Is it Possible to Learn without Doing?

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For several years now I have been an Oracle database dude who eavesdropped on the SQL community. I hoped to pick up the lingo and become savvy enough that I could say “Yes, I do SQL Server.”

If I’m being honest, then I must admit I have largely failed. Yes, I understand what people are talking about, I can read the blogs and get what they are saying. But as Robert Heinlein coined in one of my all-time favorite books, I do not grok SQL Server.

Why is that? It’s because I have not spent time on the front lines actually working with the technology. By front lines, I mean a production environment. My bacon is not on the line.

To be even more honest, it’s been since 2001 that I have carried a pager for Oracle. There is no substitute for that pager time. I would be loathe to hire someone to be the primary DBA for SQL or Oracle who’s primary experience was on paper. Certifications don’t get you jobs, experience gets you jobs.

In the last year I have tried to get my hands dirty with SQL Server: installing R2 when it came out, doing more than just the basic AdventureWorks database, trying to get a real handle on maintenance plans and backups, figuring out WHY angels lose their wings when you run a SHRINK operation, attending a SQL Saturday event in Raleigh, and even migrating data from Oracle. But, this is occurred in my private instance, and no one cares if I blow anything up, or if the system becomes unreliable.

For now I will have to be happy with just being “OK” with SQL. I can speak intelligently with a SQL pro, but don’t confuse me for one. Even the most basic #SQLHELP questions on Twitter cause me to pause before piping in my answer. And I have been more wrong than right recently.

There’s just no replacing the production experience. And that’s the way it should be.

I’m also OK with being just OK. OK is a huge improvement over where I started earlier this year. I’m looking forward to seeing where I can end this time next year.

Just don’t ask me to carry a pager.

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