methods are most effective. Some lessons we could take from above is that it’s more effective to learn by doing than to attend training. Which kind of makes sense. Being thrown in the deep-end is often more effective swimming instruction than to read about swimming.
And as SQL Server professionals we’ve already got a leg up on academia! Our motivations for learning are often more immediate and pressing than “gotta study for the final”.
It’s my hope that by recognizing what kind of learning objectives you could achieve with each approach, you can make better choices about learning like:
- Starting in support is an awesome way to shorten the learning curve.
- The Q&A part of sessions stick in my head more than any other (especially if I asked the question).
- Have management studio open (or BIDS or whatever) when reading blog articles. Believe me when reading Brad Shulz‘s blog, his examples sink in a lot better this way.
- When way out of your depth. Consider hiring a consultant: It’s fixed cost, you get your problem solved, and you can learn something too.