Setting Small Goals
When I first decided I wanted to make SQL my career, I had to figure out what I needed to do in order to achieve my goal. At this point I had been using SQL to do various small tasks at my previous employer, but I had not used it to any large degree.
I didn’t want to just set a goal of “I’m going to be an SQL developer”. While that was my goal, it’s not a goal that I can track and it’s too big of a piece to take on all at once. I knew that I needed to break up this goal into smaller, more manageable pieces that I could track and see progress as my skill develops.
Before I did anything, I knew I needed to get a better grasp of the language, so I picked up a book on SQL, working at it each and every night after work until I was comfortable with using the more common aspects of the language. I often would come home from work, spend an hour studying, and after dinner close out the night with some more reading and writing code. Sometimes I would I pick a nice comfortable spot at my local Panera and spend afternoons there when I wasn’t working, as it’s always nice to have a change of scenery to mix things up.
Once I acquired a better understanding of the language, was I ready to change careers? Nope. Not even. I still had a long haul ahead of me. But where should I go next? Something I’ve always believed in is the fact that to really understand something you need to be able to teach it to someone else. I decided to make that my next goal. I started a blog where I would pick a more complex piece of SQL coding (like creating pivot tables) and write a blog piece about them. This blog really pushed me to not only understand the concepts I was teaching but also forced me to come up with complex examples to display that I probably would not have used in my own studies.
Doing your own studies is beneficial but you can’t challenge yourself without doing some hands-on work in a real environment. Once I felt I was ready, my next goal was to start taking on more complex tasks at work. I took over some monthly tasks from our senior developer, started writing reports for my department, and took over some data quality research from the field. This not only tested my knowledge of SQL but also forced me to learn new things and teach myself on the fly (like researching how to pull data elements from our helpdesk software, or “decyphering” one of our databases to create a report for a specific department). I was achieving my goals one at a time and officially becoming an SQL developer was looking more and more like a possibility.
I decided to challenge myself further and wanted to take the Microsoft “Developing SQL Server” exam. This in itself was a manageable goal, but I still broke it down into smaller “sections”, but it was worth it as I can gladly say that I am Microsoft Certified.
Being Certified and having professional experience as a SQL developer, I finally felt like I was ready to find a job as an SQL developer, but I still had one more goal to achieve. That was finding the right fit for me. Finding a job is only half the battle, you need to find a company that you’re a good fit for but also that is a great fit for you. Enter: Decypher. Decypher was the perfect home for me for a lot of reasons. The job was exactly what I was looking for, my skills met (and in some ways exceeded) their expectations, and the culture is the best I’ve seen in all of my professional working years. Since joining Decypher in 2015, I’ve gotten to develop my SQL skills every day. My goal of becoming a SQL developer has finally been realized, and I love every minute of it.
Now that I use Oracle on a daily basis, I think my next “big” goal is getting certified in that. Time to plan out some new smaller goals!
– Chris Rizk
SQL Application Developer