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Denis Gobo

What did you do to master SQL?

After my The Sad State Of Programmers Part 1 : The Phone Interview series I got an email from a person.

Thank you so much for making me realise how little I know.  I’ve been programming first in Microsoft Access VBA and VB6 since 1997 (Some little playing before that) and I migrated my Company’s systems to SQL & .NET about three years ago.  I could answer only a couple of your questions without looking them up and then I don’t think I got ANY of them totally right!  I realise you probably have little time for an obvious idiot like myself, the ultimate example of WDP, but it would be great if you could point me in the right direction to start fixing the clear deficiencies in my knowledge.  I’ve spent years learning just enough for what I needed and no more and it clearly hasn’t done the job well enough.

The WDP reference is about this link: How Well Do You Interview And Do You Use Wizard Driven Programming?


This has been a while back now but I am still bothered by my incomplete answer. Here was my answer to him but I don't think I gave him the best answer possible. For one thing I did not mention Erland's, Tibor's or other people's sites which I read. I did not mention anything about webcasts either.

Here are some of my favorites books, I think it would make sense for you to
start with The Guru's Guide to Transact-SQL, it is not for SQL 2005 but for 2000, in my opinion this is still the best book out there to
teach you T-SQL
After that I would take a look at Inside Microsoft SQL Server 2005: T-SQL Querying this handles T-SQL exclusively with a lot of tricks and tips. If you need a little design in addition to T-SQL I would take a look at Louis' book Pro SQL Server 2005 Database Design and Optimization To learn about internals (indexes, pages, what sql is doing behind the scenes) take a look at Inside Microsoft SQL Server 2005: The Storage Engine 

That is it for books. has a bunch of podcasts which are very good.
Spend time on newsgroups and see if you can answer the questions there, study the answers carefully. I think I learned the most from visiting newsgroups. A good one is here:
A lot of SQL Server MVPs answer questions there.
Read sql blogs, some of my favorites are here
A bunch of aggregated feeds: (this is a list of all the other good SQL Server blogs)


The thing that triggered me to write a post is this question from the msdn forums: ADVISE.....Experts ! Please

How would you have answered this, what did you do to master SQL? What should you know to be considered a SQL master or an expert. FWIW I do not consider myself a SQL master.

Published Friday, May 16, 2008 12:57 PM by Denis Gobo
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Jeff said:

Just another recommendation the book I first found truly the most useful when I was first starting was The Practical SQL Handbook

I do not have the 4th edition but I have seen it and it is just as good as mine but newer. I have the 3rd edition, still here 10 years later on my desk. While I rarely look at it anymore it is like my Transact SQL security blanket.

May 16, 2008 2:56 PM

andyleonard said:

Hi Denis,

  I don't think I can answer your question because I have yet to master anything, although some cool marketing people named my next book Mastering Database Edition...

  I learn more about SQL Server on every project. I usually learn a lot - and fast - when someone calls with a SQL Server issue.

  It's a very broad topic, and experience cannot be underestimated. SQL Server Administration and Database Development are crafts in my opinion, and should be treated as such. Before I became a licensed journeyman electrician I was expected to demonstrate four years experience in the field. I'm not sure how much time one requires to become a "journeyman DBA" or database developer but four years is a good starting point, imho.

:{> Andy

May 16, 2008 9:58 PM

Vern Rabe said:

For me, the best way to learn, and the best way to realize how much more there is to learn, is to teach.


May 19, 2008 11:15 AM

Jonathan Kehayias said:

I would have to agree with most of the comments already made here.  However, you not only have to have time with SQL, but you have to have been doing something during that time.  If I have a SQL Server on my network, and it has just been running for 4 years, that doesn't make me an expert.  I have been working heavily in SQL for just over 4 years now, and with as much as I know, I am intimidated by the amount of information I don't know.

There isn't a week that goes by where I don't learn something new, usually by answering posts on the forums, or creating new crazy projects to teach our Jr. DBA how to do things.  I find it scary how many self professed experts there are out there who don't even have the fundamentals down.  I interviewed for a job once where I had to give them the questions they should be asking of a DBA because they didn't even know what to look for.  So anyone could have gone in there and shined, which is why I think this problem exists more and more.

May 20, 2008 11:05 AM
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About Denis Gobo

I was born in Croatia in 1970, when I was one I moved to Amsterdam (and yes Ajax is THE team in Holland) and finally in 1993 I came to the US. I have lived in New York City for a bunch of years and currently live in Princeton, New Jersey with my wife and 3 kids. I work for Dow Jones as a Database architect in the indexes department, one drawback: since our data goes back all the way to May 1896 I cannot use smalldates ;-( I have been working with SQL server since version 6.5 and compared to all the other bloggers here I am a n00b. Some of you might know me from or even from some of the newsgroups where I go by the name Denis the SQL Menace If you are a Tek-Tips user then you might know me by the name SQLDenis, I am one of the guys answering SQL Questions in the SQL Programming forum.

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