The Gift of Training

Full disclosure: I am writing this blog post as an entry to the contest posted by Paul Randal on sqlskills.com for the IEPTO1 training event.

You convince your boss to pay for training because you will return with new skills in areas marketed by the training course. Someone is paying for the training and expecting a return on the investment. Why would you consider that a gift? In reality you get much more out of it than you pay for if you find the right training. I am not talking about the truck loads of cookie cutter training in the market. I am talking about training put together by distinguished members of your niches community.

Examples of such training in the SQL Server community are those offered by Adam Machanic, Brent Ozar Unlimited, PASS, and SQLskills just to name a few. The training they offer is not developed based on rules provided by Microsoft or any official guidelines. It is based on their many years of experience with SQL Server and what they know will help you best in your own career with SQL Server. When you are attending these courses you are not being taught by some schmuck who is reading through a book. You are being taught and guided by people who live and breathe the subject.

On top of that you also get to network with other people in the SQL Server community and hear their war stories. I have found that at these training events you will meet people that are much more serious and passionate about their career with SQL Server than at other generic training vendors. Making new connections like these can be just as valuable as the training itself. If you are the lone DBA at your company like many of us are, making a friend you can bounce ideas off of is a real game changer.

My own personal experience with training like this has been literally life changing. I know it sounds like I am trying to sell this hard but it is the honest truth. I had the opportunity to go to the Performance Tuning class taught by Brent Ozar. His level of knowledge and passion for SQL Server was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Besides all of the knowledge bombs he drops on you throughout the week, he gives you other awesome community resources to go look at.

These are just some of the many ways you benefit from going to a training course like the Immersion Event on Performance Tuning and Optimization – Part 1. Paul Randall (who is what I consider a legend in the SQL Server community) and the staff at SQLskills provide a great service to the SQL Server community. Between their blog and the sessions they deliver at PASS events you can gain an incredible amount of knowledge from them. Just imagining spending 5 whole days with them in a classroom blows my mind.

Anyone who wishes to further their career with SQL Server should be able to make great use of the knowledge delivered in this course. Looking through the detailed agenda I can say that I would make the best use of the knowledge gained from Module 4: Row Versioning and Isolation. In my current role I administer many vendor owned databases that we do reporting out of. Constantly someone else or myself have to query production OLTP databases. I want to make sure we are doing it in the safest and most accurate way possible. I am sure filling all of the gaps in my knowledge of row versioning and isolation will go a long way in this effort.

Module 10: Cardinality Estimation Issues also peaks my interest. Understanding what statistics are and how they have a huge impact on your query plan has been immensely helpful in many query tuning issues I have come across. Having a deeper understanding of this specific topic can make a big difference in your query tuning abilities. Constantly I am being faced with bad, complex, and legacy queries that need tuning. Knowledge gained in this area can bring anyones query tuning abilities to the next level.

This leads me to think about my favorite performance tuning challenges. My favorite performance tuning challenges are bad queries from business users or vendors. They spend tons of time putting together this monstrosity of a query that gets them the output they want but takes forever and a day to run. I love dissecting their query and trying to figure out their thought process when they wrote it. Then diving into the data and indexes of the tables they have chosen to query. Last but not least cleaning up the painfully slow way they perform calculations and use functions. The moment that is worth it all though is at the end. Giving the query back to the user at a third of its original length and it runs in seconds instead of minutes. Those reactions you get from the user and the value in time saved you have brought them are priceless.

If you have gotten anything from this blog post I hope it is that a good training event is priceless. It is a gift that keeps giving. The skills you put to work immediately after the training are only the beginning. The topics you learn about that you didn’t specifically go to the training for become useful down the road. Remember the people putting together these courses have walked your path. Even if you don’t need all of the topics covered now, they will become useful to you in the future. Sometimes it’s the thing you learned at the training that you didn’t intend to that has the biggest impact. I know it was for me. Beyond that the networking can provide many new friends and contacts that you stay in touch with for years to come.

So what is your experience with training? Have you gone to a generic training vendor or a leader of the community you are learning about?

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