During the PASS Data Community Summit last week, Brent Ozar delivered the day 3 keynote, and it was great. I really enjoyed the format and topic, and I look forward to how someone else might be creative next year with the time. I’d certainly love to do the keynote, though not sure I’d be eligible. I’m hoping a few others get interested and compete for the slot in 2022.
One of the things Brent mentioned was about looking for skills to focus on, primarily for “builder,” or those that develop new applications. He used a quote from Wayne Gretzky: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” The reference is to pick things that will be relevant in the future (where the puck will be), not where things are today.
Lots of people ask questions and wonder about this when we look at technology. What should I learn? Where is my best investment for the next ten or twenty years? There also is plenty of fear that you might learn to be an expert in something like Notification Services (dead after 2005) or Database Mirroring (deprecated in 2012). The other day I heard a few people say “graph is dead” in SQL Server, and I might agree. The features exist, but are they really growing and improving enough to compete with a graph platform? I’d argue no.
I don’t have a crystal ball to tell you what will be popular. I have a magic 8 ball, but that’s less helpful. Here are a few things I’d suggest to help you think about this. Please, if you have specific questions, engage in the discussion, and I or someone else can try to help.
First, the ability to work in a team is important. The skills to communicate well, debate a point, and collaborate in how you work are important. Not critical because plenty of people can get by without these skills, but when we look to hire new people, often we want to bond. If I find 10 qualified candidates and get along well with 2 in an interview, I’m likely picking one of the two. Learn to speak in small groups, summarize your thoughts, advocate your position, and appreciate others’ views. Also learn to accept defeat gracefully when things don’t go your way.
Second, learn more about the choices your employer has made. Brent mentioned this a bit, but honestly, if your employer is focused on SQL Server on premises or in a VM, learn to run that well. Learn more about how it works and how to solve problems or tune it. If they want to use AWS RDS or Azure SQL Database, focus on those. Spend spare time, or quiet time at work, becoming more proficient with the platform. Read about it and practice on it. It will help you enjoy your current job, increase promotion and raise chances, and give you some confidence if you do need to change jobs.
Third, learn to learn. Always be learning, and follow the advice above, or even pick the things that pique your interest. The important thing here is that if you need to pick something up, you want to be comfortable with those skills. How do I search out info on the Internet. Can I find videos or articles to consume and can I take sample code and stat using it? Can I set up new environments? Am I comfortable poking around a cloud portal or digging into a programming API? Maybe most importantly, can I sit through and absorb information from a Pluralsight (or other) course? All good skills.
Lastly, part of skating to where you want to go is writing a resume/CV that gets you an interview. I’ve given this advice, and Brent did as well. Include keywords on your resume. If you decided to use Snowflake, I’d find a way to mention Synapse and Redshift on my resume. If you are good at Snowflake, you are likely going to be good at Redshift and Synapse. What you aren’t going to be good at is convincing a non-technical, HR person searching for your resume that these are synonyms if they aren’t included in your resume. Maybe you only want Snowflake jobs. That’s fine, decline the interview. Maybe you need a new job, and in that case, don’t limit yourself. Get past the AI or human filters.
Actively managing your career takes some work and effort, and it takes some knowledge. Improve your skills, but take advice from those of us that have walked the paths. Ensure you represent yourself well, both with your avatar (the resume/CV), and in person for the interview. These won’t ensure you get a job, but they to help increase your chances.